Playing it, the biblical way

Tomorrow Eliana Gilad and a unique orchestra will offer a new twist to a retro trend. We're not talking about nostalgia for the halcyon days of the Summer of Love, or even the pioneering rock and roll days of the 1950s. Gilad's Jerusalem of the Heart broadcast on Channel Two (8:45 p.m.) from Jerusalem's Sultan's Pool will feature a 15-piece ensemble playing musical instruments largely used in biblical times. American-born Gilad feels the setting suits the event admirably. "We did a rehearsal near David Tower a few days ago, and we talked about our instruments and their role in the Bible," she explains. "The place is just so wonderful, and it's perfect for playing this kind of music." For Gilad, singing and playing finger cymbals and jingles is not just about producing pleasant sounds. Since making aliya from California - by way of France - Gilad has settled in the Galilean moshav of Amirim where she teaches workshops on the conscious use of voice and rhythm as they were used in ancient times for healing purposes and relieving stress. That all ties in neatly with this week's concert. "Jerusalem Day celebrates the reunification of the city. For me, the deeper meaning of this holiday is reunification with our inner selves," she says. "In biblical times, frame drums and cymbals were used in spiritual preparation for reaching the Temple Mount. Incorporating ancient percussion into this television special will enable viewers to reconnect with their roots and to their inner sense of tranquility. I think it's wonderful that a prime time audience will become exposed to the natural rhythms of the ancients." Besides percussion, the ensemble will also include other instruments with biblical ties, such as the oud and kamanche - the original violin. "There is some confusion over which instruments were actually used during the time of the Bible," Gilad continues. "What we call 'tof Miriam', is known today as the tambourine. In fact, 'tof Miriam' was a frame drum with jingles." According to Gilad, what we know as "David's lyre" was also somewhat different from the way it has been popularly depicted in art over the years. But, she says, the kamanche and cymbals have the right pedigree. "The kamanche was used in the Temple," she notes, adding that archeological and literary evidence seems to indicate that cymbals are also a bona fide biblical instrument. "Finger cymbals are described in the Bible as "mitziltayim'," Gilad explains. "Mitziltayim ranging from 3 cm. to 10 cm. in diameter have been found in excavations throughout the northern part of Israel, so I think they were around back then." Wednesday's TV show will be something of an eclectic showcase. "Jerusalem of the Heart tells the story of Jerusalem through music from ancient times until today," says Gilad. But it won't all be gentle airs conjuring up heady treasures from our cultural collective memory. There will be a host of pop and rock stars in the line-up including the likes of David Da'or, Arkadi Dukhin, Shlomi Shabbat and Margalit Tzanaani. Gilad says she is most looking forward to the ensemble's spot with world music group Shotei Hanevua. "You'll really be able to hear the instruments play beautifully with Shotei Hanevua. That will be something special." Otherwise, as befitting the generous historical spread covered by the concert, it will be a mix of old and new. "We [the ensemble] are the 'special ones'," says Gilad. "You should hear us 'special ones' with electric guitars. That's really something." 'Jerusalem of Heart' will be broadcast on Channel 2, Wednesday, May 24 at 8:45 p.m.