HASC 23: Our Picks!

June 23, 2009 7 min read

crystal ball

Ah, summer. Most people are thinking about long summer days, tall glasses of ice cold lemonade and a chance to relax. But not me. The end of June means school is out, my kids want to be entertained and I spend half my life driving carpool. So while most people are daydreaming about lazy summer days at the pool, I am thinking fondly of winter. Cold snowy days. Warm down coats. My kids back in school, where they belong. And of course, next year’s HASC concert.

Every year, when the HASC lineup is officially announced, the Jewish music blogs are all abuzz, second guessing the producer’s picks. So we here at Jewish Music Report decided that instead of criticizing once the lineup is announced, we would just tell you up front who we want to see. Let’s see if anyone out there affiliated with HASC 23 takes any of our ideas and runs with them…

So in another JMR first, a joint post by all of our writers.

Hislahavus: Without knowing that much about the HASC scene, you can almost guess that there’s going to be a Shwekey Brothers performance. So it would be interesting to have a family theme:

First up, the Shwebels!
Followed by the Shwekeys!
Next, the Piamentas!
Next, the Fried/Friedman/Marcus family!
Of course, let’s not forget the First Family, the Werdygers!
And how could we forget Kol Achai?
And then everyone can get together for a rousing version of “We Are Family!”

Yes? No? Maybe?

Well, whatever the case, there is plenty of talent running around nowadays. Has HASC hosted little Ethan Bortnick yet? He’s a seven year old piano prodigy, and is a class act. Speaking about piano, how about a piano duet between Yaron Gershovsky and Gershon Wachtel? I’m always down for dueling musicians. In terms of something “new”, I would bring out Aharit Hayamim. Having experienced their live show, I can tell you that they put up some very exciting stuff. (And half of their band is related to each other.)

Mendel the Sheichet: I’d like to see HASC really freshen things up and do something completely different as well as showcasing some new faces and styles. Here’s how my sets would go:

1) Yaakov Shwekey
Fast Medley: I find the overtures all sound alike from year to year and are unnecessary. What they need to do is start with the classic Time for Music, so people think it’s the overture, but then about three minutes in, Shwekey emerges and launches into a fast medley. And PLEEEAASE, none of this “welcome dear people” stuff.
New Song: Shwekey then goes into a hartzige new song that no one has heard yet, off the album he is now working on. Towards the end he is joined by Avraham Fried, and they harmonize on the last little part.

2) Avraham Fried:
Fast Niggun Medley: Shwekey leaves, Fried goes into medley of fast Lubavitcher niggunim.
Kremenchuger Berelach: Fried does this with arrangements kept to a minimum to bring out the beauty of the melody itself…maybe even with accompaniment by only Yaron Gershovsky and a fiddler.
Ani Maamin: Fried does the Ani Maamin off…was it Aderaba? Anyway – when he gets to the Chazzanus part, he is joined by Yakov Lemer and the part is rewritten as a duet.

3) Yakov Lemer: Ano Avedoh: Fried leaves and Lemer does a Rosenblatt classic as a Rosenblatt presentation plays on the big screen. I picked Lemer because even though there are many decent Chazzonim, Lemer has the emotional style that the Golden Age chazzonim had.

4) Chassidishe Quartet Medley: Yisroel Werdyger, Shlomo Taussig, Shloime Gertner and Berry Weber with a medley of four songs, each of their best ones, harmonized. I think this is important because it’s a new side of Jewish music we’re seeing lately.

5) ABD (with Yoni Stern): Aleinu – with minimal arrangements, maybe even just one classic guitar, until the end, where the whole Orchestra joins in.

6) Kol Noar: Fast medley of their songs followed by the more soul stirring Avinu Malkeinu.

7) Interlude:

Musical: I’d like to see a musical. Not a play with MBD singing a song in middle but a full blown Broadway-like musical drama with all original lyrics and melodies. You know, something like Phantom of the Opera. No talking, just singing, with full orchestra, fog machines, mood colored lights and all. The whole cast is included here, with the leading roles obviously going to Fried and Shwekey.

8) Benny Friedman: I don’t know what, but something leibedig.

9) Chasoif: Benny Friedman, Yisroel Werdyger and Yitzy Spinner singing the Mumbai Memorial.

10) Avodas Tzedaka Medley – Shloime Kauffman along with others featured on the CD singing a fast medley.

11)Window in Heaven: Shea Rubenstein

12) Finale – An upbeat hopeful one. Start with Abie Rotenberg, Shwekey & Fried, joined by others. No “farewell dear people”, just something heartwarming about the HASC kids and how they inspire us or the like .

Kol Isha: I have nothing against Yaakov Shwekey, Baruch Levine, Dovid Gabay or Avraham Fried. They are all amazingly talented singers. But I think it’s time for HASC to freshen things up a little. That’s not to say that once you’ve done HASC once, you can never come back. But it’s time to mix things up a little.

Who would I like to see in HASC 23? A mix of guys who are at the top of their game, some fresh new talent, and artists we’d really love to hear from again. My votes?

Shalsheles. That’s the grown ups, not the kids. I know, Simcha Sussman is making aliyah. I’m sure they can work it out. Come on, these guys have been singing together for ten years. I’m sure they can put together fifteen minutes worth of material, even long distance. We haven’t seen Shalsheles on the HASC stage since HASC 17. Time to bring them back.

New talent I’d like to see? Easy. Benny Friedman. He could even have Yitzy Spinner and Yisroel Werdyger join him singing Chasoif, the Mumbai tribute, easily one of the best songs that came out last year.

Who would I like to see resurrected? Kol Achai. Those guys were so good. No schtick, just nice songs, with gorgeous harmonies.

Do I want to see a boys choir in HASC 23? You bet I do. And not YBC again. I happen to be a fan, but I want to see something different. Something fresh. Something new. Someone call Mo Kiss. I want to see Kol Noar Boys Choir up there.

Finally, a HASC concert wouldn’t be the same without some unconventional stuff to keep the night interesting. And as much as I’ve said I want this year’s HASC concert to be new and fresh, I’d like to see them bring back Srully Williger, doing another tribute to the artists that we all love. His HASC 18 impersonations were all in good taste and right on target, as he so adroitly managed to capture the voices, mannerisms and inflections of so many of our favorites. There are so many names in the Jewish music industry that Williger hasn’t done yet: Yossi Green, Yaakov Shwekey, Yitzchok Meir Helfgott, Baruch Levine, Ohad and Dovid Gabay, to name a few. Not to mention that the Jewish music scene has virtually exploded in the past five years – so many newbies to pick from!

Jewish Music Reporter:
1) I want to see Fried and MBD together again. There is no reason these huge talents can’t do a whole show. There are two main problems: cost and separate seating. I think if anything, the Big Event showed you can have a concert on a major scale and it can be separate seating.
2) That brings me to the next issue: cost. If you get these two, you only need a few supporting players. That’s why I’d to have fun and invite both Fried and MBD’s nephews, Benny Friedman and Yisroel Werdyger. It could be a very generational show.
3) The Piamenta’s, TOGETHER. Both Avi and Yossi (no Moni and not justYossi). Also, if we’re doing Fried, MBD and their respective nephews, I’d also have Avi and Yossi’s sons, who go under the Piamenta band name for their own shows, do a song or two. It could be very family/next generation oriented.
4) No kids choir. I think we have choir overload the last 5-10 years.
5) If it’s a solid show you don’t have to rely on a video as a crutch. Prove we can put on a great show without “shtick”. Videos never come out so great anyway.

My final thoughts are simple. Just because it worked great five years ago doesn’t mean anyone cares anymore or will be surprised. Bringing in Helfgott for the fifth year in a row would be silly. The reason it worked in the first place was because it was so outside the box. Fried/MBD is a massive thing. Maybe only advertise one, and then the other is a surprise. Not a surprise for one song together. I’m talking about six or seven songs together. New stuff. They can sing Anovim together, they can sing Bein Kach, or Menorah, or Hesach Hadas or something fresh.

JM Derech: Here’s my wish list for HASC 23:

1)Yaakov and Yosef Chaim Shwekey: It would be nice to see the brothers get up there together and say “Hi Mom!”. Just kidding! But it would still be nice to hear from them both.
2) Shloime Kaufman and A.K.A. Pella performing Sunshine in the Rain.
3) Benny Friedman.
4) Kol Noar Boys Choir.
5) Video of Shwekey’s Shema Yisrael.
6) Shalsheles Jr. to sing some stuff from their upcoming album.
7) Avi Newmark, to bring in his new kids group with Yitzy Spinner for a song.
8) V’Havienu. With Scratchy!
9) And finally, me!!

That’s it people. Our HASC picks.

Let’s hear some of yours. You never know who may be listening!