"Late at night, you turn on the radio and you hear a song by Ehud, you go to the kindergarten to pick up your grandchildren and discover that the kids are growing up on Ehud’s songs, and you hear his songs on Remembrance Day and it hurts. It reminds you how much you miss him,” says actress/singer/director Ofra Fuchs, the widow of renowned Israeli songwriter Ehud Manor. “But there are many events dedicated to his memory, and some of them are especially touching, such as 3,000 Eilat schoolchildren singing songs by Ehud Manor. It took them a year to prepare the entire program – they knew everything about Ehud! And it warms up your heart.”
Fuchs goes on to say that although the family constantly receives suggestions to participate in this or that commemoration event, they concentrate their efforts on regular schools, as well as theater studios.
“For me as an actress, theater schools, such as Beit Zvi or Yoram Levinstein Studio, are of primary concern. I am very curious to see how the future actors offer different interpretations to the same songs.”
And now the Israel Philharmonic will present an homage to the renowned songwriter, who died suddenly of a heart attack in 2005 at age 63. On May 30, the IPO, under the baton of conductor/arranger Ilan Mochiach, will perform a program of songs written by Manor at different periods of his life. Army Radio and Zappa Club are partners in the program.
“We chose just a few singers, some of whom worked with Ehud, such as Boaz Sharabi and Matti Caspi, and some from the younger generation, such as Marina Maximilian Blumin, Harel Skaat, Keren Peles and Shlomi Shaban. Two people will be missing at this concert – Ehud Manor and Dalia Meroz, the late spokesperson for the Philharmonic. She initiated the project and introduced me to the orchestra – and soon died of cancer,” she says.
Fuchs was born on a kibbutz into an artistic family – her father was an actor, and her mother was a costume and set designer. Manor came from a moshav. The two met in New York.
They married and returned to Israel.
“We were Tel Avivians. I cannot imagine any other place in Israel where we could have spent our lives,” she says.
Fuchs says that what has made Manor’s songs so popular is “the perfect language, which sounds contemporary to this day. That is why young singers keep performing his songs, and that means that Ehud is still alive. He had the ability to create perfect harmony between the words and the music.”
Another feature was his love of this country. “There was a song in which he expressed his gratitude to his parents for coming to Israel [from Russia] and giving birth to him here.
We even put some of the words on his gravestone,” she says.
“He composed many love songs, and it was so personal. Writing was an obsession for him. I remember that when our daughter was born, he just sat down and wrote another song. He translated many musicals – and, by the way, it was always handwritten. He was never interested in modern technology. There was something very true, earthly, natural, even childlike about him, although he knew very well what he wanted and how to achieve his goals,” says Fuchs.
What was important to him? “His art and his family,” says Fuchs without hesitation. “He used to say that his family was his religion. His parent died when he was very young, his younger brother was killed in the war, and another brother committed suicide, so his entire family was gone, and what has left was me and our three children. He was a very sensitive man and always kept his pain for the lost family members under his warm smile,” she says.
“He was full of love for people,” says Fuchs. “He could call a new singer who produced his first single, paying with his or her own money to the last penny, and say, ‘What a beautiful work. I like it a lot. Please tell your family!’” And Manor was very modest, she adds. “When a young singer told him, ‘What a beautiful new song you’ve written,’ he sincerely replied: ‘Oh, really?’ and he was so happy – already being the established songwriter. He never cared about his texts being published. For him, the song being broadcast was enough, so it was me who kept all those texts,” she smiles.
How did it feel to be the renowned songwriter’s wife? “Today I am on the front line, preserving, together with our children, the artistic legacy of my husband, while in the past I worked from behind the stage. At some point, I partly gave up my career as a successful singer because it was obvious that there was a genius at home, and he was to be supported.
So performing just another song on the radio became less important for me. Nobody is to blame here. I did it because that was what I wanted to do. Yet in his last years, we recorded a disk together and resumed performing together throughout the country – and it was a sheer pleasure!”
The tribute concert to Ehud Manor takes place on May 30 at the Heichal Hatarbut Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv.