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Rock the Temple

“Tonight we’re genre-hopping.”

That’s the way Elisa Wagner introduced the evening of music about to unfold on the “stage” – aka bimah – of Beth El Temple in West Hartford last Sunday night, December 3.

Wagner, who was speaking to a packed house of 500-plus music lovers and others of all ages and musical tastes, knew of whence she spoke. After all, as a member of Beth El’s highly-regarded BEMA (Beth El Music & Arts) Committee, it was she who conceived and coordinated the eclectic musical program that kicked off with classical, slid into Big Band, and climaxed with a mind-bending tribute to rock n’ roll.

The program was part of Beth El’s popular Music Series, which generally focuses on classical music. Wagner’s idea was to broaden its reach by introducing other genres of music – giving each genre its own spotlight and, in spots, blending them together.

She shared her vision with Beth El’s Cantor Joseph Ness, the series’ artistic director and conductor – and the program took flight. Guest violinist Kobi Malkin, accompanied by the Beth El Orchestra, took on Beethoven; Israel’s Moran Katz swung her clarinet to the tune of Artie Shaw; and the New Remains rock band killed…and were then resurrected by the crowd calling for an encore.

Did Wagner’s vision of broadening the music series work?

“This was a phenominal concert. I want more!” said 28-year-old Jeremy Jacobson.

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