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Catholic and Jewish choirs, composers to perform together for first time in plea to save the planet

It was a bond forged by Catholic and Jewish cantors.

In Christian worship, a cantor is a person who sings solo verses or passages to which the choir or congregation responds. In Judaism, a cantor is one who sings and leads people in prayer in a Jewish religious service.

A meeting between cantors of both faiths that lasted a couple of hours turned into a vision for a first-ever musical prayer performance, free and open to the public, to be staged at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Sunday, Nov. 11.

It will feature more than 250 singers, composers and conductors from both faiths making a unified plea to save the planet.

The initial meeting between cantors was initiated by Joan Patano Voss, associate director in the Office of Worship for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Kenneth Cohen, cantor at Temple Ahavat Shalom, a Reform Jewish congregation in Northridge.

“We wanted to do some bridge building between musicians of both faith traditions,” Voss said.

Talking about a theme for the performance, Cohen said, raising awareness about climate change and caring for the environment was a natural choice given its importance in both faith traditions.

In May 2015, Pope Francis released an encyclical titled “Laudato Si,” issuing a searing criticism of consumerism and irresponsible development and calling for all people to take swift and unified global action to combat climate change and its effects on marginalized people around the world.

It’s a poignant issue for Catholics and Jews, Voss said.

During the performance, Jewish and Catholic choristers will perform music from common scriptures as well as new compositions written by musicians from both faiths for this special occasion.

On Monday, Nov. 5, all musicians got together at the Cathedral for a rehearsal.

“It’s been truly wonderful to see everyone come together,” Cohen said. “There has been a real desire on the part of people to cast their egos aside and work together.”

This concert is particularly important at a time when groups and communities are polarized, he said.

“What better way to bring people together than music and song?” Cohen said, adding that the Oct. 27 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead and seven injured gives this interfaith event much more meaning.

The suspected shooter in that case was a self-proclaimed white supremacist who yelled “All Jews must die” as he fired at congregants gathered for a Shabbat service.

“When people are in crisis, we come together,” Cohen said. “We need one another to strengthen and lift up each other.”

Cohen hopes people who attend the performance will feel inspired to put their differences aside and work together for peace.

“We have the capacity to do great things if we reach across the aisle and embrace people around us,” he said. “We hope people will see, especially in this time of divisiveness, that we are stronger together.”

If you go

The musical prayer performance will take place Sunday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St. in downtown Los Angeles. The program is free and open to the public.

Source: Orange County Register

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