Arts and Culture | Local

Temple Emanu-El to present ‘Music of the Shoah,’ Arizona Repertory Singers’ ‘King David’ oratorio

Arizona Repertory Singer member Betty Sproul rehearses her ‘King David’ role, the off-stage voice of the Witch of Endor, with music director Elliot Jones. (Eleonore Rowe)

Temple Emanu-El continues its concert series with two notable performances later this month, “Music of the Shoah” and the “King David” oratorio.

On Wednesday, April 11 at 7 p.m., the eve of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Temple Emanu-El will present a concert of Jewish music either composed during the Holocaust or written in response to it.  “Music of the Shoah: Memory, Hope, and Promise” will feature Rachel Saul, a Tucson native and violinist for the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra. Saul will be joined by local musicians Chris Tackett on the piano and organ and Seth Vietti on percussion. Jeff Myrmo will narrate and sing baritone.

The concert will include Erwin Schulhoff’s “Solo Violin Sonata,” a new arrangement of Arnold Schoenberg’s “A Survivor from Warsaw,” and John Williams’ “Theme from Schindler’s List.”

Tickets for “Music of the Shoah,” $18, are available from Temple Emanu-El; call the office at 327-4501.

On Sunday, April 29 at 3 p.m., Temple Emanu-El will host Arizona Repertory Singers’ performance of Arthur Honegger’s “King David” oratorio.

The 47-member choral ensemble, directed by Elliot Jones, will collaborate with Tucson Symphony Orchestra players and special guest narrator Grayson Hirst.

“The French composer Honegger wrote the score of “King David” in 1921 as music to accompany a theater production,” Jones says. “We will include dramatic elements and choreography in our performance as well, including the off-stage voice of the ‘Witch of Endor’ and the character of David sung first by a boy soprano, and later by an adult tenor.”

The story, based on the Bible, captures the loves and losses of David, a young shepherd who becomes a celebrated warrior and king of Israel.

“The range of musical styles in this work is extraordinary,” Jones says. “It has hints and influences from Bach chorale melodies, Gregorian chant, and some 20th century modernism, jazz, and Middle Eastern music.”

Honegger was 29 when he wrote the music of “King David” and it quickly made him an important composer of his generation. A member of a group of young French composers named Les Six, Honegger sought to create melodious music that audiences wanted to hear, even while the dissonance of modern music dominated his time.

Hirst will narrate the spoken story that weaves through out the 24 musical movements. He taught voice as a professor at the University of Arizona from 1986 to 2015 and also enjoyed a celebrated career singing internationally for decades. As a tenor soloist, Hirst regularly sang at Carnegie Hall, including a 1987 performance as soloist in “King David.”

“It’s a thrill to be associated with this production again 31 years later, this time as narrator,” Hirst says. “It’s a rare opportunity in Tucson to hear this piece by an important composer of the 20th century.”

This will be the first public performance of Honegger’s King David in Tucson. It will be Jones’ second time to conduct the piece.

A performance also is scheduled for Friday, April 27, 7:30 p.m. at Catalina United Methodist Church.

“The story of King David is a sacred story shared by Christians and Jews and so we are thrilled to offer a performance at both a church and a synagogue,” says Jones.

Tickets to either performance of “King David” are $23 in advance and $25 at the door. Students are admitted free to both concerts. For group ticket discounts ($20 each for groups of 10 or more), email or call 792-8141. Catalina United Methodist Church is located at 2700 E. Speedway Blvd. Temple Emanu-El is located at 225 N. Country Club Road.