The Music of Composer and Singer Norma Brooks
For over 30 years, Norma Brooks’ musical collaborations have spanned diverse cultures, traditions and languages. Her music celebrates this uniqueness while expressing a shared hope for unity among all people.
Norma grew up in Borough Park, Brooklyn, in a Yiddish and English speaking family. Her earliest musical influences were her mother's singing and classical piano playing. Her home was filled with music of diverse styles: jazz, blues, folk, classical and opera, as well as the Hassidic music of the small Orthodox synagogue attended by her grandfather.
She received her music degree from Hunter College in New York City, where she studied with composer Louise Talma, a protégé of Nadia Boulanger.
While teaching on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Norma formed Voices of the Lower East Side with local artists, colleagues and parents. This trilingual troupe of 60 children performed popular and traditional music in Chinese, Spanish, and English. They traveled to elementary schools throughout New York City.
After moving to Washington DC in 1980, she joined Itzqueye, a DC-based nueva canción band as a singer and accordionist. The group originally came together to fundraise for the Sanctuary Movement, a movement formed by roughly 500 congregations of Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Jews, Unitarians, Quakers and Mennonites to shelter Central American refugees denied political asylum. They released their debut album Cantos de Lucha y Libertad: Songs of Struggle and Freedom in 1990.
Alongside Itzqueye, Norma began composing original Jewish liturgical music in 1984. Her songs spread to congregations across the United States, fourteen of which were recorded on Your Bountiful Light (2002). Her music was produced and directed by Hazzan Dr. Ramón Tasat and collected in a companion songbook with arrangements by Hazzan Tasat and Cantor Natasha J. Hirschhorn. Each of these songs featured text translation by Dr. Everett Fox.
In April 2003 Norma and Hazzan Ramón Tasat and Cantor Natasha Hirschhorn created Shalshelet: The Foundation For New Jewish Liturgical Music, which hosts an international music festival every two years, www.Shalshelet.org
Her latest project Psalm Full of Soul (2017) s a groundbreaking collection of original songs in Hebrew and English for Psalms which journeys through new sounds in jazz, gospel, classical and funk. It combines the talents of internationally renowned artists: jazz musician Vince Evans, gospel singer Vanessa R. Williams and Norma's Jewish liturgical songs. Within this diversity of cultures and traditions they create a rich tapestry of soulful sounds.