For someone who’s performed in front of popes and kings on stages around the
world, David D’or still gets nervous before big shows.
Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit to Israel
When the gifted,
four-octave singer goes into his rendition of the American folk classic “Amazing
Grace” Thursday night in front of US President Barack Obama, President Shimon
Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the roomful of dignitaries
attending the state dinner in Obama’s honor, he’ll have an extra issue to
contend with besides the VIPs.
“There’s no stage in the room,” said the
47-year-old D’or. “It’s not exactly a hall, so I’m going to be just standing
there in the same place where the guests are sitting. I’ll probably close my
eyes so I don’t get too embarrassed.”
Anyone who’s heard D’or sing knows
there’s no reason for any eyes to close, especially the vocalist’s. Raised in
Holon in a family of immigrants from Libya, D’or realized he possessed a gift as
a child, and worked on it through his army service in the IDF Central Command
entertainment troupe, and later in the classical music department of the
From his days in the late 1980s performing in
musicals at the Habima Theater to his subsequent extraordinary recording and
concert career, D’or reputation as Israel’s most acclaimed singer has been
proven time and time again, whether he’s taking on pop, klezmer, classical,
opera, cantorial... or American spiritual music.
The list of leaders who
have witnessed his vocal magic includes Pope John Paul II in Rome, Pope Benedict
XVI in Jerusalem, Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, King Bhumibol Adulyadej
of Thailand, the king and queen of Sweden at the Swedish Royal Palace in
Stockholm, Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, among
When he was asked, along with Rita, to perform at the official
dinner for Obama, D’or wasn’t initially told who he’d be singing for.
received a phone call from a wonderful woman named Yona in the President’s
Residence asking me to save the date of March 21,” said D’or. “I asked her why,
and she said, ‘It’s still a secret, but I’ll let you know soon.’ So, I only
found out a few days before it was announced last week, and of course, it was a
great honor for me. I’m very excited.”
D’or’s version of “Amazing Grace”
has become internationally known, after he performed the song twice in recent
years at official gatherings in the US, including the main ceremony marking the
tenth anniversary of 9/11 in New York.
“It was a very moving moment for
me – to see all these ambassadors from all over the world listening to a Jew
from Israel singing “Amazing Grace,’” said D’or.
He also performed the
song in 2008 at a celebration honoring Martin Luther King’s birthday at a church
in Harlem via special request from King’s son before an audience that included
former president Clinton.
For Thursday night’s performance, D’or was
hoping to take the notch up a bit and provide an even more stirring rendition of
the well-known song.
“‘Amazing Grace’ is such a beautiful song, but it’s
also much more than that – it represents values of freedom and equality, and the
victory of the spirit,” he said.
“So because of that, I want to give it
something special, and try to let the song flow through me, as an Israeli and as
a Jewish person. I’m trying to find a way to touch the heart of the listener,
and bring myself – my soul actually – to the song.”
D’or’s pure vocals
will be accompanied by piano and violin in an arrangement that will nudge the
song into a more acoustic, classical vein.
He’s been rehearsing daily
and, aware of the significance of the event, is not leaving anything to
“Of course, there’s a different feeling when you’re performing,
but in other ways it’s the same. For me, singing is the language of my heart;
it’s a part of me, and singing for people is a great gift that I thank God for
“For me, people are people, but because of the ceremony
surrounding this performance and this historical value of it being the first
visit to Israel by Obama as president, there’s more at stake. And I’m singing
for President Peres, whom I like so much. I think he’s amazing, and I’m so proud
that he’s my president. To sing for these two really important people adds extra
While D’or is content to provide the entertainment at the state
dinner, he’s hoping that he’ll be able to exchange greetings with the American
“I have so many things I would say to him, but I think I would
say ‘thank you’ and to keep making an effort to bring peace to the world and our
region,” he said. “I think it must be very difficult to be in his position with
everybody looking to him as if he’s going to bring change where nobody has
succeeded before, but I hope that it happens.
We need peace more than
And a message to Peres? D’or has another lofty
“I hear that Barbra Streisand is coming for his 90th birthday
party at the President’s Conference in June. I’d love to sing “Aveinu Malkeinu”
with her. Have you heard her version? It’s wonderful. I also recorded it with
the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. I think that would be a very beautiful moment
for me if she’d agree to sing it with me.”
If that happens, D’or will
likely keep his eyes wide open.