By Yossi Zweig.
When Ohel started advertising their annual show this year titled “the Music We Love” with an ad listing NO lineup, I was skeptical. I mean this is a concert that has been going on for about 16 years, and not to announce ANY acts is very risky. Well guess what? I was WRONG! They sold out 1,100 seats Thursday before the show. The venue itself was a very refreshing change. Mason Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center has a very wide setup in the auditorium that makes everyone feel like they are close to the stage.
The excitement in the audience was electrifying. Who would be performing? The last ad had some hints so people thought they knew some of the acts. The lights dimmed and Avremi G, maestro of the evening, got the orchestra started on what was called “The Mishpacha Overture.” In Mishpacha’s Sukkos issue they had an article about the history of music. In the article they featured 10 songs, and as the orchestra played these songs, the artwork from those pages in the magazine appeared on the screens.
Elly Kleinman, President of the Americare companies, walked on stage and wondered where Nachum Segal was. He pulled out his cell phone and called Nachum. Nachum appeared on the screen sitting at home watching the Jets game and cheering them on. Nachum sees on his iPhone that Elly is calling and says no, he isn’t picking up. Basically, Elly runs over to Nachum’s building to get him. Elly rings his doorbell which Nachum’s children answer and you hear Nachum tell his daughter to tell Elly that he is in China. So Elly disguises himself as a Meshulach (money collector), knocks on the door again, and is now let into the Segal residence. Kleinman and Nachum start arguing. Nachum then proclaims that he will not host until he knows who is on the show. Elly slips him a piece of paper and Nachum gets ready for the show in seconds. They run over to Mason Hall and appear on stage. The video was very cute and the audience loved it. Nachum then pulls out an envelope with the hint for the first performer. The hint was “A singer with 3 albums, one of which was released in the last 3 months.”
The orchestra started playing the Phantom of the Opera music and a performer approached the stage with a phantom mask on half his face. Nachum announces that the answer is, MICHOEL PRUZANSKY. Michoel rips of his mask and breaks right into the opening number on his latest album, Kol Mah. The audience loved it and Michoel proceeded to impress us with his performance and dancing. Kol Mah went directly into Michoel’s Zeh Lozeh which is also on MP3 but was originally on A T.I.M.E.’s Avodas Tzedakah from Shloime Kaufman. By the time the set ended, smiles were all around. What a great way to start the show.
Nachum Segal then says that he needed a co-host for the evening and was trying to figure out who to call. Lipa? Na, he is mountain climbing in the alps. Mayor Blumberg? Na, he is cleaning up from the NYC marathon. He decided that his co-host would be… none other than his son, Yosef Segal.
Yosef reads the next hint/clue: “A singer from a family rich in Jewish music history with a heavy emphasis on one particular genre of music.” “I know this one,” says Nachum, “It’s EITAN KATZ.”
Eitan starts off with the title track from his previous album, Baruch Hu. This song just has a great vibe, and Eitan’s violinist, the multi-talented Jeremy Brown, really added that special element to the performance making it feel like magic. The next set included two songs that have made Eitan a household name; Yisborach Shimcha and the title track of Eitan’s debut album, Lema’ancha. This change of pace from Pruz’s fast set really was a perfect way to ground us for what was next.
Next up Nachum and Yosef Segal read the next clue “A singer with some classic Jewish music under his belt and a member of one of Jewish music’s most iconic groups.” Yosef says,” I know this one daddy, it’s ELI SCHWEBEL.”
Eli walks on stage and tells us he has been working on his upcoming solo debut album for some time now, and our treat he is going to perform a new song from the album entitled “Yaga”. Now we all know and love Eli as a member of Lev Tahor, but what sound is Eli Schwebel about on his own? Well, let me tell you something, the song rocked. With lyrics that included a little bit of both Hebrew and English, this song had the audience jumping in their seats. It was so refreshingly different that it soon became “The Music We Love.” For the next song Eli was joined on stage by his illustrious father, Rivi Schwebel, and his muli-talented “junior” brother Avromi . They performed beautifully In A Vinkele with Eli on the piano and the orchestra not joining in. The song is an emotional song to start with. Add the pure voices of the Schwebel family and the powerful song left everyone speechless.
The Segal co-hosts read the next hint “This is one of the hottest children’s groups around today. Each of these mega talented kids can star in any concert in his own right.” It had to be SHALSHELES JUNIOR.
Dovid Dachs, Avromie Schwebel and CJ Glicksman started their Shalsheles Jr. medley with the smash hit from their latest album Raninu. These talented kids ARE all stars in their own right and they proved it on the Mason Hall stage. Even with a few sound glitches they were professional and continued to sing their hearts out. Dovid then calls his father Shloime Dachs on stage to joln them in singing Hamalach Hagoel in memory of the two bochurim from Waterbury who were killed in the horrific crash just a week ago. It’s been a while since I have seen Shloime on stage but Shloime and Dovid make a great team. Besides having the same mannerisms, they have the same stage presence and their voices blend seamlessly.It was a perfect moment in memory of some pure neshamos. Shalsheles Junoir was then joined by… Their fathers. That’s right, Shloime Dachs, Rivi Shchwebel and Yitzi Glicksman joined their sons in performing Na’ar Hayeesee. What a great way to end a performance, having these two generations sing together a song that relates to them, not to mention their fabulous voices too.
Nachum Segal says he has been waiting for a while to introduce the next act. The hint reads “A major Youtube video has rocketed this group to super stardom”. It has to be EIG8TH DAY.
Shmulie and Bentsi Marcus walk on stage and tell us how they used to sing a song with their zeide “Mah Yedidus”. Shmulie then says they changed it up a little and put it off their latest album Chasing Prophecy and titled it “It’s Shabbos Now.” This is not the first time I have had the pleasure watch watching these enormously talented brothers perform. But every time I see them they still continue to amaze me and win over the audience in a matter of minutes. When the song finishes the applause is thunderous and they jump right back into the hit song “Avraham”. This song although a little mellower, still gets the audience into it as I watch people around me mouthing the words. When the second song finishes you already have some people in the audience shouting “Ya’alili”. The Marcus brothers leave the stage and a young man approaches. If you are a BIG music fan you would recognize him as one of the main dancers from the “Ya’alili” music video. Sure enough as Avremi G cues up the music he proceeds to dance and the crown starts dancing too. When the first verse is about to start 8th Day makes its way back to stage and sings and dances with their “dancer”. This is a song heard everywhere and originally debuted at Ohel’s concert last year, so it’s definitely “The Music We Love.” When it’s all over everyone was applauding and smiling from the great performance.
The next hint was “This performer loves miracles.“ It had to be SHLOIME GERTNER referring to his debut album Nissim.
This was Shloime’s first time on the Ohel stage and he started out with a very well know moving song, Beshem Hashem from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. When he finished it was quiet for a moment as people were still tied up in the performance/song, then thunderous applause for his amazing rendition. Shloime then sang Nissim, Ashrei Mi and that flowed into Im Ain Ani Li. Shloime said that part of singing the Music We Love is also recognizing the composers who wrote the music we love like; Yossi Green, Pinki Weber, Yerachmiel Begun and Yitzy Waldner. Gertner’s next medley was truly Jewish music we love. It included some golden oldies like; MBC-Nekadesh, London School of Jewish Song-Ani El Elokim Ekroh, Dedi-Ani Maamin, Baruch Hagever and more. Just memories of these songs brought smiles to everyone’s faces and left us feeling extremely happy. Shloime then called BENNY FRIEDMAN to join his on stage. Benny asked Shloime who some of his influences were in Jewish music. Shloime answered Carlebach, the Rabbi’s Sons etc. Benny said, “No no, I mean the last 20 or so years like Avremel and Mordche etc.” Then Benny and Shloime sang a most remarkable medley of some of MBD and Fried’s biggest hits mashed up. They included hits like; MBD’s Ani Od Milvado, Tomid B’simcha, Od Yeishvu, Daaga Minayin and just one Shabbos and Fried’s K’she SheAni, Sisu, Kayol Taarog and No Jew. THIS is what we were waiting for. Our favorite music, that we have been submitting to Ohel for weeks, and here it was with these two amazing voices. Whoever put together this medley was a genius.
Shloime Gertner wished us goodnight and it was time for some one on one with Benny Friedman. Benny started off with the title track from his debut album Taamu. The groove that the orchestra had was amazing. I don’t think I have ever heard the song sound that good. Benny then calls Aryeh Kunstler (who has been leading the choir all evening) to join him on acoustic guitar for the next song. “Aryeh and his wife just welcomed their son into the world just last night,” Benny says. “It’s only fitting that he perform this next song with me”. The song is Elokai and was first recorded by Dudu Fisher. The song was truly magical. Just Aryeh on the guitar with Friedman’s vocals was captivating, and we were lost in the moment. Benny then performed a song that Bentsi Marcus helped arrange from his debut album Yaavducha Amim. This song just has a great feel to it and the audience ate it up. To finish his set Benny told us that this next song people have been singing in one way or another for over 4,000 years. What could it be? Ani Maamin? Nope! It was Matisyahu’s One Day. The crowd went wild. Everyone was singing and holding up their glow sticks which was included in the Ohel grab bag. I see what Benny was saying. The lyrics read “all my life I’ve been waiting for, I’ve been praying for, for the people to say that we don’t wanna fight no more they’ll be no more wars and our children will play”. And “it’s not about win or lose cause we all lose when they feed on the souls of the innocent …keep on moving though the waters stay raging in this maze you can lose your way (your way)”. This is what all Jews have been praying for for years. No more war, peace and believe in Hashem.
Michoel Pruzansky was welcomed back to the stage where he dedicated his last song to Reb Shlomo Carlebach in honor of his yahrtzeit. The song, Reb Shlomo’s Mimkomcha. Pruz is a very energetic singer with great stage presence. The song was not over done, pure and simple and he didn’t miss a line. This was a side of Michoel that I have never seen before. When he was singing the final note the audience broke into thunderous applause and Michoel was done for the evening.
Next up, for the first time ever on stage together as an act was the Schwebel Family; Rivi, Eli and Avromie. Now we saw them in the beginning of the show with a amazing rendition of In A Vinkele, what would they do next? Why only the most famous English song- Memories. Watching Eli at the piano with his brother and father next to him was something I doubt I could describe. It was so pure and their voices melded effortlessly . If Ohel releases a CD and DVD this year, I want that song.
Nachum and Yosef Segal were reading the next clue “This is someone who will have to cross the Atlantic Ocean. On his own, or with a group, he is a MAJOR Jewish music sensation”. “Are you ready for this?” says Nachum, “Prepare yourself for YISHAI LAPIDOT”.
Yishai bursts on stage singing some of hottest compositions. He stared off with Dedi’s Vekovei Hashem and you could feel the energy in the air. Most people didn’t even know that all the songs Yishai was performing were his own compositions!!!. Hit after hit, Dedi’s Hu Yigal, Avraham Fried’s Modeh Ani and more. When Yishai gets on a stage with music you just can’t help but be drawn to him. He kept stopping the orchestra so that the crowd could sing together with him, and they were singing LOUD. Eleven hundred voices with no music other then Yishai accompanying them really makes an impact on a person. The funny part was that we have known these hits for years, but Yishai was making them all his own all over again. Next up Yishai re-introduced us to an Israeli favorite Mi SheMaamin, which rocked the house. He even inserted peoples name like Achmadinijad etc. that made the song more fun. Mi Shemaamin flowed into Mitzvah Geloda into Piha Poscha (shaa la la). Next, Yishai started a composition of his that Avraham Fried made famous when he released it as a single, of course I am talking about Aleh Katan Sheli. Yishai walked into the crowd and pick up a young boy and sat him on the stage. Lapidot then proceeded to sing to the boy Aleh Katan, it was very moving. Yishai finished his set by calling LIPA to join him for BeSimcha (Ooompa). I must say the two of them dancing, jumping, and singing was enough to make everyone want to jump out of their seats and join them on stage. Lipa then asked Yishai to stay on stage with him so they could learn together some mishna berura. We all knew what that meant. It was time for Mizmor Lesoda. Now if you’ve ever seen Lipa perform this song live it is funny and energizing, double that with Yishai in the equation. Did I forget to mention that Yishai was wearing Lipa’s yellow embroider betkecha? It was a sight to behold.
Lipa’s next song I think shocked us all. He started singing Reb Shlomo’s “Lord Get me High” and the audience was awestruck. It was such a fun song even though it is slow and haartzig, it’s a iconic that everyone knows and a great song choice for Lipa. Lord take me high blended into Niggun Neshama and the electricity was back in the crowd. By the time Lipa finished the song we were all wondering how he could top that off.
With a show like this there is only one song to finish with, Hentelech. Avremi G cued the orchestra and EVERYONE there started singing and tapping their feet. Half way through the song the entire cast joined Lipa on stage for the finale.
First off I think everyone needs to give credit to Avram Zamist and Sheer Productions for the amazing show they produced with an all star cast. Then to the entire crew of the New York Fun Factory. To Aryeh Kunstler and the Ohel choir; Akiva Lawrence, Sholom Jacobs, Eitan Nat & Yoel Schmel. To Avremi G and the Orchestra which included; Yanky Katina, Dave Solomon, Mike Hall, Gal Gershovsky and Cliff Lyons. To Sruly Meyer who handeled the marketing/poster/ad designs and created amazing stills with the Music We Love logo which was shown on screen during the performances. Lastly to Norman Gilden and the entire staff at Ohel Beis Ezra.
[Photos courtesy of bsdfilms.com]
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