Written by Yossi Zweig
Photography by: Ken Brown
Last night was truly a magical night in Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. Ohel had their sixth annual benefit concert and it was one momentous occasion. The show was set to begin at 7:30 sharp, and sure enough when the time arrived, the lights went dark and Eli Schwebel and Avraham Fried appeared on the big screen. They were playing and singing at the piano, when all of a sudden a cell phone went off. It kept ringing and ringing and they kept ignoring it. When a message came on screen for everyone to turn off their cell phones and beepers, the joke was understood. If this was the way a simple message was portrayed, it was going to be a magical evening. The music for this special evening belonged to the Shloime Dachs Orchestra under the leadership of Ari Boiangu (first half of the show) and they did a phenomenal job. Also playing that night was the ultra talented Gal Gershovsky on the drums. Now some people might think that the drums are a easy instrument to play. Well let me tell you something. Gal is a magician and the Orchestra pretty much played to the beat of HIS drum. The music began with each musician highlighted in performing an intro, introducing them to the anxious crowd. When the first chords for “Hinei Ma Tov”, a song that put the Ohel concert on the map back in 5758 began, electricity was in the air. The ENTIRE cast appeared one at a time to sing this Ohel classic song, and what better way to end then with Avraham Fried being the final performer on stage to sing the song, as he did so many years ago.
First to perform was the one and only Netanel Hershtik. I have never had the opportunity to hear Netanel live, but I must say he was truly magnificent. Hershtik sang the very well known “Ovinu Shebashomayim” and was joined his men’s choir. Alice Tully Hall was silent as the audience watched with bated breath this amazing performance. When the song was over the applause was thunderous as Netanel Hershtik walked off stage.
Netanel Hershtik & Choir
Eli Kleinman, a very well known face associated with Ohel, appeared on the screen. It seems Eli was going to audition for Lev Tahor. After seemingly not being able to have the “chops” for the fabulous group Kleinman introduced Lev Tahor SNL style in the humorous skit. Now I just want to say one thing here. For the minority of people that were, let’s say worried, about there being a change in the ranking of Lev Tahor, let me make this clear. Yitzy Spinner was on fire last night. The connection that Yitzy had with Eli Schwebel and Gadi Fuchs, who have working together for years was amazing. It was like he was always part of the group and they were unstoppable. They performed Im Lavan Garti, Aneni Hashem and Ma Yona and the crowd still wanted more. If this is what anticipation does for a group we need more of that. Yitzy told the audience that while getting ready for a performance of this size the performers usually have a hard time deciding which songs to choose for the event. Spinner says he wanted to sing “Refoeinu” and proceeded to sing the opening few notes. Eli had his guitar on and said he wanted to play a song Gadi composed specifically for his voice and started to sing “Moshe”. Gadi at the piano announced that he wanted to sing one of his favorites “Kol Hami’oneg” and began the first few bars. Eli stopped everyone and said that there is one song that is the most famous Lev Tahor song that he feels really helped them gain world wide fame. That song is “Deaf Man in the Shteeble”, written by the one and only Country Yossi. While performing the song as I looked around you could see the audience just awestruck at this moving performance. By the time Lev Tahor finished, the crowd was on their feet applauding and chanting Lev Tahor over and over. Lev Tahor then added a cute element to their act. Since concert-goers would like to have some time to converse with the stars singing on stage, they had an interactive piece, where they asked a question, and the crowd got to respond by reading what was on the jumbo screen. Eli said that while performing on the West coast Pesach time, he met a very intriguing Jewish Music group and he needed to bring them on stage to perform with Lev Tahor. The surprise of the evening was HUGE, as Lev Tahor introduced 8th Day!!! Shmuel and Bentzi Marcus thanked them and introduced the NEW song off their upcoming album entitled Yalil’li. I will say this much. Some of the audience there had never heard of 8th Day. However, once the song began, the crowd was smiling and stomping along with the beat, enjoying every minute of it. When Lev Tahor joined in, the performance went from amazing to spectacular it was truly a moment of Jewish music history. How to end the first half of the show? What better way than for Lev Tahor to perform Diaspora’s Hofacto to the audience’s joy and a final rendition of Lev Tahor’s “Im Eshkachech”. Then it was time for intermission and for us to all catch up with reality.
(from l to r) Yitzy Spinner, Eli Schwebel and Gadi Fuchs
Yitzy Spinner, Ari Boiangu & Eli Schwebel
(8th Day with Lev Tahor) Bentzi Marcus, Shmuel Marcus & Eli Schwebel
When intermission ended everyone was wondering who would start the second half of the show. Well we were all surprised when a video came on featuring the Concert Guys and two very unique individuals that have tried to get on the Ohel concert stage but have never made it thus far. The skit was definitely funny. These two “musical” talents had to sing a song to the names of all the sponsors affiliated with the event. The videos online with the Concert Guys added that humor that helped enhance the evening.
Shimon Craimer was up next and not just for a vocal piece. Shim was at the piano and doing his “Elton John” thing. The song of choice was the title track off his latest album “Nashir Beyachad”. Shimon’s voice and control is just amazing. The heights his voice can reach, added to the control and clarity, really makes him stand out as an artist to be reckoned with. Shim also had a children’s choir join him for the performance. The kids were from S.A.R. Academy and they really helped to enhance the performance. Amid thunderous applause Shim bowed and left the stage.
The video started up again. All you saw was a door and heard running water. The announcer’s voice came on and asked whether you ever wondered what Avraham Fried sounds like when he sings in the shower. We were all laughing and waiting to see/hear what would happen. All of a sudden you hear Avremel belting out “Hashem bless Americare…” with his powerful voice completing the song. Avremel then appears on stage joined by the Avraham Fried choir led by the ultra talented Shloime Kaufman singing “Levinyomin”. The orchestra for the second half of the show was lead by the talented Steve Bill and they were doing a really great job. After Avremel asked how we were all doing, he said he wanted to sing a Hebrew song, a tefilla for Ohel. The song of choice was “Rak T’filla” and the audience was eating it up. Keep in mind Avremel has been performing all over for the last 30+ years. Yet he was as energized as ever and his voice, like great wine, gets better with age. Fried next invites back to the stage Shimon Craimer and Netanel Hershtik to join him singing Yossi Green’s world famous “Aderaba”. Now, no matter how many times I hear this song, the three of them together was really something to behold. Craimer’s voice is perfect for the song and Hershtik’s tone added elements that brought the song to a whole new level. After thanking both Netanel and Shim for their help with Aderaba, Avremel asked the crowd what they would like to hear. A young man sitting in the front row yelled out, “No Jew”, and Avremel said “How did you know?”. “This song was first recorded in 1978,” Avremel said, “And it is still being sung across the globe today, more than 30 years later”. Midway into the song Lev Tahor joined Fried on stage and the song took a whole other turn. The new harmonies that Lev Tahor introduced were mind-blowing. The ending though had the crowd on their feet. Avremel sang the words LevTahor to the tune of the song and Lev Tahor answered back Avraham Fried, Avraham Fried. They were having so much fun on stage that ultimately we were thrilled with them in the crowd. Avraham Fried sang a Chabad melody because Yud Tes Kislev, which celebrates the Alte Rebbe’s release from prison, is right around the corner. He also had a Moshiach set with some great oldies.
A very unique video presentation was shown. It featured Ohel’s Camp Kaylie, a camp where 50% of the campers are from the regular population and 50% have special needs. The way the campers interacted
with one another was absolutely amazing. Based on firsthand accounts of the campers, they felt that they learned so much from being in an environment with children with special needs. It was more amazing than a regular summer camp. This unique camp setting was a benefit to all who attended.
The evening was entitled “Achdus In Harmony” and this was it. Each singer appeared on stage singing various compositions of “Acheinu” one at a time. When Avraham Fried appeared last they all sang Acheinu together and there wasn’t an eye dry in Alice Tully Hall. All I can say was that I haven’t enjoyed a concert this much in a long time. The music, performances, and videos were done so well and professional. The concert was produced by Naftoli Olivestone of No/It Productions. Video production was done by Chanania Craimer of Kol Rom multimedia. Stage/Production design by Bernie Dov of Bernie Dov Design.