Jun 23, 2008

Yonatan and the Cello

We have found all of the gifted musicians we have written about through friends. We received a recommendation; made a call; set a rehearsal date . . . this has been our usual way. However, Yonatan and his cello were G-d sent.

Two weeks ago, we attended the first conference of independent Israeli prayer communities. Someone decided to survey this emerging phenomenon and that is how we discovered that we at Nava Tehilla are not alone. There are approximately 30 prayer communities throughout Israel that have spontaneously emerged. After discovering that we are part of a wave, we decided that we ought to meet.

200 people from across Israel gathered in a JCC in Petach-Tikvah. Among them were 7 representatives of Nava Tehila. Daphna and Reb Ruth, as two of the organizers, were asked to close the conference with sacred chants. The opening was provided by representatives from “Beit Tefila,” from Tel-Aviv, and members of “The Heart’s Niggun,” from Nahalal. Yonatan Niv and his cello are part of their team. We sat at the opening and knew we had found our cellist.

By the end of the conference, we already had spent a good time singing and playing together. When it was time for us to do the closing ceremony – he was already one of us - no rehearsal was needed . . .

Our spiritual connection was immediate. Yonatan's participation in four of the tracks raised our musical bar to unprecedented heights. Zechariah could not hide his delight! After recording Yonatan playing in Yoel’s “Talk to Us,” the atmosphere was so attuned that Yoel recorded the lead voice in one take. Except for the mix, this song is finished!!

Here is the clip where Yoel and Yonatan are rehearsing their duet “Talk to Us”:

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This clip was shot at rehearsal with Yoel, who wrote the song, and Yonatan and his magical cello. The cello has the quality of a human voice. This verse is about talking and listening between God and us. We were fascinated by the conversation between the instrument and the singing voice.

And if you really want to see Yonatan and friends in a sensitive, intelligent, and spectacular show go see The Flying Tower – June 30 and July 1 at Leo Model Hall.





Jun 19, 2008

The Klezmers Are Coming!!

This is a long post with many clips so sit back and enjoy!

We wrote before about the different aspects of Daphna’s Lecha Dodi .You already know it is inspired by the Tumbalalaika, which is a Klezmer song. Thus, we imagined that this track would include a clarinet, violin and accordion. We started the search for musicians in our usual channels among friends who play world music and who connect to folk style from an artistic place. We even found a trio that seemed to be exactly that - but all phone calls and e-mails came back empty . . . What to do?!?

I am not sure how I dared get a Klezmer band from the web, but I did! The very simplicity of the "Jerusalem Klezmers" website caught my eye. (FYI - their site does not appear well on Firefox. It is much better on Explorer). I called Lev, who manages the group. We have the merit to integrate into the project a segment of Israeli culture that has not been represented so far – Russian-speaking immigrants. Oh, don't you dare call them Russians! There are those who came from Russia and those who came from the Ukraine, and they tease each other to death over the differences, which our uneducated eyes totally miss. These musicians are academics with advanced degrees, many former members of famous orchestras.

Rehearsing and recording with this trio was WILD! It was an experience to bridge three cultures and four languages: French by Zechaia, Hebrew by us, the Sabras, and the three Russian speaking musicians who, despite their fluent Hebrew, speak only Russian among themselves. To complete the “chaos,” we added a dash of English. Add to that different musical styles, and strong egos, and you have a complete tragicomedy!

We sent the trio two songs: Lecha Dodi and Dancing Gazelles. Alex, the accordionist, is the musical arranger and wrote all the solos. The other two have classical training, which means they only play frWe sent the trio two songs: Lecha Dodi and Dancing Gazelles. Alex, the accordionist, is the musical arranger and he wrote all the solos. The other two have classical training, which means they only play from notes by sight. That meant that Alex had to bridge the gap between our ideas and their playing.

This is our first rehearsal in which they present to us what they have prepared before any editing or improvement. Isn't it beautiful?

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Daphna’s response after this was: “Who needs to sing? Let them play and that is enough!”

However, Zechariah, who has seen many musicians in his life continues according to our plan. With great patience and limited Hebrew he explains to them what needs to happen. Till now we have only spoken with Lev, who is the youngest, humblest and most communicative. He is the organizer, a graduate of the Jerusalem Academy of music. At this point Vladimir, AKA Volodia, started expressing himself. He is a violinist, with the strongest musical resume of the three, and has very strong opinions. First he does not like how we sing.

“Do you want to sound like gypsies or like serious musicians?” he asks.

“Like gypsies!” we answer enthusiastically.

For a second he is baffled but he quickly gathers himself. He does not stay quiet for long. This is a verbatim of the dialogue I have titled: “How to insult (or amuse) two people in one sentence”:

Zechariah: Play this part without the clarinet, OK? Then, everybody together. It’s important!

Vladimir: (he does not listen, and speaks to Yoel and Daphna) He is Catholic - that is like rabbi.

Daphna: Like a rabbi?

Vladimir: Like a rabbi. He does not know, he is like a rabbi!

Zechariah: (doing his own thing completely oblivious) You remember after boee kala there are two measures…

Vladimir: That’s the way they are. Don’t know anything!

Daphna: laughing

Lev: (translated) Only rabbis, only rabbis.

Daphna giggles while pointing at the rabbi in residence: Ruth, who is behind the camera.

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Half an hour later, we attempt to show Vladimir how we want Dancing Gazelles to end. He does not like it. Here are few key gems from this video clips:

Vladmir: This will be trash!

(Sarcastically): But of course he must be right! He is a Father, so he is right!


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We started the studio time with apprehension. However, the studio is like a Temple. It influences everybody. All three excellent professionals musicians sat down and started playing, but we found out that we needed a mediator between their professional standards and our spirit. And Daphna saved the day. Without fear she entered into the studio and everybody was so-o-o-o happy!

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Toward the end of the day Zechariah asked for a clarinet improvisation. Alex wrote a beautiful segment on the spot and Zechariah, fully inspired by Daphna, is also having a ball.

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During the break we schmoozed and heard about their families and musical work. However, where Volodia is concerned, even friendship has boundaries. When Zechariah, who is also a violinist, wanted to pick his violin he jumped as if he was bitten by a snake. Nobody other than him can touch his violin which is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Don’t get me wrong - it was an amazing experience and the results are fabulous! If you are looking for a Klezmer trio or a musical quartet for your wedding - don't search any further! They are it!