Here is a review that I started writing months ago and never completed. With HASC 26 coming up in the very near future, I decided now was the perfect time to complete it!
Ever since I started writing reviews for JMR, I have always had the same reaction to the release of a live concert. How can I properly review it if I only have the audio and not the video (which in many cases I only had the audio and not the DVD). And furthermore, even if I have the video, watching the video is very different than actually being at the concert itself. There is so much that goes on at a concert that does not get picked up on the video, and definitely not in the audio. The actual performance can be captured on CD and DVD but the atmosphere, interaction between the performers and crowd, participation of the crowd, and the electricity in the air are only able to be captured being there live. Additionally there are usually parts of the concert that are not on the CD or DVD for a variety of reasons and that alone can change the accuracy of how good or bad the concert really was. I happen to love listening to concerts for a few reasons. For one, the vocals are usually not redone (or if they are it is hopefully minimal) and I can hear truly what a performer sounds like without the benefit of all the fancy technology that is used to produce a studio album. I have always said that if you want to know truly how talented a vocalist is you need to see and hear them perform live. I know everyone has better and worse days (even me), but a true talented performer will show his talents in a live setting. My other reason for enjoying live performances (and I include audio and video of weddings as well) is because usually there are added “knaitches” by the performer and band and it always adds a twist to the song for me. Sometimes it’s the performer singing his song with new arrangements or a “knaitch” and sometimes it can be a performer singing someone else’s song and I just love the performance. Saying all this, I have finally decided to do a review on a CD of a live concert. I am obviously only reviewing the CD release and not the concert itself.
I chose A Time for Music 25 (otherwise known as HASC 25) as the first of hopefully many live releases that I review. Anyone who follows my reviews (and I am sure you number in the thousands) know that the HASC concerts played a large role in my music growing up. Also, even to those who claim that the HASC concerts have run their course (which since I still enjoy them immensely, I disagree), they were still the first ones to bring Jewish Music concerts to such a stage and to have reached such a milestone of 25 years is amazing and warrants a review unto itself.
The concert began with a musical overture featuring the Neginah Orchestra and Yaron Gershovsky on piano, and is directed and arranged by Yisroel Lamm. It has the signature HASC overture song and incorporates many of the highlights of previous HASC overtures. I like how there is always a new take on the traditional HASC overture. The first performers of the night are Avraham Fried, Lipa Shmeltzer, Shloime Gertner, Ohad, and Dedi. The sing an opening medley of HASC classics including Ribono Shel Olam, A Small Piece of Heaven, Abi Melaibt, Aditanya, Sholom Aleichem, Kulanu Nashir B’yachad, and Mareh Cohen. I have to say that this mix of songs and performers is really cool and enjoyable. You have 2 veteran HASC icons in Avraham Fried and Dedi, 2 more recent but still HASC regular superstars in Lipa and Ohad (on a smaller level than Lipa), and relative newcomer but ultra talented Shloime Gertner. It’s nostalgic but at the same time fresh. The next performer of the night is Abie Rotenberg singing his first HASC classic, Who Am I. As Abie says himself, it’s a walk down memory lane.
The next segment of the concert is some tributes to HASC legends who have passed away. The master of ceremonies is Zale Newman, who was the MC for the 1st 6 HASC concerts. The first tribute is for Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach by Yehudah Green, Eitan Katz, Chaim Dovid, and Ruby Harris. They sing a medley of Carlebach classics. The next tribute is by Ohad singing the Sultan of Sephardic Music, Jo Amar’s classic Barcelona. While Ohad doesn’t have quite the prototypical Sephardic voice (I don’t even know if he’s Sephardic), he has quite an amazing range and really does the song justice! Avraham Fried follows with a tribute to Moshe Yess with is world famous song…..yep you guessed it, My Zaidy! Uncle Moishy then makes a cameo appearance singing Hey Dum Diddly for about a minute and then introduces the next performer, one of the original HASC performers Yoel Sharabi, who sings the now famous song, Mi Shema’amin. Out of all the recent performers who have covered this song, I happen to prefer and enjoy this version the best.
The concert continued with a medley of songs performed by Shalsheles and Shalsheles Jr. Shalsheles has always been known to have sweet and melodious songs, and adding the Jrs to the mix makes it even more enjoyable. The next performers were the Maccabeats singing their hit Candlelight. I have never seen them live, and this was my first time really hearing them performing live and they really are talented! Next comes my personal favorite of the entire concert, Chazan Yitzchok Meir Helfgot singing Shlomo Carlebach’s Moshe V’aharon. I happen not to be a big fan of chazzanus, but Helfgot is a favorite of mine since he sings songs that aren’t exclusively chazzanus and has such an amazing voice. I look forward to every opportunity to hear him (including his unreal rendition of the Kayl Molei at the Siyum Hashas) and his performance at the HASC concert was nothing less than masterful! Lipa Shmeltzer follows with a very cute and “Lipa Like” 25 year look back at the history of HASC, and purposely mixes up every performer and their song. It is a nice comedic diversion in the middle of an epic concert!
The concert continues with a nostalgic visit by Abie Rottenberg and Journeys, where they sing their classic A Time to Say Good Shabbos. I love the song, and their live rendition, but the best part of this is Abie explaining how he got the inspiration to compose this song, his first English song. On a late Friday afternoon, his wife called to him “Abie, it’s time to take a shower!” Following this classic song, Eight Day makes their HASC debut singing their amazing hit song, Yalili. While it seems that Yalili has gotten some over exposure, I happen to like how the producers managed to mix in some new talent to go along with the performers who have starred in previous concerts.
The concert next took a serious turn as Sruly Williger, Shloime Dachs and Mendy Wald sing a medley of songs in memory of the gedolim who had recently passed away. The ironic thing about these three is that they were once the face of the future of Jewish Music. Each of them have had nice “careers” each in his own way, but none of them reached the “iconic” status that I thought they had a chance to reach. It doesn’t sound like they did that much practicing together to sync everything, but they really do sound real nice together and it is a very hartzige medley.
The next two songs are performed by a duet of Dedi & Shloime Gertner. It is a very interesting pairing, however I happen to be fans of both of them and they seemed to sing together very nicely. Dedi, the Israeli, and Shloime, the Englishman, both have their own distinct energy that they bring to their performance. They start by singing Shloime’s song, Smile, which has Yiddish and English lyrics. They then sing Dedi’s hit song V’kovei (and for you baalei dikduk, it is pronounced correctly….). I am not sure how much singing Dedi does anymore, but I always loved his music and his voice. The fact that he still comes in for the HASC concerts is good in my world. Dedi ending with a couple of his funny lines (at least I find them funny) is cute too.
As the concert begins to wind down, who better than to have a calming effect on the crowd other than Baruch Levine. They say he is a 5 time performer (this being his 6th), and since he was not performing at the early concerts, it’s a big statement to where he stands in today’s Jewish Music. He sings his beautiful song Bitchu and together with the adult choir, it is a beautiful rendition.
Yerachmiel Begun and the Miami Boys Choir are the next performers and they sing the title track of their latest release Shema Yisrael. As I’ve said before, they have a very clear cut style that has helped them gain popularity over the years. They are very crisp in their performance and the gold standard of professionalism as far as choirs go.
Before the finale, Yigal Calek, the director of the London School of Jewish Song, speaks. I am not sure exactly what his point was so I am not going to comment.
The concert finale is singing Abie Rottenberg’s famous HASC song from HASC 4, Candles! It is a beautiful song that captures the essence of HASC and is beautifully performed by the entire cast.
In conclusion, this is an amazing concert that I am sure was enjoyed by anyone there live and anyone who will either watch the DVD or listen to the CD. It is available http://www.mostlymusic.com/a-time-for-celebration-hasc-25.html or anywhere good Jewish music is sold. As a HASC concert enthusiast I have truly enjoyed listening to it and can only imagine what it would be like to actually be in attendance at a HASC concert. Maybe one day…