Anniversary composition a labor of love for Temple Isiah choir director Marshall Kohen

When Temple Isaiah choir director Marshall Kohen, the composer of "From Then to Tomorrow," which will be performed during the synagogue's 40th anniversary celebration Saturday, Dec. 3, mentioned to Rabbi Mark Panoff that he would like to compose an original piece of music for the event, Marshall's initial thoughts centered around a single composition that would be sung by the choir, Shir Isaiah. As he pondered the theme of the piece, he realized that the 40 years could be divided into four decades, represented by four movements of a somewhat larger piece.

"I'd always secretly wanted to compose music for voice and instrument. This was my chance," he said.


After interviewing several long-time members, the four movements crystallized for him. Marshall knew that the hard part would be developing the text for the piece. He wanted to use passages from the Torah, but felt a strong desire to write original lyrics, too. Fortunately, Rabbi Panoff and Marshall's sister, Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen, were there to provide guidance and wisdom.

"While I was pretty confident that I could compose a piece that would achieve my goals and that the Temple's choir could learn, it seemed to me that I would need more than just a 15-minute choral piece, mostly in Hebrew, written by the choir director, to justify an audience," Kohen said. "I'm passionate about many styles of music other than Jewish music, some of which I knew would be more accessible to the general public."

Kohen initially thought he would keep with the theme of a revue of Broadway pieces from the past 40 years, composed by Jewish musicians, featuring cantorial soloist Becca Grad and Kohen performing with piano accompaniment. But he wanted to continue the theme of the journey from the past to the future, so he reached out to a performer from the "past."

"I remembered a conversation I'd had with Barbara Davis, who was the assistant director at Bet Yeladim Preschool when my children went there. Barbara had mentioned that her son, Josh, lived in New York and had starred in some regional musical theater productions. After checking out Josh's website and seeing how talented he is, I emailed him to ask him to participate."

Luckily for Temple Isiah, Kohen's request came back from Josh Davis with a yes.

"The stars must have aligned because his calendar opened up — I'm so thrilled to have him perform at the same congregation where he became Bar Mitzvah," Kohen said.

As he began to develop the Broadway program, Kohen realized he wanted two more performers, so he looked to the past and found Tim Adams, a young man with whom he worked during 11-year stint teaching a high school marching band.

Adams had an established career in the federal government, but has also performed in a number of musical theaters in the Washington area. Adams then brought Elizabeth Gillespie, a music education/voice major who teaches music and performs in local musical theaters, to the project.

With three of the four "acts" needed for the concert secured, Kohen then contacted Kol Sasson, a Jewish a cappella group formed in 1997 by college students who wanted to share their love of music with the local Jewish community, Kol Sasson has since recorded five original CDs and performed around the country and is scheduled to be perform the concert's finale of this one-of-a-kind concert.

"I knew a bit about the local collegiate groups, but was very impressed with the website of one particular group from the University of Maryland, so I contacted Kol Sasson," Kohen said. "My intuition was confirmed when I saw them perform beautifully at Kol HaOlam, the first-ever national collegiate Jewish a cappella competition."

The concert is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $40 with a dessert reception to follow the performances. For more information, call Temple Isiah at 410-888-9100.

Congratulations are in order for some Reservoir High School footbal players. Justin Lee, Kenny Frazier, Joey Usher, EJ Montgomery and Robert Armstrong were all selected by Howard County coaches for their 2011 all-county teams.

A number of Reservoir High School graduates from the Class of 2001 and current seniors are having their artwork showcased in a solo exhibition at the Nancy Grasmick Maryland State Department of Education building, in Baltimore. Their work is on display in the storefront gallery from now until January.

Inculded in the exhibition are works from graduates Megan Armstrong, Kelly Langford, Ashley VanGemeren, Shivani Patel, Raisa Motaher, Lisa Gigioli, Alex Zielinski, Sarah Lewis, Becky Lamich and Sunny Kim; and seniors Gloria Choe, Cassie Tucker, Bailey Parater , Korey Rosenbaum, Laura Migasiuk, Ellie Budzinski and Monica Quinn.


Over at Lime Kiln Middle School, the Students of the Week for the week ending Nov. 18 were: Jay Clute, Maya Mule, Jordan Wynne, Ryan Brown, Jennifer Stidham, Damonpreet Saini, Henry McLaughlin and Brianna Weinman.

Principal Scott Conroy and Kim Sampson attended the National Blue Ribbon Awards ceremony, in Washington. Lime Kiln Middle School was one of the 315 schools from more than 130,000 to earn the National Blue Ribbon Award this year. Pretty impressive.

Only 23 more shopping days until Christmas! Well, that's all for this week. Commit a random act of kindness. Look in on your neighbors. Say a prayer for our troops who are serving in harm's way and remember their families, too.