Windsor Symphony Orchestra to feature Jewish composers

Windsor Symphony Orchestra assistant conductor Peter Wiebe

In what seems a rare event for any orchestra, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra will be performing a special concert on Oct. 3, solely featuring the music of Jewish composers.

“There’s a rich repertoire of music composed by Jewish composers,” said Jay Katz, executive director of the Windsor Jewish Community Centre. “In fact, if you look at the program for this concert, it’s really some of the most loved and most familiar pieces in the orchestral, opera, Broadway repertoire.”

Katz said the Jewish centre is always “looking for programming that appeals” to the Jewish community and greater community in Windsor, Ont., and that this event fits that bill.

Katz, who was the executive director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra from 2001-2007 and came up with the idea for the concert, said the Jewish community and symphony have long collaborated on various projects.

For example, a couple of years ago, it hosted a combined water-themed art exhibit and concert featuring George Frideric Handel’s Water Music suites.

“We’re lucky in Windsor that we have one of the best regional orchestras in the country here in our midst, so it’s great to take advantage of that,” he said.


The Oct. 3 concert will feature the works of Felix Mendelssohn, Jacques Offenbach, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.

And, like with the water-themed event of two years ago, the Jewish centre will also play host to a month-long photographic exhibit, which will open the same night. It will showcase Israel’s natural beauty and highlight the country’s forestation efforts, water management and agriculture, as well as showcase some stunning photos of Jerusalem’s parks and gardens.

Katz says he’s not aware of any similar concert being done before. “When I looked how the program came together and what music is actually there, you sort of wonder, why not, because they’re such big hits,” he said.

During the concert, assistant conductor Peter Wiebe, a student of music history, will provide short bios of the composers.

Windsor’s modern dance troupe, HNM Dance Company, will also perform.

“They’re a modern dance group and they just do really creative and quirky ways of bringing the music to life,” Wiebe said.

Asked about the concert’s program, Wiebe said Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D minor is especially poignant. “A lot of his music is minor key and it has a sense of melancholy and soul to it, so I just love that expressive quality,” he said.

Commenting on the three more recent composers and works like Gershwin’s Summertime and Bernstein’s Maria (from West Side Story), Wiebe compared the classical and modern traditions.

“I think this whole idea of fusing styles – the African-American community has that with jazz, you take white music and black music and make it a new form,” he said. “And then these leading Jewish composers (who were) taking classical and jazz and making their own kind of fusion. I just feel each of those composers has such an important voice.”

The concert takes place on Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Windsor Jewish Community Centre.