Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach was known for his ability to make all those who came near him feel they were the center of the world, so his fans and imitators are numerous and varied. Since the rabbi's passing 12 years ago, the Shir L'Shlomo Foundation's annual Shlomo Carlebach Memorial Concert has brought his different kinds of devotees together under one roof for an evening of entertainment and nostalgia.
For the past several years, the setting has been Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha'uma. Here, National Religious community members, "refugees" from San Francisco's House of Love and Prayer, middle-aged folk aficionados, sandaled settler children, the nation's more spiritually minded entertainment elite and American yeshiva students crowd in for a program that lasts well into the night. On stage, archive video presentations and spoken memoirs from those close to "Reb Shlomo" provide poignant reminders of the vibrancy that characterized his life and work, while an eclectic parade of musicians inspired by him performs the songs of "The Singing Rabbi."
Out in the audience, fans are divided among those who hang out in the hallways, sit quietly in chairs or dance in the aisles.
For the first few years of the memorial concert, bands would assemble and dismantle their gear between acts, but this made the proceedings drag. More recently, Reva L'Sheva frontman Yehudah Katz has served as the show's musical director, putting together a "house band" consisting of Reva L'Sheva personnel and other Carlebach all-stars, so guest musicians would merely plug in their instrument and begin. This year, young Yonatan Razel - whose piano-driven rendition of "Return Again" was a highlight of recent memorial concerts - is taking over as musical director in an effort to keep things fresh.
Razel has put together an ensemble that will deliver "a more delicate kind of sound," he says. Instead of an electric rock band, the house ensemble will be anchored by an upright bass, a grand piano, an accordion, woodwinds and horns.
The new approach is not foreign to Razel, who in March organized a Carlebach tribute concert at Lincoln Center in New York for the Meir Panim soup kitchens. There, Razel conducted a full orchestra as hassidic pop vocalists such as Dudu Fisher and Avraham Fried took turns at the microphone. Razel also wrote many of the arrangements.
This year's memorial concert guests include Israeli pop stars Evyatar Banay, Yehudah Katz, Ben Tzion Solomon & Sons, Aaron Razel, Chaim Dovid, Shlomo Katz, and former and current Moshav Band members Yehuda Solomon, Duvid Swirsky and Meir Solomon.
Together with Jonty Zwebner's Tightrope Productions team and the Shir L'Shlomo Foundation leadership, Razel has put together a program organized by themes, such as the Land of Israel, weddings, and the Jewish calendar. Moreover, the team has worked to match the program to the guest musicians rather than vice versa. As a result, the show this Saturday night will be "more like a cohesive concert than a marathon festival," says Razel.
Saturday night; doors open at 7:30 and the performances begin promptly at 8:15. Call (03) 532-5272 for more information or to reserve tickets.