Portrayed by Readers' Digest as "a top ranking composer," lauded in the New York Times as "a leading Israeli educator and composer," in Variety “as one of the top composers,” by Ascap Today as "a major force in today's liturgical music," and the recipient of still further praise by the Christian Science Monitor, Issachar Miron, has made a name for himself throughout the world as a top talent, composer, poet, writer, creative mind, filmmaker, and a master photographer whose kaleidoscopic lens reveals to plain sight the anthropomorphic manifestations that often reside unseen in the natural world.
From left to right: Pete Seeger with Issachar Miron Photo: James Durst
Most recently, Mr. Miron has once again received worldwide recognition, this time for his contribution to the CD “Pete Seeger at 89,” which was awarded the 2008 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Music Album. The CD features not only a new trilingual. setting in English, Hebrew and Arabic of Mr. Miron’s classic international hit, TZENA, TZENA, TZENA, TZENA, but also an introduction to the song, spoken by Peter Seeger himself, in which Mr. Seeger pays tribute to Mr. Miron.
BIENNIAL CONVENTION, TORONTO, CANADA,
Tribute to ISSACHAR MIRON
By ROBERT HELLER, Chairman, URJ Board of Trustees
December, 22 2010
All of the performers of the 2009 URJ Biennial, Toronto Canada, who appeared this week stand on the shoulders of great talents who came before them. I'd like to share with you a little bit about one of those great talents, Issachar Miron. Having won countless awards from innumerable musical and educational institutions throughout the world, 89‑year‑old lssachar Miron is a legend in Jewish music as well as in the international music industry. As Transcontinental Music director emeritus Dr. Judy Tischler put it, "lssachar Miron is one of the most important builders of Israel's music establishment." His works are so widely known and have permeated so thoroughly into every denomination of Judaism and every corner of the world, that listeners may be mistakenly prone to attribute them to those two well‑known genres, folk and traditional. If that's the case, you'll know better the next time you dance to "Tzena Tzena Tzena Tzena" at a simcha, or bring in Shabat with "Mah Yafeh Hayom", an excerpt from Miron's larger work "Shir Shabat". Indeed, his "Tzena Tzena Tzena Tzena" is now the recipient of a GRAMMY AWARD, having been featured, along with a special tribute by Pete Seeger to Issachar Miron, on "Pete Seeger at 89" the 2008 GRAMMY winner for Best Traditional Folk Music Album.
Professor Miron is equally well known as a prolific instrumental composer whose works have been performed by such legendary musical luminaries as cellist Jascha Silberstein, the Klezmer clarinet virtuoso Giora Feidman, and others of equal distinction. Finally, Issachar Miron's liturgical works have been honored with performance by some of the world's greatest cantorial talent, including Cantors David Kousevitsky and Louis Danto.
You can learn more about his wonderful music and illustrious career at his website www.issacharniron.com.
The Tribute above, was read aloud by Robert Heller at the URJ Biennial Convention Toronto on December 2009, in the presence of 8,000 rabbis and cantors of the Reform Movement.
Issachar Miron and his wife Tsipora
Issachar Miron was born in Kutno, Poland, in 1920. Miron’s mother, Haya Helen Elbaum-Michrowski, an accomplished pianist, died in the bloom of her life in 1927 at the age of thirty-six, when he was 7 years old.
"Survivor" Sculpture by Natan Rapoport
His father, Shlomo Michrowski, a proprietor of a local haberdashery store and a non-practicing ordained rabbi as well as a gifted violin virtuoso, endured inhuman suffering in the winters of 1941 and 1942 in the Kutno Ghetto, officially named by the Nazis, “Judenlager Konstancja," along with his family and some 7,000 Kutno Jews.
Issachar Miron's father, Rabbi and concert-violinist Shlomo Michrowski (right), his sister, Lusia-Tsipora Michrowski, and his brother, Moshe Pinchas Michrowski, who all perished in the Holocaust, pictured with Issachar Miron (standing) who remains the sole survivor of his entire family.
Cooperating with the Nazis, the Kutno Polish mayor, Burmistrz Krzeminski, issued, on December 8, 1939, the very first official decree in Poland ordering Jews to wear a yellow “Star of David” on the right side of their chest.
This short-lived ghetto became instantly an inferno of disease, starvation, brutal exposure to freezing weather, and corroding degradation. In March 1942, virtually all the Jews of Kutno perished in Chelmno, on the river Nerthe very first Nazi death camp of the “final solution for the Jewish question.” Their holy remains were buried in the nearby Rzurzowski Forrest; in ditches they were forced to dig prior to being shoved into the poison vans. There are no survivors to tell us their unutterable story.
"Our Forefather Abraham Cries" Sculpture by Betty Holler
May their memory be blessed forever, and their martyrdom live on as the never-to-be-forgotten testimony of this most horrible crime of crimes in recorded human history, committed not by ferocious savages but by Germany--a country which contributed so immensely to the world’s culture. Germany’s institutional Anti-Semitism, and Hitler’s subsequent rise instigated this satanic perversion of human conduct. The country’s lunatic leadership unleashed its venom against Jews, campaigning against the reputation even of such crown jewels of German cultural history as Albert Einstein, Heinrich Heine, and Felix Mendelssohn.
After Issachar Miron’s discharge from the Jewish Brigade of the British Army, where he served during War II, he settled in Palestine. There he continued his burgeoning creative work as a composer and writer, as well as a director and producer of documentary films. Miron steadfastly made every possible effort to advance his education by voracious reading and attending numerous classes in psychology, music, law and linguistics.
Issachar Miron in 2010
Issachar Miron in 1950 (then Issachar Michrovsky)
Issachar Miron in 2009
When the State of Israel was established, Miron was named the National Deputy Director of Music, assisting Frank Peleg, the world-renowned piano virtuoso, who served as the National Music Director for Israel's Ministry of Education and Culture. Miron was also appointed as the National Officer-in-Chief of Art and Music Programs for the Israeli Defense Forces. In this capacity he introduced his concept of “integration through singing,” which provided a common unifying experience for soldiers from different countries and cultures, and which was portrayed in an article by Oscar Schisgall, entitled “The Sound of Singing in Israel” the Readers Digest issue of May 1961. In the United States, professor Miron served as the Dean of the Music Faculty at the Jewish Teachers Seminary and the Herzliah Teachers Institute, both in New York City, whose academic roster of luminaries included Sholem Secunda, David Kusevitsky, Lazar Weiner, Abraham Binder, and Sidor Belarsky.
Issachar Miron - 1971
Miron is a recipient of ASCAP’s Deems Taylor Award for creative writing, and a winner of the Israel Engel Prize for Music. The American musicologist, Dr. Rudolf Ganz, in his revision of the Hutcheson’s Literature of Piano, and his Clavier treatise, "Contemporary Piano Masterpieces," included two of Miron's piano works: Seven Syncopated Preludes and Passacaglia for Moderns. These compositions were highly commended by Arthur Rubinstein and recorded by Frank Peleg.
Miron’s CD “I Remember,” which contains 6 poems for cello and piano, was recorded by Jasha Silberstein, the principal cellist of the Metropolitan Opera, with Tsipora Miron on piano. The Musical Heritage Society Inc., under the direction of its musicologist and president, Dr. Michael Naida, released this eloquent masterpiece.
Miron’s folk songs, film and video scores, signature tunes and instrumental works include the international mega-hit Tzena Tzena Tzena Tzena, with Hebrew lyrics by Yehiel Hagiz, English lyrics by Gordon Jenkins and Mitchell Parish. Miron composed this overnight international sensation while in the British Army. The song was popularized in the United States by The Weavers, with Pete Seeger on banjo, Fred Hellerman, Ronnie Gilbert and Lee Hays. Other major musical artists who subsequently performed and recorded Tzena Tzena Tzena Tzena include Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Arlo Guthrie, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Pearl Bailey, Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, Connie Francis, Chubby Checker, Dusty Springfield, Eartha Kitt, the Smothers Brothers, Neil Sedaka, Barry Sisters, Chet Atkins, Metropolitan Opera singers, including: Richard Tucker, Jan Peerce, Misha Raitzin, Roberta Peters, The London Symphony, Mantovani Symphonic Strings, and others.
The unprecedented international popularity of Tzena Tzena Tzena Tzena made it irresistible to practitioners of fraud and plagiarism, who falsely tried to claim its authorship. In order to establish that he was the song’s sole composer, Miron came to the U.S. in 1950 to vindicate his rights in federal court, a legal struggle in which he ultimately prevailed. He carried with him to the U.S. the support and admiration of Israel’s musical establishment, as testified to by the letter below, signed by Yedidia Admon (president), Aharon Ashman (vice president), and N.C. Melamed (secretary), representing the top echelon of leadership of Acum, Israel’s counterpart to ASCAP. Urging all readers of the letter “to assist [Miron] as much as they can,” the letter lauded Miron as “one of the youngest and most talented composers of this country, [who] has contributed tremendously to the molding of the original characteristics of contemporary style of Israeli music.”
In Mills Music, Inc. v. Cromwell Music, Inc., 126 F.Supp. 54 (SDNY 1954), an exhaustive decision dated July 29, 1954, Judge Vincent L. Leibell of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York concluded unequivocally: “The defendant produced no one who could specify any earlier work similar to Miron’s composition or from which it could be asserted Miron copied his composition. In every compilation of Israeli songs, [Miron] was named as the composer. [Miron’s] composition was origin echelon offal and copyrightable.”
As stated above, Tzena Tzena Tzena Tzena, has entered the international spotlight once again, as the result of a new multi-lingual version featured in the 2009 Grammy-winning CD “Pete Seeger at 89.” This new rendition, performed by the Clearwater-Walkabout Chorus, led by Pete Seeger, includes the original Hebrew lyrics by the eminent pioneer of Modern Hebrew poetry, Yehiel Hagiz; English lyrics by the great bandleader and musical wordsmith Gordon Jenkins; and vibrant new Arabic lyrics by the poet Salman Natour. On the album, Mr. Seeger pays special tribute to Mr. Miron, recounting that Miron wrote the song in 1941, when he was a soldier in the Palestine Buffs Regiment Number 2, a Jewish unit of the British army. It was not long before the song became an international phenomenon, receiving performances throughout the world and climbing to the top of American and international hit parades. As recalled by Mr. Seeger on the CD, World War II took the song to the beaches of Normandy, to the battlegrounds of North Africa, and to the newly liberated Holocaust camps, bringing a new breath of freedom to the victims of unimaginable suffering. With typical modesty and generosity, Mr. Seeger has, on many occasions, credited Tzena Tzena Tzena Tzena, with jump-starting his own career and “catapulting [him] to international prominence.”
Issachar Miron - 1977
Miron has been the recipient of various coveted professional honors for his music, poetry, scripts, and direction, including multiple Gold and Silver Medals of the International Film and Television Festivals of New York
Robert Sherman, host, on the New York Times radio station WQXR, of The Listening Room, Woody’s Children and other programs, described Miron's work, in a program on the rejuvenation of instrumental Klezmer music, as a “marvelous achievement." Miron’s Klezmer music is represented, among other recordings, on the two-disc album “The Art of the Klezmer,” recorded by leading clarinet virtuoso Giora Feidman, with Feidman’s Trio and orchestra, and conducted by Issachar Miron. Miron is a laureate of the Cantors Assembly of America KAVOD AWARD for his “immense contributions to Jewish liturgical music” and a winner of multiple prizes for poetry. The Musical Heritage released four of his liturgical cantatas for children’s choir and orchestra.
Miron’s coast-to-coast telecast, Golden Gates of Joy Oratorio, and his Cantata, Song of Esther, with lyrics and libretto by Abraham Soltes, were performed by the Ray Charles Singers on over 300 CBS affiliated TV stations, and was chosen by CBS for international syndication as the result of "an extraordinary listeners' response."
His song, "Ufi Ruach," with lyrics by Aaron Ashman became the first Hebrew song to be broadcast on Egyptian radio, in the aftermath of the 1977 peace talks between Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt and Menachem Begin, prime minister of Israel. Miron was the National Director of Special Educational and Inspirational Programs for the National United Jewish Appeal, scripting, composing and directing numerous motivational radio and TV programs, as well as prize-winning films, videos and virtually hundreds of multi-media shows, community concerts and full-fledged musical and dramatic shows that played in the 70’s and 80’s around the country before the largest American Jewish audiences in history. In the 60’s Miron was the Music Director of the America- Israel Cultural Foundation in Israel and the U.S.A.],
His book, "Eighteen Gates of Jewish Holidays and Festivals", with an introduction by Elie Wiesel, epilogue by Rabbi Irving Greenberg and an introduction, “From My Angle,” by the Israeli poet-laureate Haim Hefer, features a wealth of contemporary poetic meditations, music and prayers. The Jewish Book Club selected it as its MAIN SELECTION. According to Eli Wiesel, “There are poetic alliterations in his music and musical resonances in his poetry, brightening his personal voyage of discovery into Jewish holy days with passion, warmth and wit.”
The esteemed New York Times writer and editor Richard Shepard further lauded the book in an ecstatic review in the Jerusalem Post, who wrote: “On every page, the product of his imagination leaps out to pull on yours.” “It may be possible to spot a poem or hear a piece of music and say, that is a genuine Miron. But the wonder of it is that the Miron patina may be imposed on such a multitude of themes in such a plethora of moods.” “This is a large-sized book that will grab you the first time as you sit down with it. But you will not read it through at that first sitting.” “There is too much to absorb, too much to muse upon, because this is not a simple read. In the best sense of poetry, an economy of words compresses lengthy philosophies in blend of intellect and emotion.”
During the seventies, Issachar Miron arranged and recorded, with Theodore Bikel, choir and orchestra, underground Jewish protest songs from the USSR, entitled "Silent No More," proceeds of which go to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Bikel / Miron Scholarship Fund for students from the former Soviet Union and other countries. In 2000, ASCAP honored him, “in recognition of his manifold achievements as composer, author, educator and distinguished international citizen.”
As one who has always been devoted to humanitarian concerns, Mr. Miron has turned his creative imagination to the ecological crisis currently threatening the planet. In the spirit of the Green Revolution, Mr. Miron has composed Ma Yafeh Hayom/Shir Shabbat, a musical folk-singing celebration of the Jewish Sabbath, and of the Shmitah, by which the earth itself receives rest and restoration. The song pays tribute not only to the weekly day of rest that is the sanctified legacy bestowed by the Hebrew Bible, but also to the Shmitah, the rest mandated by Jewish tradition to the entire earth every seventh year, when soil must lie fallow and planting must wait in abeyance. It is Mr. Miron’s fervent hope that Ma Yafeh Hayom/Shir Shabbat will serve as an ongoing reminder that just as humanity needs and deserves weekly rejuvenation of the body and spirit, so the earth that is our home and on which we depend for our sustenance, is entitled to our care and compassion, and has its own right to renewal and rejuvenation. Jewish tradition embodies this value by granting to the earth, every seventh year, a life-giving respite from the toils by which it sacrifices its own nourishment for our benefit.
Issachar Miron with his wife and collaborator, the concert pianist, Tsipora Miron
Issachar Miron lives in New York, N.Y. with his wife of 67 years, Tsipora, a concert pianist, who served on the faculty of the Music Academy in Tel Aviv, Israel. They have three daughters: Ruth, a concert pianist, married to Dr. Michael Schleider, an oncologist practicing at Englewood Hospital, named as one of the best physicians in his field; Shlomit, a social worker and human resource director, married to Itzik Aviram, an electric engineer in a nuclear plant; and Miriam, a lawyer, married to Chet Lipton, a corporate lawyer. The Mirons have seven grandchildren: Jennifer and Daniel Cubell, Jeffrey Schleider, Scott Sholem, Julie Sholem, Zachary Lipton, Gabrielle Lipton and a great-granddaughter Piper Logan Cubell. Issachar Miron is listed in Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem), Who’s Who in the East (U.S.A.), Who’s Who in Israel, Who’s Whoin ASCAP, Who’s Who in ACUM, AGAC Directory, Who’s Who in World Jewry, the International Platform Association Directory U.S.A., and TheNew Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians.