Tuesday, 26 August 2008

A Night to Remember

An evening out is always special, but on the 17th of August 2008, I had the opportunity to see a one-of-a-kind, one-time-only concert at a unique site--an occasion to mark and remember. I was given a pair of tickets to Mashiv Haruach (From Safed to Jerusalem--A Concert of Jewish Soul Music) held at the Valley of the Communities,Yad Vashem, on 17 August 2008. My friend came from Haifa for the occasion, and together we set off for the unknown. Of course we were so early it was embarassing (forgot about Israeli time!), but it gave us an opportunity to wander around and explore the amazing location chosen for the evening's entertainment. We had not seen this area of Yad Vashem, and we were impressed! The sun was just setting, creating the most beautiful backdrop imaginable! As we stared into the entrance with the sunset's golden glow on the amazing rock-structure, I once again felt the awesome thrill of living in Israel. The concert site, was the "Valley of the Communities", a massive 2.5 acre monument literally dug out of natural bedrock which look like the huge stones surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem and the Kotel.
The Valley was

excavated out of the earth--nothing was built above ground! Over 5000 names of communities are engraved on the stone walls in the Valley of the Communities, the idea being to allow future generations to be able to identify with these memories and find their roots. Each name recalls a Jewish community which existed for hundreds of years; for the inhabitants, each community constituted an entire world. Today, in most cases, nothing remains but the name. The names of the communities are engraved on the 107 walls which resembles the geographic arrangement of the map of Europe and North Africa.

The audience had chairs and cushion seats arranged along the rocks in a semi-circle facing the stage. There were even some seats located in little alcoves carved into the rock face.

On either side of the stage the huge stones were engraved from bottom to top, and illuminated with a soft blue light. It was beautiful and practical--the back stage and entry and exit points for the performers were between these rocks!

We sat there waiting

expectantly, when suddenly there was a faint, soft sound of music, but we were unable to see anything on the stage...finally, in the center aisle we noticed a lone clarinetist. Maestro Giora Friedman began his premier perfermance, and the Jerusalem String Ensemble conducted by Prof. Ilan Schul, gently joined in. Drawing the audience into his performance, he slowly made his way to the stage where he stood on the bottom step, motioning for everyone to joint in. With the audience humming and softly singing to his "Prayer" improvisation he mounted the steps--the concert had begun!

Of the highlights
we were treated to, one of my favorites was Hila Ofek's Harp Solo, Jerusalem of Gold by Naomi Shomer. Of course, like all concerts there are the intros, bows, and general speech-making--no exceptions here. What was so enjoyable was the diverse blend of musicians--young and old, secular and religious, male and female--all very talented and clearly all loved what they were doing.

As the concert progressed the musicians from either side of the stage came and went along with the performers. Of particular note was a young clarinetist--wow did he have talent. Not to take away from the opening act, but this young man was amazing!

MC, Benny Hendel delighted the audience with an impromtu solo!

Guests from abroad added to the delight of the evening. From Paris, Prof. Philippe Cuper gave a beautiful solo with only a pianist to accompany him. Next from Spain came Maestro Raul Jaurena who played a Klezmer Tango on th Bandoneon, an instrument that I hadn't known the correct name for, but which we used to refer to as a "squeeze-box", kind of like an accordian, but without keys--just buttons on both sides. We were treated to a rousing performance and the audience was clearly loving it!

Throughout the evening the audience clapped in time, hummed, and generally enjoyed themselves. Sitting in the warm evening air, amongst the old stones, with the stars overhead creating a fantasy-like scenario, we were all drawn together in a single moment in time. The finale brought all the musicians back, and once again the audience were drawn into the performance singing and swaying. I had a good time and really felt priviledged to be there--it was truly a night to remember!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a delightful story. I was able to feel the concert simply by reading your imaginative prose.

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