Arts & Culture

NEMPAC’s “Through the Lens” Concert Showcases Boston Artists in Nontraditional Venue

The North End Music & Performing Arts Center (NEMPAC) recently presented the first show in its annual winter concert series: “Through the Lens: Jewish Classics, Celebrated and Unknown.” Local Boston artists—cellist Dr. Aron Zelkowicz, mezzo soprano Lynn Torgove, and pianist Dr. Christina Wright-Ivanova—used music as a vehicle to honor Jewish composers, culture and history.

The musical event explored 20th century Jewish musical heritage against the backdrop of paintings and sculptures inside Bijou de la Vida Gallery, a private art gallery on Commercial Street. The beautiful surroundings offered guests a unique opportunity to experience the auditory arts alongside the visual arts.

Audience members traversed the art gallery before and after the concert, as well as during intermission. While the space instilled a special reverence for the music performed throughout the evening, its location in the North End also made it accessible to local guests.

Sherri Snow, executive director at NEMPAC, explains, “The North End neighborhood boasts a unique architecture—from nostalgic restaurants to historic churches. Rather than steer away from these nontraditional performance spaces, we work with our neighborhood to build an audience and cultivate new experiences at these familiar venues. In fact, the winter concert series began in February 2012 when hundreds—standing shoulder to shoulder—squeezed into the Old North Church to hear an Italian opera program. Since this astonishing turnout, our series has provided hundreds of local artists with the resources and professional opportunities to propel their musical careers forward in the city.”

Thursday’s chamber concert featured musicianship at its finest as cellist Dr. Aron Zelkowicz, mezzo soprano Lynn Torgove, and pianist Dr. Christina Wright-Ivanova performed works by  Chajes, Cohen, Glick, Milner, Stutschewsky and Zeitlin. It was a magnificent display of compositions from underrepresented composers who ought to be celebrated and brought to the public’s consciousness.

One of the reasons why the musical event was such a success was the deep respect the three local artists have for one another, as well as the artistry and traditions of Jewish music culture. Listeners were particularly moved by the concert’s opening song, Cohen’s Y’varech’cha, which translates to Shabbat Blessing for Children. The cello, piano and vocal worked in harmony to create a musical prayer throughout this peaceful lullaby.

The success of the chamber concert is owed to the commitment of NEMPAC’s loyal audience in addition to the talent of the three musicians. Indeed, NEMPAC’s diverse, tight-knit community was in full view on Thursday night.

From subscribers who mixed and mingled with one another during the pre-concert reception to couples and families who witnessed the collective strength and spirit of the evening’s program, this audience proved that neighbors in the North End don’t have to travel far to enjoy transformative, professional performances. NEMPAC serves as a key resource for bringing music—and community—to the North End and surrounding neighborhoods.

Snow said, “I equate this series with musical enlightenment. Audience members of our winter concert series boast a wide range of previous classical music experience. Nevertheless, the intimate venue and thoughtful program for the upcoming concert creates an opportunity for all audience members to fully embrace the music and connect emotionally to the narrative shaped by notes and rhythm. Our winter concert series makes high-quality performance programming accessible to our neighborhoods and empowers our community of artist, families, residents, students and supporters to embrace a creative experience.”

NEMPAC’s next show in the series will be “Seeking Sanctuary: A Viola and Chamber Recital Celebrating Black Artistry,” taking place on Friday, January 10, 2020.