Composers of the 17th century like Bach and Handel and their compositions for the church are known worldwide, however Jewish composers who wrote music for the synagogue were also active in this period. The Mekor Haim Choir of the Jewish Community of Oporto, under the artistic direction of Maestro Leonardo Mendonça, has been active In the past two and a half years in learning more about the fascinating world of Jewish Baroque music and in presenting it to the public.
Salomone Rossi of Mantua in Italy composed music for the synagogue in the 1600s in the style of his contemporaries. The choir has learned and performed several of his settings of the Psalms as well as his lively version of the Kaddish.
Another composer of this time was Abraham Casseres. He set a poem of Rabbi Isaac Aboab de Fonseca, Hishki Hizki, to music in a composition for three voices. This was written to commemorate the inauguration of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam in 1675. It was performed continuously up until the Second World War on Shabbat Nahamu, which falls this year on July 29th. The poem speaks of the joy of emerging into the light after a period of darkness. This reflects the experience of the Spanish and Portuguese survivors of the expulsion from Iberia, who made their way to the Netherlands and found safety and comfort in their new home. We can identify with their feelings in the light of the current growth and development of the Jewish community in Oporto.
The choir will perform this song, along with songs by Rossi, and other works in Hebrew and Ladino in its next two concerts In the Holocaust Museum of Oporto, 790 Rua do Campo Alegre, on Friday, June 16th at 3:30 p.m. and again on July 21st. All are welcome to join us for these special performances. For those interested in joining the choir, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.