Illumination: Jewish Italian music rediscovered underneath the stars

by Gaia Regoli
Picture below: Ruth Diskin (Director of Projects Departement  JF)
 

INTROBet Hagat Ruth Diskin

Saturday night at 9pm, one of the most gorgeous courtyards in Ein Kerem was lit by the melody of the Bet Hagat Ensemble. The project Illumination,supported by Istituto Italiano di Cultura, La Maison du Pressoir and The Jerusalem Foundation, brings back to light the almost forgotten Jewish Italian holy music, from the Renaissance to the Baroque era.

 

BET HAGAT

Twenty-five years ago, Bet Hagat, former farm of the monastery of Zion, became a central meeting point for Christians and Jews in Israel. However, in the last years it has transformed into an artists’ colony, which offers residences for artists and cultural activities. At the moment, the place is inhabited by three families and four younger artists. Bet Hagat acts as a source of inspiration for artists not only for its breath-taking spaces surrounded by nature, but for the spontaneous and natural feelings derived from it as well. Besides, the venue offers a library, different rooms for gatherings and concerts, and a restaurant as well.

 

ILLUMINATION

Bet Hagat ConcertA special thanks goes to Ayela Seidelman, a very talented cello player, who had the idea to initiate this project and, hence, made it real. Illumination is a unique project, as it is the first dealing with the re-discovery of Italian early Jewish music. Ayela conducted an in-depth ethnomusicological study and looked for Italian Jewish songs in synagogues and archives. For the concert of July 6th, the Bet Hagat Ensemble was joined by two Italian guests - Rafael Negri and Mauro Occhionero - invited especially to perform at this event. In total, the band was composed by eleven musicians playing the most interesting instruments, from the Baroque cello to the theorbo (a large lute). In other words, the atmosphere was simply enjoyable, accompanied by the fresh sound of old times, created by a perfect combination of voices and instruments.

 

ALLA FIERA DELL’EST

Due to my Italian origins, I could not help but having a feeling of general proudness during the concert as I could understand most of the songs. And then, towards the end of the whole performance, the most incredible thing happened. The musicians started to play a song that I used to listen to and love when I was a child. Alla Fiera dell’Est was written in 1976 by Angelo Branduardi, acclaimed Italian musician and inventor of a music genre combining medieval and renaissance music with traditional folk music. However, nobody is aware of the fact that this song is the Italian adaptation of the Jewish song Had Gadya. In fact, the content of the lyrics is exactly the same, except for one difference: in his version of the song, Branduardi narrates of a father who goes to a fair and buys a mouse, instead of a young goat, as sang in the original Hebrew version. Had Gadya is a traditional song usually sung at the beginning of Passover – Jewish Easter. The song talks about a father who buys a young goat, who is then eaten by a cat, which is bitten by a dog and so on. Each new verse of the song repeats the whole story from the beginning and introduces an additional element to it.

 

CONCLUSION

Infinite applauses echoed in the flowery courtyard at the end of the concert. The audience left with a feeling of calm and cultural enrichment. Illumination, an unforgettable project that challenges probably the biggest weakness of human beings: oblivion. Remembering the forgotten. Remembering the vanished.