The History of the Winter Jewish Music Concert

The Winter Jewish Music Concert has evolved in a variety of ways – from the range of performers and types of music featured, to its very name. The one thing that’s remained constant: since its inception it’s been a sell-out, as fans and critics continue to sing its praises.

Launched as a tribute to pianist Alan Mason, a nationally recognized accompanist who since 1991 has served as musical director of Temple Israel of Greater Miami, the concert was so successful it became an annual event, with Mason overseeing the operation as program director.

Early on, the midwinter concerts had different names, always including “cantorial” in its title. But with each year came a broader artistic lineup and vision, which no longer was limited to one musical genre. To reflect this expansion and keep open the door to further growth, organizers ultimately chose Winter Jewish Music Concert and added the website, JewishConcert.org.

Each year, the WJMC continues to delight audiences of all ages with Jewish music in a range of styles – from Yiddish, Israeli, cantorial and classical to jazz, pop, folk, hip-hop and beat-box. Music by nearly 90 different composers has been presented, with the most performed compositions by cantors Meir Finkelstein and Sol Zim, two of this country’s most renowned composers of contemporary Jewish music, and the late songwriter/musician Naomi Shemer, hailed as the "first lady of Israeli song and poetry."

Over the past six seasons, the WJMC has featured 100 prominent and emerging artists on the Jewish music scene. Last year’s performers – who came from Europe and across the U.S. as well as right here in Florida – reflected a diverse array of talents, including bass baritone and Yiddish enthusiast Mark Glanville, second-generation cantor Meir Goldberg, classical violin phenom Gabrielle Fink, the all-female musical group the Sheba Ensemble, jazz diva Sharon Clark  and up-and-coming artist Noah Aronson. 

Each year striving to bring to the stage a topnotch mix of talents, WJMC program director Alan Mason’s “goal is to attract an audience simply by presenting Jewish music ‘performed at the highest level,” writes music critic Dan Dickson in the arts publication Artburst, “and the packed sanctuary at Temple Israel of Greater Miami – which seats about 700 – testified that his strategy works.”

Indeed, the makeup of concert goers can be as diverse as the music they come to hear. In 2014, for example, the audience hailed from 13 different states and three foreign countries.

Further enhancing the musical experience is the venue in which it is presented: the glorious 1928 Moorish-Gothic-style Bertha Abess Sanctuary – on the National Register of Historic Places and the oldest synagogue building in continuous use in Florida – located in in the heart of Miami, blocks from Wynwood and Midtown.