Classical music is thriving in Israel and a new web site called classical-music-israel.com is helping promote it in English.
The site connects musicians and fans with its directory of orchestras, lists of upcoming concerts and online marketplace. Webmasters Lloyd Masel and Debbie Paneth were pleasantly surprised by its success after only a month or so of existence. They talked to Israel National Radio's Ben Bresky about their new outlet for an old passion.
"It a started about 6 months ago when one of my students said that she would like to join a choir close to her home in Ranana." said the veteran music teacher in his thick Australian accent. "I said, that's not so difficult, I'll just search the internet. Well, of all the hundreds of choirs in Israel, I could find less then 10 listed. I got back to her and told her I couldn't help."
That failure was the impetus for Masel to create an email newsletter. After two issues, he was contacted by Paneth, who offered to turn it into a full-fledged web site. Originally from Canada, Paneth sings in a women's choir and helps build web sites for a living.
We want to give a platform to classical musicians who don't have the means to promote themselves.
"We want to give a platform to classical musicians who don't have the means to promote themselves." Paneth said.
Masel remarked that the site is also useful for tourists planning their visits to Israel. The site lists concerts up to 3 months in advance. He noted that most tourists do not speak Hebrew and a site in English is a much-needed addition.
Musicians can post their mp3s for free. There is a marketplace for people to sell used instruments. Currently there is a piano for sale as well as a baroque clarinet. The directory lists an ever growing list of orchestras, both professional and amateur, as well as singers, cantors, and teachers.
Among the unique musicians listed is Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, who has posted mp3s of Portuguese and Spanish Jewish liturgical music. Cohen is seeking to archive traditional synagogue melodies of the western sephardic community.
One aspect that has greatly affected classical music in Israel is the influx of Jewish immigrants from Russia and other former Soviet countries. Masel quotes an Israeli government report that details the huge number of Russian immigrants registered as musicians. He estimated that there are "20,000 Russian immigrants making music and changing the nature of classical music."
Paneth agrees and stated that one of the best concerts she attended in recent memory was of the Tzlilei Hamusik Opera Band which is composed of Russian immigrants. "When I told them about the new web site they were so excited," Paneth said.
Back in Australia, Masel sang in synagogue and with the West Australian Opera Company. But he finds the music scene in Israel to be much more fulfilling. "There are so many outlets for singing, teaching and attending lectures and concerts. The web site has come from this involvement that I did in a modest form in Australia but that here has been overwhelming. Not a day goes by when I haven't been singing, teaching or writing about music."
To visit the site, click on http://www.classical-music-israel.com.
Ben Bresky is a music journalist and host of The Beat on Arutz Sheva - Israel National Radio. To view his blog and archive click here: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Radio/Author.aspx/1180