Cantor, singer and composer Linda Hirschhorn will perform Saturday in Olympia, but she won’t be singing alone.
Sharing the spotlight with Hirschhorn will be a choir of local singers — and even locals who aren’t sure they are singers.
Hirschhorn’s visit to Temple Beth Hatfiloh began Wednesday with a series of master classes and culminates in a Saturday concert.
“The first set of the concert will feature this instant community choir,” said Lydia Beth Leimbach, who directs the temple’s choir. “Then Linda will do her own solo set. She combines singing with storytelling and spoken word and poetry.”
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If you’re wondering how much one can expect from an instant choir, you might be surprised.
Temple choir member Kalee Alexandria sang with Hirschhorn on the cantor’s previous visit to the temple in 2009. At the time, Alexandria was new to Olympia and to the temple, so she didn’t really know any of her fellow singers.
“Linda was able to get our voices to mingle together so it sounded as if we had practiced and known each other for years,” Alexandria said. “It felt heavenly.”
Hirschhorn — founder of the nationally known a cappella ensemble Vocolot — said she gets as much joy from teaching people to find their own voices and collaborate in music as she does from performing her songs and stories.
“I love teaching people to sing in harmony, because I think that is sort of the quintessential human experience, which is to be able to hold your own part and do your own thing that suits you and yet be aware of what others are doing and singing and be in harmony with them,” she said. “It’s a great metaphor for how we live in community.
“This kind of combination, where I get to teach and get other people to sing and get to perform for people and know that I’ve touched them, is altogether a very high experience.”
Hirschhorn, the cantor at Temple Beth Sholom in San Leandro, California, has made 10 albums, some solo and others with Vocolot, the all-female ensemble she founded in 1988.
She has been singing since she was a small child, and writing songs since her twenties. Her earliest musical experiences were with Jewish music; folk music became a huge influence in her teens, when she attended a socialist Zionist camp and learned to play guitar and sing workers’ songs and union songs.
In her songs as well as in the stories she tells, Hirschhorn focuses on themes that are both personal and universal. “I would not call these Jewish stories or necessarily Jewish songs,” she said.
“Her music is about compassion, social justice and peace,” Leimbach said.