Dramatic demographic and ideological shifts characterize the three and a half century saga of the small and yet prominent United Netherlands-Portuguese Congregation Mikvé Israel-Emanuel in Curaçao. Its liturgical music is a reflection of the rich historical path followed by this unique Sephardic community in the Caribbean. Interpreting the multifaceted repertoire that emerges from the selections in this CD entails the description of some key events in the history of this community. In telling this story, several conflicting memories converge into a multilayered musical narrative.
The small but prominent Jewish community of Curaçao had a notorious role in the musical affairs of the island. The two “Portuguese” synagogues of Curaçao were a focus for musical activities with many of the most distinguished local musicians, Jewish and non-Jewish, serving as performers and providing new compositions.
The manuscripts in the archive of the Curaçao synagogue include music for the entire liturgical order of Sabbaths and most especially for the High Holidays. They cover almost a century and a half of activities in both Mikvé Israel and Emanuel before and after the reunification of 1964. A majority of these sources consist of original settings by the local composers, as well as materials drawn from diverse Western European and American sources, attesting to the major impact that the process of modernization had on the music of the two nominally Portuguese synagogues on the island. We say nominally because few items from the Portuguese Jewish music tradition were preserved in the manuscripts.
The fragmentary character of the sources limited the selection to pieces that could be reconstructed in a reasonable manner. For practical purposes, it was decided to rearrange all the pieces, originally meant for cantor, various soloists, choir and organ, for voice and piano. Some pieces are reproduced literally in accordance to the original, but judicious editing and arranging was applied to others.
Gideon Y. Zelermyer (hazzan) and Raymond Goldstein (piano)
Vocal ensemble: Naama Nazarathy (soprano), Shelly Berlinsky (alto), Evan Cohen (tenor), Jay Shir (bass)
Commentaries by Edwin Seroussi