The Azrieli Foundation recently announced the three laureates of their 2022 Azrieli Music Prizes (AMP) – the Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music, which will be given in a ceremony to be held in Montreal this coming October.
Each Laureate receives a total prize package valued at over $200,000 CAD, including a cash award of $50,000 CAD; a world-premiere performance of their prize-winning work in Montréal by the Orchestre Métropolitain at the AMP Gala Concert on October 20, 2022, where the Laureates will be publicly honoured; two subsequent international performances; and a professional recording of their prize-winning work released on the Analekta label.
The selected the winning submissions for the Azrieli Prize for Jewish Music and the Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music, and the selected the Azrieli Commission for Canadian Music. Both juries are comprised of leading experts assembled from the fields of music creation, culture, presentation and performance.
Two of the three prizes recognize excellence in new Jewish music – the and the . The first is awarded to a composer who has written the best new undiscovered work of Jewish music. Canadian-born Israeli composer is the recipient of the 2022 Prize for his astounding Out of the Depths have I cried unto Thee O’ Lord, a setting of five psalms for soprano and orchestra. The work moves through an emotional journey, starting from a state of despair and passing on to one of hope and eventually a state of celebration and complete confidence in God’s power and strength.
In selecting Aharon for the 2022 Prize, the Jury described his Out of the Depths have I cried unto Thee O’ Lord as, “a beautiful, sophisticated, moving and sincere piece of music, written by a fantastic musician. It is a major work that reflects well on the state of Jewish Music.”
Aharon Harlap, born Aaron Charloff, is the son of the late Mordecai and Etta Charloff. (Mordecai Charloff is perhaps best known as the longtime mohel for Winnipeg’s Jewish community.)
The following information about Aharon Harlap is taken from “A Century of Jewish Musicians and Music in Winnipeg”, by Sharon Chisvin, which was published by the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada in 2000:
“Pesach was the one holiday really when the whole family got together on Selkirk Avenue at my Zaida’s house …and we all used to sing, we used to sing in four part harmony, not just sing. The whole family was very musical.”
While Aharon Harlap – formerly known as Aaron Charloff – has made music in Israel for decades now, his passion for his art began right here in his hometown of Winnipeg. Acknowledging the piano lessons he began taking at age five and his early exposure to performing at the Manitoba Music Festival as sparking and then cementing in him a desire to create and perform music, it was, he maintains, his Winnipeg family and his mother Etta Charloff in particular, who was his primary influence. Etta, who came from a musical family that included sisters Chana Freedman and Cecilia Asper, was a talented vocalist and long time soloist with the Winnipeg Jewish Community Choir and later with the Winnipeg Yiddish Choir.
Aharon actually began medical school at the University of Manitoba before deciding at age 22 to leave Winnipeg to study conducting and composing at the Royal College of Music in London. From there he continued his studies at the Vienna Academy of Music and the Rubin Academy of Music in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he then settled. In Israel Aharon has coached and conducted the Israeli National Opera, the Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Jerusalem Chamber Opera Theater. He has also composed several highly regarded pieces, among them a composition based on five poems written by Bergen Belsen survivor Yaakov Barzila. In 1999 Aharon was awarded the prestigious Prime Minister’s Prize for Musical Composition. Aharon has returned to Winnipeg for many musical occasions over the years, among them the premiere of his Psalm 26, set to a poem by A.M. Klein and commissioned for Jewish Music Month by the Canadian Jewish Congress Music committee.
While sisters Etta Charloff and Chana Freedman were renowned throughout the community for their beautiful singing voices, their older sister Cecilia Asper was best known for her skill as a classical pianist. When Cecilia first married Leon Asper, a classical violinist who studied at the Odessa Music Conservatory, he was the conductor of the orchestra at the Palliser Hotel in Calgary and she was the pianist. The couple later moved to Minnedosa, Manitoba where Leon became owner of the Lyric Theatre and conductor of the Minnedosa Little Symphony Orchestra. Both Leon and Cecilia also played with the precursor to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and held regular Sunday musicales in their home with their many talented musical family members.
In a March 31, 1999 article by Myron Love, Myron wrote about Harlap being in Winnipeg to visit his mother, Etta, who was a resident at the Sharon Home at that time. Harlap visited the Sharon Home and entertained the residents – something that he had also done on previous visits to the Home:
As Myron noted, “As a conductor, he has led all of Israel’s most important orchestras – as a guest conductor – and has conducted orchestras and opera throughout the Western World. His compositions for chorus, chamber ensembles and symphony have also been performed worldwide. He has won numerous awards for his work.”