For Israeli-American composer Sharon Farber, music runs in her blood. Her grandparents played guitar and mandolin, her mother was a ballerina, and her writer/composer uncle’s “Hallelujah” landed Israel first place in the 1979 Eurovision competition. A revamped version was even selected as the official song of the 70th anniversary celebration of the State of Israel.
Farber will be talking about her life and the inspiration behind her music at an intimate concert event Sunday, May 13, in Fairfax, Virginia. It will be the latest in Gesher Jewish Day School’s “Gesher with a TWIST” event series, which brings fascinating artists, writers, and other professionals for enriching engagements with the community.
What led you to become a composer?
From a very young age, I would improvise at the piano and compose pieces of music. I attended Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts in Givatayim and studied piano with Sara Feigin — a remarkable composer and teacher who taught some of the biggest names in today’s Israeli classical music scene. Sara believed in me and encouraged me to keep on writing.
Later on, someone introduced me to the world of film music and I fell in love with the art. I realized that there was nothing else I wanted to do but to compose. It was a calling.
How has your heritage influenced your work?
I have had the pleasure to compose many pieces based on or related to Judaism, mainly in my concert work but also in my film work. As the music director of Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills, California, I wrote many pieces which have become a standard repertoire in our temple as well as others.
It’s interesting, because I only developed an interest in Biblical text after I moved to the U.S. I believe that the reason is simple: When you live in Israel, you take your Judaism for granted, as everything around you is Jewish. Here, you have to seek it, and for some reason, Jewish related projects seem to have always found their way to me.
I also have a very strong tie to the Holocaust, and one of the pieces I’m most proud of is “Bestemming” (“Destination” in Dutch), my concerto for cello, orchestra, and narrator, based on the remarkable life story of Holocaust survivor and hero of the Dutch resistance, Curt Lowens. Curt, who I became very attached to, passed away last May, but his courage and story will live forever through the concerto.
Many kids in the Jewish community have to juggle a dual workload of secular and Judaic studies. Do you think it is important for their schools to also offer arts programming?
Yes, I believe it is very important to study art and music. Not only it has been proven that music develops the brain, but art — and for me, especially music — can touch our most inner feelings and help kids find a sacred place that is only theirs. If they play in orchestras or ensembles, they also get to become a part of a very unique family.
When we make music together, magic happens and the walls fall.