Introduction to Mercer Maestros Concert Program

Mercer Maestros: Jewish Composers in The Capital County

The Sharim v’Sharot Foundation fully embraces its mission to promote the performance, preservation and study of the music of the Jewish people in all its forms. Every spring for the past 15 years, we have presented a concert which explores a particular theme: The Sephardic Experience, A Celebration of Jerusalem, American Jewish Music, and The Splendor of Europe. So, when our Board of Directors discussed a concert of Jewish music conceived in our very own backyard, the questions (which I heard many times over the past year) were: “But is there really enough music for an entire concert? Could there be enough composers, arrangers and lyricists born in, residing in, employed in or educated in Mercer County, New Jersey to provide a program of quality and interest?” The answers, we have found, are that not only is there enough music for today’s concert, but there is enough music for Mercer Maestros II and Mercer Maestros III. For every musical work selected, there have been two works left for another time. Indeed, nearly 50 works were submitted, all of which I seriously considered.

The task of selecting this particular program was not an easy one, especially considering that most Mercer County composers are alive today and are colleagues of mine! Music was selected to represent a variety of modern styles, Jewish themes and emotions. From the jazz style of The Purim Blues to the serious style of Four Hassidic Melodies, from the music for Shabbat to the music about Hanukkah and Pesach, from the music for fallen soldiers to the joyous music of a bridegroom, from the children’s prayer to the Kaddish for a father, and from the professional musician to the choir-member-turned-composer, the richness of expression and variety of music is outstanding!

Is our community unique in having such musical talent? Perhaps one can argue that living in the Northeast Corridor of the country, and drawing resources from Princeton University, Westminster Choir College, The College of New Jersey, and Rider University, we can expect a substantial pool of musical people. However, as I look at other communities throughout the country, I see other institutions of learning, other hubs of culture and other talented composers, arrangers and lyricists, both professional and amateur, who, with great love and care, rise to create their own, unique and modern songs that celebrate the experience of being Jewish in their own places and in their own times.

The words of Psalm 96, Shiru L’Adonai Shir Chadash, Sing to Adonai a New Song, summarize today’s program. Our Mercer Maestros, completely based in Jewish tradition, history and texts, have given us music that is in every way fresh and new, vibrant and meaningful, beautiful and delightful. May we all move forward together in our celebration of Jewish life, not only in Mercer County, New Jersey, but everywhere we may find ourselves to be.

Please join us again at our performances next season, and especially a year from now at our spring concert in our 16th year, when our musical theme will be Jewish Love Songs. If you would like to suggest your favorite Jewish love song for Sharim v’Sharot to perform, or and learn about future events, please contact us through our website: www.sharimvsharot.org .

~Dr. Elayne Robinson Grossman
Music Director and Conductor