The Pastoral Hotel with Mount Hermon in the background 521.
There’s nothing like a luxurious hotel room, three-plus square meals a day and
some sumptuous classical music, seasoned with some learned but not overly
cerebral analysis, to make for a fine weekend. Add to that a grand view of
snow-capped Mount Hermon and a spa offering all manner of massages and other
relaxation-inducing treatments, and you get a package designed to
Mind you, the staff at the Pastoral Hotel at Kibbutz Kfar Blum
have chalked up an impressive track record of providing a wide range of musical
weekends over the past decade or so.
Practice evidently does make
The current season kicked off in November with a salute to the
pantheon of Israeli music, with the likes of Si Himan and Sassi Keshet offering
their renditions of perennial Israeli songbook favorites penned by Himan’s dad
Nahum (Nahcheh), Haim Hefer and Ya’acov Orland. That was followed, in December,
by a nod in the direction of the Mediterranean genre, with an eclectic lineup of
performers including Eli Louzon, who joined Felix Livshitz and Boris Yarupeev in
singing Italian love songs, Russian material and hassidic songs, with Louzon
belting out some of his big hits, like “Ezo Medina” and “Geshem.”
in the weekend program there were spots for veteran singer-songwriter Shlomo
Gronich, with some of his most popular numbers like “Yesh Li Simpatia” and “Bab
El Wad,” and there was even room for some high-energy gypsy endeavor with the
Ashdod Orchestra, stellar percussionist Chen Zimbalista and veteran accordionist
Pastoral Hotel owner Dubi Ben-Ari says it took a while to
piece the program together, and adds that he has been working long and hard to
provide clients with their money’s worth.
“We started out, almost 10
years ago, with a low-key affair. My brother Ronnie is a musician and I had been
looking for something to offer some added value, to make a stay here really
special. So I asked Ronnie to come here to play.”
Ben-Ari was looking for
quality and variety.
“I asked Ronnie to play different kinds of music,
like Israeli music and bluegrass,” he says.
Initially, the musical
entertainment was something of an incidental add-on, but the hotel manager knew
he had a success in the making by the end of the weekend.
organized concerts like we have now but, when I saw people getting up and
dancing in a line to ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ I realized I had hit on
something that worked.”
By the following year Ben-Ari had started mixing
classical music and various other genres, and he began developing plans to
expand the facility.
“We started out with a 58-room guest house and now
we have 152 rooms. We’re also building another wing which will have 46
A couple of weeks ago, Mozart was the theme of the Genius
Weekend. The program kicked off with a suitably fortifying dinner – after the
long drive north – on Thursday evening, followed by a concert at the 600-seater
Beit Ha’am auditorium on the adjacent kibbutz.
The show opened with the
Ashdod Symphony Orchestra, with Armenianborn Israeli conductor-pianist Vag
Papian energetically overseeing a stirring rendition of Mozart’s Piano Concerto
No. 21 in C major. That was followed by a choral work, Ave Verum Corpus,
featuring the Hefer Valley Choir, with the centerpiece of the evening provided
by Mozart’s Requiem.
As with all musical programs at the Pastoral Hotel,
the Genius Weekend offered a wide range of active and passive items, including
an organized trip to catch a glimpse of some of the local flora. Later on Friday
there was an opportunity to get the gray matter working, with an intriguing
lecture by Yossi Schiffmann called “Can You Write Opera in German?” which
included video clips of a number of classic opera performances.
in the musical program there was a highly entertaining spot presented by pianist
Dudi Zeba, and featuring one male and two female vocalists performing some of
Mozart’s best-known arias. The weekend closed with the Intimate Charm concert,
with an oboe and string quartet playing Mozart’s Eine Kleine
The proceedings ended around 3 p.m., with snacks in the
lobby, and the guests could pack up and head off home before the traffic became
Ben-Ari is certainly following through with his plan to vary
Last weekend starred veteran singer-songwriter Chava
Alberstein, with mathematician Dr. Haim Shapiro taking a look at some romantic
musical works from Russia, with a heavy slice of nostalgia.
Meanwhile, Yonit Shaked Golan performed a tribute to some of our and the world’s
most popular female singers from across the genre board, including Shoshana
Damari, Barbra Streisand, Shirley Bassey and Ella Fitzgerald, and a show based
on lyrics written by some of most celebrated poetesses, like Rahel, Dalia
Rabikovitch and Agi Mishol. The Alberstein-based program proved such a success
that Ben-Ari decided to run the whole program a second time.
10-12 weekend goes by the title of The Scents of Dad’s Home and opens with an
intriguing confluence between the veteran Re’im Duo and Habreira Hativit, in a
crossover program that incorporates popular Israeli songs, liturgy and Jewish
songs from both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi sides of the ethnic tracks. Later in
the weekend there will be more nostalgia on offer with a program of youth
movement songs, followed by a program of Ladino songs presented by Dorit
This season closes on June 21-23 – by which time the kibbutz
swimming pool should be open for business, and available to hotel patrons – with
a trip back in time to songs written and performed by Naomi Shemer and Arik
Einstein, with a percussion workshop by Chen Zimbalista and a performance of
lyrics by Israel Prize recipient poet Dubi Zeltser, courtesy of singers Gila
Hassid and Hanni Livneh and accordionist Uzi Rosenblatt.
weekends in the 2011-12 lineup featuring gypsy music and the hits of Seventies
Swedish pop group ABBA, and Beatles songs, Ben-Ari is certainly making good on
his promise to cover as many bases as possible.
For more information
about the Musical Weekends at Kfar Blum: www.kfarblumhotel. co.il and