Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom launches classical music concert series

Aviva Janus
Aviva Janus (Photo by Richard Milner)

Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation is bringing live and in-person classical music back to the Baltimore area with a concert series running through May of next year.

The synagogue’s Peggy and Yale Gordon Trust Concert Series had its first performance, which was both in person and streamed virtually, on Nov. 14. Future concerts are currently scheduled for Dec. 12, Jan. 23, Feb. 27, March 27 and May 15.

Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom is a regular beneficiary of The Peggy and Yale  Gordon Trust, the purpose of which “is to foster and promote classical music in the Baltimore area,” said Aviva Janus, the director of congregational learning and programming at  Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom.

“This series, the concert and musicians, are rooted in  classical music,” said Alexandra Fox, Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom’s inaugural cantor. “It’s always a really good idea, a really positive thing, when we can bring in a different, really, kind of culture into  our space where Judaism constantly lives, so that people are  able to experience in the sanctuary, in their sacred home, in a  different way. Help them maybe find a new avenue of connecting  to their religion.”

While this is technically the first time Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation has participated in the series, Janus explained that the two temples that merged to form this synagogue, Har Sinai Congregation and Temple Oheb Shalom, had previously both  participated in the series for many years.

“We had wanted to continue to do it,” Janus said. “We have always been interested in promoting classical music here at HSOSC, and like every other business or organization, we had to pivot during the pandemic. And now we’ve figured out how to make it an  amazing experience and a safe experience, both in person with social distancing, and on Zoom and live stream with high quality audio capability.”

About 35 in-person attendees came for the Nov. 14 performance, while at least as many logged in virtually,  Janus said.

With a focus primarily on classical  music, the Nov. 14 concert featured  pianist Dan Weiser and cellist  Lachezar Kostov. The concert included Felix Mendelssohn’s Cello Sonata in D Major, Op 58, Samuel Coleridge- Taylor’s Ballade, Op 73 and  Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op 85.

The Dec. 12 concert will welcome woodwind specialist Seth Kibel, bass player Bob Abbot, percussionist and drummer Tim Jarvis and pianist Sean A. Lane, Janus said.

In-person attendees must be vaccinated and are required to wear masks while in the building. No food or  drink will be served to help ensure attendees do not need to  remove their masks, and the space is disinfected before and  after performances.

“People were so thrilled to be able to attend a classical music  concert in person, and on Zoom, but the people who came in  person really missed live music,” Janus said.

Asked if she enjoyed the concert herself, Janus simply replied, “Tremendously.”

Fox, a resident of Baltimore, agreed that the series has been well-received, and was confident it would be scheduled again in future years.

“We are always trying … to offer as many diverse experiences  as we can to our community,” Fox said. “One of the beautiful  things about Judaism is that it’s not only a religion, but it’s a  culture and a way of life, so not all of our congregants really  connect or feel safe in Shabbat services for example, and  other kinds of services and classes. And so any opportunity  that we have to reach more of our congregants inside our building is a win-win for us.”

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