Musical life in modern Jerusalem can be divided into two separate spheres: the liturgical music of the various Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious communities who maintain their living musical traditions; and Western secular art music.
(i) Religious musical traditions.
Most of the many Jewish religious musical traditions are represented in the synagogues of the various communities, the most ancient being of Middle Eastern origin, mainly from the Yemen, Baghdad, Kurdistan, Iran, Bokhara and Syria. On further investigation, these may prove to preserve elements of musical traditions from biblical times. There are also representatives of the musical traditions of Spanish-based Sephardi communities, especially those from North Africa, Greece and Turkey, as well as of the mainstreams of eastern European Ashkenazi tradition, namely Hasidism (which created in Jerusalem a special vocal style imitating instruments, stimulated by the ban on instrumental music imposed to signify mourning for the destruction of the Temple) and its opponents, Mithnagdim, who developed a Jerusalem version of the Lithuanian-style Bible cantillation. Western European communities, mainly from Germany, also have synagogues with their own musical traditions.
The most ancient Christian liturgical musical traditions practised in Jerusalem are those of the Eastern churches. The Armenian Orthodox church and monastery of St James, founded in the 4th century, maintains a male choir in its theological seminary (established 1843). Its library of Armenian manuscripts includes over 100 musical items, from the 14th century to the 16th, including hymnals with neumatic notation and illuminated Bibles with miniatures depicting instruments. The Ethiopian Orthodox church, which has been in Jerusalem since the 4th century, and the Greek Orthodox church, which maintains a choir in its theological seminary, both possess many ancient music manuscripts.
In 1934 the Gethsemane Convent, which has a nuns' choir, was attached to the Russian Orthodox church of St Mary Magdalene (1888). In Roman Catholic churches parts of the service are held in Arabic. At the church of St Sauveur, where an Italian organ was installed in 1910, the German organist and choral conductor P.E.J. von Hartmann (1863–1914) held office in 1893–4, and at the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral an organ was installed in 1851: Elizabeth Anne Finn, wife of the British consul, was the first organist. The Lutheran church of the Redeemer (1898) contained an organ presented by Kaiser Wilhelm II, which was replaced in 1971 by a new German instrument used for recitals from 1972. The organ of the Ascension church in the Augusta Victoria compound on the Mount of Olives was inaugurated in 1990. At the Benedictine Dormition Abbey, founded in 1906, a chamber organ was installed in 1980 and a large church organ in 1982.