When harp meets sax

“Our repertoire not only blends sounds, but also older repertoire with the new. This blending of styles is called “Crossover Music” explains Tsirlin, “and we are thrilled to be a part of this."

The Jerusalem Duo (photo credit: YIFAT YOGEV)
The Jerusalem Duo
(photo credit: YIFAT YOGEV)
The first performance of the Jerusalem Duo was happenstance. Ten years ago, a friend asked harpist Hila Ofek to play with a flutist at her wedding. However, due to illness, the flutist had to cancel. As a replacement, saxophonist Andre Tsirlin’s name was suggested, and he was able to come to the rescue. The evening was an unmitigated success, compliments abounded and the Jerusalem Duo was created.
The distinctive pairing of harp, historically one of the oldest instruments, and the relatively new saxophone, invented by Antoine (Adolph) Sax in 1841, turned out to be very successful for the young performers. In the years since, they have won several prestigious competitions in Europe and Israel, and performed in some of the continent’s major concert halls. They were invited to perform on German Unification Day in 2017 before German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German President Walter Steinmeier.
Ofek and Tsirlin are graduates of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, and moved to Germany to continue their studies and obtain their master’s degrees. “Nevertheless,” says Andre, “we try to come home to Israel two to three times a year to visit family and make music, as well as take in the sunshine.”
The famous Klezmer/classical clarinetist, Giora Feidman, is Ofek’s grandfather. “We have played and toured with him,” enthuses Andre. “Not only is he a fabulous musician at 83 years of age (ad meah v’esrim - ‘until 120’), who concertizes almost every day, he is my Charlie Parker, my idol. His skill of capturing and involving the audience with words and his first sounds, is a tremendous lesson for us, one that we strive to incorporate in our performances.”
The Jerusalem Duo will perform on May 21 with the Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra (RSO) and conductor, Keren Kagarlitsky.
When asked about the program’s selections, Hila explains there is a lack of original repertoire for the unique pairing of harp and saxophone. “This allows me and Andre to choose repertoire which spans the centuries, and write many arrangements ourselves. For the RSO concert, their multi-faceted conductors Keren Kagarlitsky and Matan Yona have also written arrangements for orchestra and Jerusalem Duo.
“We do not put limits on genres or styles,” Ofek continues. “That is why the audience will hear during our concert in Ra’anana, in addition to the beautiful orchestral selections written for string orchestra by Samuel Barber and Puccini, our performance of the Concerto for Harp and Flute (Andre will play the soprano sax instead of the flute), an arrangement of the popular Israeli hit “Erev shel Shoshanim,” (“Evening of Roses”) and George Harrison’s “While my Guitar Gently Weeps.”
“In most of our music-making, Andre plays the soprano saxophone, which has the highest register of the four-member sax family (soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone). The soprano sax is straight rather than curved and is about the same length as a clarinet.”
“It is also my favorite instrument. If could sing (which I really can’t), I would like to sound like a soprano sax. In my opinion, soprano sax has more color and possibility to express emotion than any other member of the sax family.”
“Our repertoire not only blends sounds, but also older repertoire with the new. This blending of styles is called “Crossover Music” explains Tsirlin, “and we are thrilled to be a part of this emerging discipline.”
“Crossover Music is softening the borders, and enlarging oneself to new musical experiences. It is a bit like experimenting with food. One has to be careful of the proportions when blending a new dish, yet the results can be astounding.”

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