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The Four Cups: a Celebration of Passover

Violinist Itzhak Perlman hosts this special holiday program.

Listen Monday April 14 at 3 p.m.

The gathering together of Jews every springtime to retell the story of their flight from Egypt might be the longest-running yearly cultural event in the history of humankind, and one that has inspired many different musical traditions.  The Four Cups: A Celebration of Passover explores the great variety of music that emerged from these traditions, and like the four cups of wine drunk during the Seder, the program is roughly divided into four sections. 

In the first segment violinist Itzhak Perlman, Klezmer Conservatory Band founder Hankus Netsky and Cantor Yitzhak Meir Helfgot of Manhattan’s Park Avenue Synagogue, the three visionary artists of the hit Sony album Eternal Echoes, discuss and perform the prayer for dew, “T’filas Tal”, which addresses the roots of Passover as an agrarian ritual, excerpts of which we’ll also hear sung in a sampling of some of the historic recordings of legendary cantors of the early 20th century.

In the second segment, host James David Jacobs takes us through the ten plagues as they are musically illustrated by George Frideric Handel in his oratorio “Israel in Egypt.”

In the third segment, after we hear Itzhak Perlman and the youngest member of the WCRB staff sing the four questions, we hear an excerpt of a speech President Barack Obama gave to a group of students in Israel in which he explains why he is the first president to hold a yearly Seder in the White House and talks about how the Exodus story was a source of inspiration for African-American slaves yearning for freedom; this is followed by a collage of five versions of the spiritual “Go Down, Moses,” as sung by Roland Hayes, Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson, Doris Akers and Louis Armstrong.

The final segment celebrates the fun, festive aspects of the holiday, as Itzhak Perlman waxes rhapsodic about his love of leftover Seder food, Hankus Netsky discusses how how matzoh balls can be used to unite the traditions of two families and Moishe Oysher sings his rollicking version of “Chad Gadya.” At the end the Eternal Echoes artists share their thoughts on how Passover transcends cultural boundaries.

Listen Monday April 14 at 3 p.m.

After graduate studies in musicology at New York University, Walter began his radio career at WNCN in New York. He joined Vermont Public in 1984.
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