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Jewish Journal

Master Chorale Program Honors Pearl

by Tom Tugend

October 14, 2009 | 8:49 pm

When John Adams’ opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” premiered in Brussels during the final weeks of the 1991 Gulf War, security was super tight, following rumors that Arab terrorists might wreak vengeance on the “Zionist plot.”

The atmosphere will be considerably calmer when the Los Angeles Master Chorale presents “Choruses from the Death of Klinghoffer” on Sunday, Oct. 18, in Disney Hall, paired with Mozart’s “Requiem.”

Both the opera and the excerpted choruses take their theme from the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by four Palestinian terrorists, who killed Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound American Jewish passenger, and threw him overboard.

Fittingly, the performance is part of the October music month dedicated to the life and memory of journalist Daniel Pearl, a later victim of terrorism.

During a rehearsal of the 115-voice master chorale, conductor and music director Grant Gershon took time to talk about his perceptions of the “Choruses,” which convey the attitudes of both Jews and Palestinians.

“The main emotions I feel are grief and tragedy over the senselessness of the murderous act,” said Gershon, a youthful-looking 48, who has led the master chorale for the past eight years.

He sees no contradiction in the pairing of the 200-year-old “Requiem,” the last work Mozart wrote before his death, and the opera composed 20 years ago by minimalist composer Adams.

“Both works share a powerful operatic element and have extremely compelling back stories,” he said.

Gershon came to his last name through his paternal grandfather, a Russian Jew, who married a Catholic woman after arriving in the United States. The conductor does not identify with any religion.

Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl’s father, concurred that the pairing of the two works on the Disney Hall program is “a perfect match in light of this year’s motto for Daniel Pearl World Music Days, namely ‘Mozart must prevail.’”

In all, 1,619 concerts in 74 countries are scheduled as part of the Daniel Pearl tribute.

Judea Pearl and his wife, Ruth, said they were particularly honored by a message from President Obama, in which he noted that “music has been called a universal language that transcends cultures and barriers.”

Obama described the month-long musical events as “a fitting tribute to a man who promoted respect and dialogue throughout the world. On this occasion, we recommit ourselves to tolerance, compassion and ‘Harmony for Humanity.’”


Daniel Pearl also was honored last weekend on what would have been his 46th birthday by about 200 Chabad Houses around the world. Since the birthday coincided with Simchat Torah, Judea Pearl asked Rabbis Chaim Block and Efraim Mintz if Chabad could do a Simchat Torah tribute. The result was the dedication of one of the seven traditional hakafot, or torah processions, in honor of the slain journalist.

“We thought about Daniel’s legacy — the Kiddush Hashem, or sanctification of God’s name that he inspired with his final words,”  Mintz, the director of the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, told the Chabad Lubavitch Headquarters News.

“My father is a Jew, my mother is a Jew, I am a Jew,” Pearl’s final words captured on a videotape, also were the inspiration for the book “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl,” edited by his parents (Jewish Lights, 2005).


The Oct. 18 Master Chorale concert begins at 7 p.m. For ticket information, call (213) 972-7282 or visit www.lamc.org.
Additional local performances for Daniel Pearl World Music Days include: UCLA Philhamonia Concert; Peter Himmelman, “Furious World”; Yasmin Levy at the Skirball Center; LA Bach Festival; Yuval Ron; Moran Choir; Shsir Bair at the Museum of Tolerance; and Kadima Quartet.
For information about these and other Daniel Pearl World Music Days performances around Los Angeles, call (310) 441-1400 or visit www.danielpearlmusicdays.org/events.

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