Music features in nearly every aspect of synagogue life at The LJS – from Shabbat and festival services to religion school classrooms and assemblies, public concerts, adult education courses, fund-raising events, and social and community gatherings.
Under the overall direction of the Director of Music, the synagogue has three adult choirs – Professional, Members and Community. Professional instrumentalists, including a permanent organist and a host of other instruments (including piano, violin, accordion, guitar, harp and cello) support the singing and complement the musical life of our community. The Members Choir, open to all congregants, is led by a member of the congregation. Each week the LJS hosts Singing for the Mind, a community activity for people with dementia, memory loss and their carers.
With its numerous ensembles, activities and opportunities, The LJS enables all its congregants, regardless of musical ability, to find their musical voice, whether by participating themselves, or by listening to others.
The choirs and their repertoire
The LJS is arguably one of the leading religious choral establishments in the UK, specialising in Jewish liturgical music from the Liberal and Reform movements. Since its establishment in 1911 the synagogue has had a professional music director, organist and choir leading the music in services. It values and perpetuates the Central European choral style, which developed alongside the early Reform movement in 19th century Germany and Austria. The LJS’s repertoire draws on the music of the great synagogue composers and reformers Louis Lewandowski and Abraham Sulzer, as well as the inheritors of the choral tradition, including Janowski, Steinberg, Schalit, Mombach, Schlesinger, Alman, Osborne, Milhaud and Braun. Both the Professional and Members Choirs sing some music in this choral style during Shabbat and festival services.
Because of our desire to involve all congregants musically during worship, LJS services include many unison songs and prayers in accessible styles (and keys), which all are encouraged to join in with. Often sung with piano and guitar accompaniment, or just on their own, they include folk and popular songs by composers Friedman, Klepper, Maseng and Shur, as well as numerous songs from Yiddish, Eastern European, Sephardic and Israeli traditions. Our services are a wonderful, eclectic musical tapestry, which reflect the rich diversity of our musical traditions.
The Professional Choir and Organist
The LJS community values the inclusion of professional singers and instrumentalists in its services. Without them it wouldn’t be possible to offer the variety, beauty and richness of musical worship which these musicians provide. The Professional Choir sings at three Shabbat morning services each month. It is enlarged to a choir of up to12 voices for the High Holydays. A professional soloist or duo with piano accompaniment leads the singing at evening Shabbat and festival services.
To read more about our organist, Timothy Farrell, click here.
To listen to the Professional Choir in excerpts from their CD, click here.
The Members Choir
Conducted by William Falk and accompanied by Martin Sanders-Hewett, the Members Choir has been established for over 40 years. They rehearse on Monday nights, up to two evenings per month. The Members Choir leads the singing on the first Shabbat morning of each month, for Erev Simchat Torah, and for some of the High Holyday services. Members of the choir usually have some level of previous singing and music reading experience – those with less experience are supported by the Director of Music and other members of the choir. All congregants who wish to belong to a choir which meets regularly and sings in services are welcome to join.
The Community Choir
The Community Choir was formed in 2017 to provide an opportunity for anyone and everyone who wants to sing. Recognising that many people love to sing, but for whatever reasons lack the confidence to do so, the Community Choir is musically structured so that all feel welcome. Singing songs in unison and simple harmony, the music is carefully selected to enable all to develop their musical confidence. Learning is supported by recorded material, and the atmosphere at rehearsals is designed to make everyone feel welcome and enabled.
During the choir’s 2018 visit to Paris it sang with the congregations and choirs of congregations Kehillat Gesher and Communauté Juive et Libérale. To listen to a recording of the Community Choir singing at Kehillat Gesher click here
Music in Rimon (Religion School)
Children in Rimon have a communal singing experience every Shabbat morning, led by teachers, rabbis and older students on the guitar, when they attend Tefillah. The songs are in Hebrew and English and are usually in the more popular and folk styles. In addition all children have music in their individual classes.
Older children preparing for their Bat/Bar Mitzvah are encouraged to chant their portion. They can receive support and tuition for this from either the rabbis, the teachers or outside tutors.
Singing for the Mind
Regular singing shows enhanced enjoyment, social interaction and mood. This applies also to those with dementia and memory loss, and it has been shown that Singing for the Brain© and similar groups help in accepting and coping with dementia. Both participants and volunteers enjoy the weekly sessions of Singing for the Mind run at The LJS. See the Singing for the Mind section to find out more.
Concerts at The LJS
The LJS regularly produces and hosts concerts. In keeping with Liberal Judaism’s values of tikkun olam (our shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world), most concert events raise funds for charities which share our values. In recent times these have included the Drop-In for Asylum Seeker Families at The LJS, Salusbury World and the East West Divan Orchestra.
Cathy Heller Jones, Director of Music
Cathy began her association with The LJS while studying singing at the Guildhall School of Music. Invited to sing in the synagogue’s Professional Choir, she subsequently became the cantorial soloist, before being appointed Music Director in 1996. Born in New York City, she attended the High School of Music and Art, followed by music studies at Boston University. Apart from her work at The LJS, Cathy is the Music Director of Musarc, one of the UK’s most progressive choral collectives. A specialist in working with adolescent voices, she was for 20 years the Music Director of the Hertfordshire County Choir. She currently teaches singing and directs the Chamber Choir at St Albans High School for Girls.
Timothy Farrell, Organist
The son of professional musicians, Timothy Farrell grew up in Cape Town and was already playing the piano by the age of three. He won scholarships to the Royal College of Music in London and to the Worshipful Company of Musicians. After a brief period as assistant organist at St Paul’s Cathedral, he was appointed Sub-Organist at Westminster Abbey. In 1974, he became Organist, Choirmaster and Composer to her Majesty the Queen at the Chapels Royal. Tim has been the organist at The LJS since 1975.