Guys, feel free to read this review, but remember, this CD is for WOMEN only!!
It’s hard to believe that Chanukah was just a few short weeks ago. What an unbelievable eight days: latkes, family get-togethers and concert after concert after concert. But while Chanukah may be just a memory, concert season most certainly is not.
The great music just keeps on coming, night after night. But not in the way you might think.
I’m not talking about the big concerts that everyone got so excited about. Not HASC. Not Benny Friedman. I am talking about concerts that most of you don’t even know about and aren’t going to. Because they are put on by high school girls.
There are so many talented girls out there. You guys may not know about them, but they are there. And they are far better than you might imagine. If you have ever been to a high school concert, you have probably heard some gorgeous music and wondered how it would sound if it was done really right. If they could have had a world class musician doing the arrangements. If they could have had Yaron Gershovsky on the piano.
Well wonder no more. Just give a listen to Shira Girls Choir 2, directed and produced by Chaya Bruria Sachs, who also composed all the songs. But in an unheard of move, the music was arranged and conducted by Yisroel Lamm, with an orchestra composed of some of the top names in the business. Shira 2 is a girls concert done really, really right.
The first Shira album debuted in 1998, when Chaya Bruria Sachs decided it was time for a professional sounding womens album. All the arrangements were done by Yisroel Lamm and all the music was recorded in New York before the vocals were recorded by a group of talented girls in Baltimore ranging in age from ten to eighteen years old. Shira’s debut album, Yisimeich, quickly became the top selling women’s album. Shira Volume 2 was released in 2005 and Shira 3, with arrangements by both Yisroel Lamm and Yanky Briskman, is slated for release Purim 2011.
Chaya Bruria Sachs composed her first song at age five, the same time she started taking piano lessons. She confesses that it probably wasn’t all that good but it was a good place to start. Chaya Bruria began composing seriously in high school for school productions, not just for her own school but for other schools as well. In fact, the first Shira album was exclusively songs that were composed for these productions. She still gets approached not just by schools to compose songs, but by some male singers as well. For now she chooses to keep her compositions for the Shira albums exclusively.
As for Shira 3, Chaya Bruria anticipates that it will be even better than its predecessor. She is working hard to maintain the balance between keeping up to date and modern, while still maintaining the yiddishe taam that is the hallmark of every Shira song. In her own words, “I feel I have an achraiyus to be mashpia on people properly and I take this very seriously. It’s not just entertainment. It needs to bring people closer to their Avodas Hashem and get people thinking. From the letters we receive from people I know our past albums have accomplished this goal and I think this one will too.”
I must admit that I never actually heard either Shira album, until a thoughtful reader sent me a copy of Shira Volume 2. (Thanks, Sara!) After listening to the CD, I was surprised to realize that I already knew three out of the ten songs since they had been used in assorted girls concerts that I have attended in the last few years. While I didn’t notice any really outstanding soloists on this album, the music sounds fresh and it is obvious that investing in experienced musicians really paid off.
Enough background. On to the actual songs:
Baruch Haba – This cheerful song with great harmonies is probably my favorite on the album. It clocks in at five minutes twenty six seconds, but it is so good that it doesn’t seem overly long. Just one comment that seems worth mentioning: there is tons of brass used in this album. I would have enjoyed hearing more keyboard and more strings.
Naanaysi– A pretty slow song with a beautiful opening solo by…I don’t know who! Unfortunately, there are no names given for the soloists so I can’t identify any of them. Love the harmony on the low part the second time through.
Reu – The first time I heard this song, I could not figure out the choice of lyrics, which discuss Moshe’s telling Bnei Yisroel not to go out and collect the mon on Shabbos. You can either attribute the lyrics to Shmos or Kiddush Shabbos morning. Either way, the song is catchy, well done and just plain fun!
Shir Lamaalos – Another long song, at six minutes forty six seconds, but a stunner, so who cares? Just gorgeous!
Elokim – This medium paced song, not fast and not slow isn’t the strongest song on the album, but still fun and still perfect for a camp or school production.
Hashem Yimloch – Love the high part on this one, especially the low harmony. Exactly the kind of song you find yourself singing as you walk out of a concert.
Lechu V’Nailcha – Composed by both Chaya Bruria Sachs and Shoshana Kruger. This cute song is a little campy, literally. It would be the perfect color war alma mater or school concert theme song.
Yechadeshayhu – Love the way this one starts out with a girl bentshing Rosh Chodesh. A sweet, slow song, with beautiful harmonies.
Moshe V’Aharon – Fun, upbeat, leibidic and you will be singing along with this one before the song ends.
Ki V’Simcha– The opening soloist on this perky song is clearly one of the younger girls in the choir and sounds absolutely adorable. Funny, years ago, I remember there being tons of songs with these lyrics, but don’t think I have heard them used in ages. Again, catchy, nice harmonies and to quote the final words of the song “Shira! See ya!”