[One Week Later’s Aryeh Berger reporting for JewishMusicReport.com]
HASC PHOTOS BY OFFICIAL LONGTIME HASC PHOTOGRAPHER STAN WEISS
(More photos after the recap)
On Sunday night, January 11, I was one of the lucky people who went to this year’s HASC concert. HASC concerts are the king of all concerts, with usually only the best singers performing . This year was no different. With a lineup consisting of Yaakov Shwekey, Benny Friedman, Dedi, Simcha Leiner and Abie Rotenberg, I and everyone else there knew we were in for something special.
As I walked into the concert at Avery Fisher Hall, I couldn’t help but notice how nice the hall is. It’s really beautiful and has these nice grooves on the ceiling, which I assume help with the acoustics. The stage was bedecked with posters of 28s and pictures of Camp HASC in the 28s. The stage is beautiful and was full with the band.
When I walked in and sat down at around 7:27, I thought the concert probably wouldn’t start for about 15-20 minutes. Boy was I wrong when about 30 seconds later, Nachum Segal came on the mic and informed us that the concert would start in 60 seconds and that there was no intermission. With that warning, he then introduced the overture played by the Negina Orchestra, arranged by Yanky Briskman, and conducted by Yochi Briskman. We got to hear the HASC Theme song, Yesh Tikva, Simcha (from Simcha Leiner), Lo Yaavod, Zoche, and a few more I don’t remember, followed by the HASC theme again, all in instrumental form.
Nachum then got on stage to introduce the show and our first performer of the night, the HASC concert debut of Simcha Leiner. Simcha came out to sing his first song of the night, Mi Mi off his debut album Pischi Li. He did a beautiful job and really has a terrific voice both on the CDs and live, as well. He then went on to talk about what a zchus it was to be on the HASC stage, helping out a great organization. After he finished talking, he moved on to the title track of his debut album Pisch Li, which he sang spectacularly (he went really high on the last high part), followed by a good night and a run off the stage.
At this point, I want to speak about the band and overall sound of the concert. The band was 24 peices, and they really sounded good. I know that people rip HASC because thy don’t have big 60 piece orchestras but I thought it was just fine ( though I don’t really know that much about music). The bass was thumping in your seat, but not overbearingly so. The music was loud, but it didn’t burn my ears off like a few concerts I went to previously did (which is maybe why I didn’t think it was so loud). I enjoyed the sound and felt that the band couldn’t have been better.
Anyways, after Simcha Leiner, Nachum walks onto the stage to introduce the man who just put out a brand new album, “some people refer to him as the Yesh Tikva man” (yes he said this), Ladies and Gentlemen, Benny Friedman. Benny ran out and belted out a great version of Toda. I love the way Benny performs. He’s so charismatic and energetic, he makes you want to get up on stage and dance with him. Toda was no different. Benny was all over the place, jumping up and down and I really loved this song, and will rank it in my top 5 of this concert. I would buy the cd just to hear this song again.
Then Benny started to introduce his next song. He started talking about the tzaaros and how we always need Hashem and how the song was dedicated to Reb Sholom Rubashkin, at which point someone in the front screamed out Yesh Tikva. The crowd laughed and Benny said nope, the song I’m singing is…….. He then started the beginning of Vafilu Bhastora and the place went nuts. Benny did a spectacular job on this song as well and when he finished, he yelled good night and ran off.
No HASC concert is complete without a few videos highlighting the greatness of Camp HASC. This year’s first video was a very cute music video of all the smiles and happy faces at Camp HASC set to the background music of Benny Friedman’s ‘Bum Bum.’
After the video, Nachum came out to introduce a true friend to HASC, known for both his jokes and his songs, Dedi. Dedi came out to a medley beginning with the song Lecho Etain off his album Omnom. He then moved to Lo Nazuz off his album Adon Hasholam. Finally, he finished the medley off with Chevron off the album V’Ohavta. Dedi then went on to thank a ton of people (like more than 30, and they just kept coming) and said a couple of jokes (too many songs about Israel, KD closed down but he wasn’t affected, etc.) and introduced the next song. He said with all the hardships that Eretz Yisroel is going through, we need to sing a song of strength. At this point, he called up his son, Aviel, to join him in the song. I was totally fooled that he was singing a slow song, but then he said “Aviel, let’s bring the roof down and HASC, let’s show support for Israel by singing this next song.” Hmmmmmm. Bring the roof down? Aviel began the all-too familiar Hashem Melech…….. And they rocked Hashem Melech from Gad Elbaz off his album Milim Shel Ruach (this is the second straight time someone sang this song at a HASC concert). Aviel has a beautiful voice and sang the song, with his father’s help, very nicely, and with that, Dedi wished the crowd a good night and went off the stage.
Nachum Segal introduced Senator Chuck Schumur to deliver a few words and he said some very nice things about HASC. While he spoke, three guys rolled out a piano for the greatest composer of our (my) generation, Abie Rotenberg. After Nachum introduced Abie, he sat down at the piano and introduced his song and said there is a time for everything. He went on to sing Lakol Zman from Dveykus 2. At the end of that song, Benny walked onstage and Abie told him that one of his favorite songs nowadays is Bsheim Hashem, which they then sang. Then Simcha Leiner walked on and Abie told him that this next song really hit his heart when he first heard it and they all sang Kol Berama together. Then Dedi walked onstage and Abie thanked Dedi for being such a good supporter of HASC, to which Dedi returned the favor and thanked Abie for composing such beautiful compositions. They then all sang Acheinu (I forget which version), followed by Naar Hayisi.
Then we sat through a speech from the concert chairman, Miles Berger (a distant cousin of mine), followed by an awards ceremony where they honored a few contributors to Camp HASC. We then watched a video about how Camp HASC is “gan eden on earth” for the HASC kids.
Finally it’s time for Yaakov Shwekey. We heard the familiar tune of Am Yisrael off his most recent album Kolot. Shwekey came in and immediately pulled a HASC kid up on stage and danced with him throughout the whole song. The song itself was great and Shwekey always kills it onstage. Shwekey then told us how the kid coming up was unscripted and continued on to call these kids the tzadikim of our dor.
Shwekey then went on to say that he was excited to be back on the HASC stage and thanked the various people he needed to and then began his next song, which was a medley of slow songs, the first being Mehaira(from Shomati), followed by Eishes Chayil (from Leshem Shomayim) and then Bo’ee Bshalom off the album Libi Bmizrach. He ended with an encore of Bo’ee Bshalom and the crowd helped him out.
“Let’s get dancing,” Shwekey said and with that he started up Lo Yaavod from the album Cry No More. He really rocked it out and showed that even without Metalish, that song is a hit and he is a star.
After Lo Yaavod, the crew rolled out the piano again and Abie sat down and called Yaakov over to the piano. They sang together A Small Peice of Heaven, Who Am I, and Mama Rochelle, with Abie doing the lows and Shwekey doing the highs. After Mama Rochel, Shwekey complemented Abie on composing such nice songs. Abie said back I’m so glad I chose you to sing Mama Rochel.
Abie then went on to say that he had the hardest time composing this next song, and Shwekey went on to say the first time he heard it, he stopped his car and started to cry, and couldn’t continue driving for a while, the song hit him that hard. They began to sing The Man From Vilna, and a friend of mine commented how he’s never heard The Man From Vilna like that- the combination of Abie’s deep emotional voice on the lows and Shwekey’s sweet meaningful highs were the perfect blend to get the most out of the song. At the end of the song they danced a little rekidah (danced round and round in circles- get it?) with the Zemiros Choir (who were fantastic all night long), and both went off the stage.
After that song, we were treated to another video about what Camp HASC does.
After the video, we were introduced to Yaaaaakov Shwekey again, who came out (minus his jacket and with his sleeves rolled up) to the bongos for the song Rau Banim. This was quite possibly the best Rau Banim I’ve ever heard from him. At the end, Shwekey got the crowd to sing Moshe Uvnei Yisrael…… It was awesome.
After that came Kolot, and even though Shlomi Shabbat wasn’t there (I had bets on him to guest star), he sang the song spectacularly. After that, we got a rock medley consisting of Kdai, Shomati (!), Ma Ma Ma(!!), and BenBag Bag (!!!). I guess you could call it an oldies medleys and it was fun for us to be able to remember these old Shwekey songs that he rarely ever sings. I still enjoy them and wish he’d pull them out more often.
Shwekey then sang a song dedicated to all the tzaaros that we as a nation have endured. He went on to sing Vehi Sheomda which I have already found on YouTube and advise you watch.
“Time to dance!” And with that we heard the oooooos from Zemiros Choir and the familiar tunes of Et Rikod. The crowd jumped up all of a sudden, so much so that Nachum Segal had to remind us at the end of the song that there was still a finale. Et Rikod though was amazingly epic.
Before I talk about the finale, I just want to say that at that point in the concert I realized that Benny Friedman wouldn’t come on to sing a full song again and here is where I’ll nitpick. I love Vafilu Bhastarah, however I thought that benny should have sang Bum Bum live or Rak Beyachad or maybe one of his slow songs. I just thought that Shwekey would star and Benny would get a bunch of songs off his new album and the fact that he only got one off his new album was upsetting and disappointing. Just one more nitpick, I thought that Dedi singing Hashem Melech was also a waste of Dedi. He has such a large discography and could have sang any one of his other songs and to sing a song that was sung last year at the same event, I thought, was a waste.
Now on to the finale. The choir began to sing a speeded up Mi Sheberach from Shwekey’s Nokia album. Then Simcha Leiner came in to sing Shebechol. Benny then joined him onstage and sang……..(you guessed it) Yesh Tikva! Dedi then came on and sang Zoche with Benny and Simcha doing the ahas. Then Abie walked on (with no mic, Benny had to give him his) and sang Uvnei Osa. The choir continued their fast Mi Sheberach (the oooooooo part) and Shwekey walked on to sing Shema Yisroel, and Cry No More. Finally, the HASC theme came on and Nachum Segal said thanks to everyone for their support and wished everyone a good night. This concert was definitely the best one I’ve ever gone to, and I can’t wait for the cd to come out so I can relive it again.