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Mormon choir joins Jewish orchestra to present concert in California

A 60-person choir from The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints and a 70-piece Jewish orchestra joined forces on April 7 and April 10 to present a landmark concert featuring the world premiere of an orchestral cantata written by John Michael Luther at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue in La Mesa, California.

It was the second year in a row that the Tifereth Israel orchestra and the East County San Diego Mormon Chorale collaborated. Last year, it featured Jenny Oaks Baker, a well-known LDS violinist.

“It is a joyful experience to bring people of different faiths together for such an event,” said Marilyn Harris-White, music director and conductor of the East County San Diego Mormon Chorale. “It fosters unity, respect and strength in our community.”

This year, the interfaith concert featured an orchestral cantata written for cantor, choir and orchestra called “Unetofah Takef” (Day of Reckoning). The performance featured shofar (ram’s horn) virtuoso Steve Ovitsky.

The composer, Luther, is a Protestant, adding even more diversity to the interfaith concert. The composition was inspired by Musaf, an additional service that is recited on Jewish Holidays. The composition is about the Jewish interpretation of the Day of Judgment.

The composer, John Luther, who is not Jewish, read the text from Musaf and was deeply touched by its relevance and emotional message.

“He was deeply touched by its true awesomeness, relevance to everyone, and the emotional message,” said Dr. David Amos, who conducted. “He consulted with a rabbi for the Hebrew pronunciation, where the accents fall in relation to the music and its impacting significance.”

John Michael Luther has composed, published and recorded numerous works for choral groups, chamber and wind ensembles, electronic media, voice, and symphony orchestra. His music has been performed by members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; Philadelphia Orchestra; San Diego Symphony Orchestra; and others across the U.S.

He holds a Bachelor of Theology Degree from Life Pacific College in Azusa, California, a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Master of Music Degree in Composition from California State University, Long Beach. For many years, he was a studio musician in Los Angeles.

The 60-person Mormon choir sang in Hebrew. Other works at the concert included Rossini’s William Tell Overture, and selected pieces by the Mormon choir, including Handel (Judas Maccabeus), and Haydn (The Creation), with and without orchestra.

The Tifereth Israel Synagogue congregation is affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and is a family-friendly community that is open and welcoming to all including interfaith families. It offers a variety of religious services, lifelong educational opportunities and expansive programming for all ages.

The Church has close to 100 congregations in the San Diego region totaling more than 50,000 members. The choir included 60 Church members.

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