written by Yossi Zweig
Photos courtesy of Stan Weiss
Last night was the 24th Annual HASC: A Time For Music concert, entitled A Time For Duets. This was one of the most hyped up concert in years. Not only were tickets sold out two weeks before the show which rarely happens, but calls came in from at least 500 people still looking to buy tickets. The show started off as they had over the past 20 years, with the voice of Jewish radio, Nachum Segal. The Overture began with a number arranged by Yisroel Lamm, a variation of the HASC opening melody. The difference on this number was ultra talented percussionist, Benny Koonyevsky, who wrote percussion arrangements for him and his 3 fellow musicians (Julliard graduates). They played it out center stage on garbage cans. If you have seen clips from Stomp or Blue Man Group, this was the Jewish equivalent and it was AWESOME. True talent in its rawest form, up close and personal. What a great way to begin this amazing show.
“Welcome to HASC 24,” says Nachum. “It seems everyone has a duet but me.” “Not so, Nachum,” says a voice that sounds very familiar. It is the one and only Country Yossi. It seems Suki & Ding Productions decided to truly make it “a time for duets”, including the MCs for the evening. Nachum and Country introduced the first duet of the evening.
Nachum Segal & Country Yossi
These two Torontonians performed for the first time about 20 years ago. Tonight, they reunited on the HASC stage. Abie Rotenberg and Baruch Levine had some really funny banter. After a short clip of Baruch singing Abie’s ‘Hamalach’ from 20 years ago, Abie commented to Barcuh, “And your voice hasn’t changed one bit.” Baruch and the audience laugh and Baruch told Abie that his mother really liked that song. Abie then told Baruch, “I hope you still don’t seek your mother’s approval on all your compositions,” to which Baruch responded, “Yes Abie, I still do.” The comfort level between the two was great and the audience could feel it and was really enjoying it. After a few more comical comments, Abie started to play Baruch’s ‘Yehei Zeh.’
Imagine if you will, two baby grand pianos back to back with Abie at one side and Baruch at the other. Their voices meshing and weaving in perfect harmony to some of Jewish music’s best. The set included Abie’s Habein Yakir Li, and ended with A Small Piece of Heaven. They were accompanied by the Hasc Choir led conducted by Shloime Kaufman. Let me tell you something. I was at rehearsal earlier in the day while the Hasc choir was rehearsing, Ohad and Yehuda Green standing next to me exclaimed that there is no choir anywhere else like Shloime and his chevra. They are so professional and always on note, not drowning out the performers they accompany.
Yehuda Green and Ohad! were the next duet to approach the Hasc stage. What song would they perform? Would they go with and Ohad favorite or a Green classic? When the first chords of Reb. Shlomo Carlebach’s “ The Days Are Coming”(Hinei Yamim Ba’im) resounded throughout the hall, you can feel the electricity in the air. This was one duet that people were most curious about because their styles, voice, and pitch are worlds apart. However, it really worked well. Ohad’s powerful high notes and Yehuda’s emotional performing melded very well and complimented each other in a way we would never have expected. The medley ended by Yehuda Green’s ‘Hashiveinu.’
The stage was dark. Nachum announced the next duet to be Shloime Gertner and Lipa. In the shadows we saw a few people approaching the stage and taking their places. That sure looked like more than two people singing. When the chords of Gertner’s ‘Say Asay’ rang through the air and the lights went on, we were greeted to a group of dancers. They were all wearing matching fedora hats and vests. On one side of the stage Lipa entered and on the other side, Gertner. This was a duet we knew would work well. When “Say Asay” was done, Lipa started telling Shloime a vort. At that point we all knew which song would follow. It could only have been Lipa’s legendary ‘Mizmor L’Soida.’ The song featured both the dancers and Lipa and Shloime doing the ‘signature’ Mizmor L’soida dance. It included running in place and lots of fist pumping. It was quite entertaining and a great way to end the number.
The honorees were then mentioned and awarded. Plaques were given out, where HASC showed their appreciation for all they have done for the HASC family.
Next up was one of the most anticipated duets of the evening. Having never performed live before, the New Shalsheles Jr., Dovid Dachs, Avromy Schwebel, and C.J. Glicksman took the stage alongside their mentors, Shalsheles; Yizchak Rosenthal, Simcha Sussman, Baruch Aryeh, and Chaim Bloch. With Yitzchak Rosenthal at the piano, they began with a very fitting ‘Baruch Haba’ off their latest album. The medley included Ivdu, Ki Er’eh, Yerushalayim, Modeh Ani, Yofyofisa, and Henai Ma Toiv. The voices of the “Juniors”, under the leadership of Shloime Kaufman, really complimented those of the seniors. Keep in mind that Dovid is the son of Shloime Dachs, Avromy is the son of Rivi Schwebel and brother to Eli Schwebel, so these kids have been around talent most of their young lives. C.J. is just a talent by himself as people could tell by his rendition of Ki Er’eh. In case you were wondering if the Juniors could keep up the quality of the Shalsheles name, they surely are keeping the chain going strong. We are looking forward with great anticipation to their upcoming album, which is tentatively scheduled for a Purim release.
Dovid Dachs, Avromy Schwebel, & C.J. Glicksman
When the announcement over the speakers came that Arvraham Fried and Benny Friedman were due up next, a hush fell upon the crowd. This uncle and nephew, each a huge star in his own right, must have had a long planning session as to which songs to perform together. They began with the Fried classic, “Moriah”, which then transitioned into Benny’s signature ‘Taamu’. Just watching the give and take of Benny and Avremel while performing Taamu, left people spellbound in their seats. Their voices are so alike, yet so different. They were so complementary of each other that you could have closed your eyes and imagined that Avremel was singing with a younger version of himself. They finished the set with a Yossi Green classic, ‘Refoeinu.’ With a hug and a bow they bade the audience a good night.
Nachum asked the audience if they were prepared for another surprise. All the way from Israel, the world famous violinist, Daniel Ahaviel, graced the stage. The lights were low with a solitary spotlight on what appeared to be the back of a Chassidish Jew. When the first notes emerged from the violin. Daniel turned to face the Hasc audience and began to play so swiftly with nimble fingers. He was dancing and spinning all at the same time. I have seen many clips online of Daniel’s performances. Nothing could have prepared me for watching him live. His ehrlichkeit and energy infused the crowd that they were clapping along to the beat. Who was his duet? ‘Only’ the Neginah Orchestra led by Yisoral Lamm. When Daniel finished, the applause was thunderous. Everyone in Avery Fisher Hall had a huge smile plastered on their face.
What could be greater than Yehuda Green and Ohad doing a duet? How about Yehuda and his legendary mentor, Reb. Shlomo Carlebach. With today’s technology, Yehuda was able to perform a duet together with a video of Reb. Shlomo singing ‘Am Yisrael Chai.” It was truly spectacular.
The next surprise of the evening was ‘wonderkid’ Yonatan Shainfeld all the way from Israel, performing a duet with Ohad. These two great talents along with Daniel Ahaviel are all managed by David Fadida of FDD Productions. They sang the powerful new song called Yehi Ratzon. Yonatan’s powerful high notes blended very well in line with Ohad’s , creating a symphony of vocal perfection.
The last surprise of the evening was more than 2 people doing a duet. It was more like 30. We had the Yeshiva Boys Choir, led by the talented Yossi Neuman, perform ‘Mizmor Shir’ off of their latest album, YBC5. The duet was the composer of the song, Eli Gerstner.
Lipa then walked on stage and told the audience that he can’t find anyone to sing a duet with, when all of a sudden the big screen behind him turned on. Low and behold an OLDER, WHITER Lipa was on the monitor. Lipa looked up and exclaimed, “Hey! Are you sure you’re you?”
“I am Lipa Schmeltzer.”
“Zaide?” Lipa then tells Lipa that he is 65 years old and getting ready for HASC 52 in Yerusholayim with Moshiach.
“Wow! Moshiach arrived? What’s it like? What do they call me in 25 years? The Rocker? Star?” asks Lipa.
“Now I am known as Zaide,” says zaide Lipa. “You wanna hear what music is like now,” asks zaide Lipa? The music began and it was an all new song. The song is called “Spiritual Joy” and the lyrics are in English. Lipa joined in half way through the song and they finished together. Lipa told me after the show that this was his first attempt at writing English lyrics. I think his English has gotten really good.
Who is next we are all wondering? We didn’t have to wonder for long. Nachum Segal’s baritone sounds through Alice Tully Hall, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Shloime Gertner and Avraham Fried.” The two of them sang a glowing rendition on Shloime Gertner’s “Nissim”, from his first album. They were accompanied by the Hasc Choir led by Shloime Kaufman for the world renowned “Ki Hirbeisa”, that was released as a single from Avraham Fried.
The last number prior to the finale included, Abie Rotenberg and Baruch Levine on facing pianos along with Shalsheles and Shalsheles Junior. They sang Haneshama Loch from Baruch Levine, Esa Einai from Shalsheles, and Ata Echod from Abie Rotenberg. It was truly a momentous event.
The HASC summer video, which is a big hit yearly, featuring the Hasc family at work and play was then shown to the audience. It highlighted the amazing work the dedicated staff had done the previous summer.
What kind of finale can you expect with such a great lineup? The entire cast was on stage performing and singing pieces of each others’ songs. They ended with the famed Hasc song. The evening ended with Shloime Gertner singing Happy Birthday to Hasc on this momentous occasion.
Special thanks to Suki and Ding Productions for producing such an amazing show. Thanks to Yisroel Lamm, who lead the talented Neginah Orchestra, which featured some of the best in the business, Yaron Gershovsky, Rick Cutler, Jim Hynes, and Benny Koonyevsky. Special mention also goes out to the amazing videography by the show, provided by Mendy Lenorovitz and his crew from On Time Studios. Waiting to be at HASC quarter-century celebration in Yerushalayim.