Voices from NY

The annual Spring Festival takes place next week in Rishon Lezion.

The annual Spring Festival takes place  in Rishon Lezion (photo credit: Courtesy)
The annual Spring Festival takes place in Rishon Lezion
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The upcoming International Spring Festival in Rishon Lezion is chock full of artistic goodies that cover a plethora of styles and genres.
The annual cultural event will take place at three venues in Rishon Lezion between May 15 and 24: the Amphipark, Heichal Hatarbut and Heichal Ha’auditorium.
The entertainment spread takes in opera, dance and music from practically every genre. There are cozy slots alongside shows borne from a far more extravaganza-fueled mindset. One of the latter is the Seventy Finger Craze – Seven Pianos show, which features a wide-ranging selection of pianists, each playing a grand piano. The concert’s stylistic stretch takes in the soft rock approach of Rami Kleinstein, the jazz-ethnic fusion of Omri Mor, the singular balladic-frenetic pop mix of Shlomo Gronich, the colorful jazz sounds of Leonid Ptashka and the classical music skills of Gil Shochat and Victor Stanislavsky.
Meanwhile, at the Amphipark, opera fans can enjoy a performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto, with Dan Ettinger on the conductor’s podium, with an array of internationally acclaimed soloists at his command, including Mexican baritone Carlos Almague and Italian tenor Ivan Magri.
The principal dance offering of the Spring Festival feeds off a similar seasonally themed musical work. Game On is an original production, created for next week’s program. It features an intriguing confluence between the Israel Ballet and the high-energy Mayumana percussion-movement troupe, choreographed by Ido Tadmor. The work is inspired by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, with the Mayumana group responsible for the musical arrangements.
One of the biggest import draws in the 10-day lineup is the renowned vocal quartet New York Voices, which will perform at Heichal Hatarbut on May 19 at 8:30 p.m. The Grammy Award-winning group has performed a cappella, as well as with many of the world’s leading orchestras and big bands over the last 25 years, putting out a dozen live and studio albums in the process. The group’s output covers a wide swath of styles and genres, including classical, music, pop, R&B, Brazilian music and jazz.
For starters, one of the most impressive features of the New York Voices is that it has managed to keep going for so long. Starting out as a quintet in 1987, the group is now a foursome, three of whom are founding members. The lineup has not changed since 1994.
“I attribute the stability to a few things,” says Darmon Meader, one of the original members of the group.
“We had enough success to realize that it was kind of a cool thing that we would not want to let go of. We also balanced it with other things.”
As far as Meader and the other three are concerned, more is not necessarily better.
“We are not one of those bands that are out there trying to do 150 gigs a year. I think that if we were, it is highly likely we would have burned out by now.”
Meader’s pals in vocal arms are Peter Eldridge, who also plays piano, Lauren Kinhan and Kim Nazarian.
But if anything is burning, it is the vocalists’ desire to maintain high standards of vocal delivery, create intriguing synergies with top line instrumental ensembles all over the world and to keep surprising the public with new performing and recording directions. Thus far, the Voices has delved into Latin material, with its 2002 release Brazilian Dreams, which also features celebrated Cuban-born jazz reedman Paquito D’Rivera; voluminous big band jazz sentiments on its 1996 debut CD with the Count Basie Orchestra; and the 1998 offering New York Voices Sing the Songs of Paul Simon. There are also some ecclesiastic ventures in the group’s discography, such as Vision Within recorded in 2008, which feeds of sacred chants and music, and last year’s well-received Let It Snow Christmas package.
Meader is responsible for arranging many of the group’s numbers and doubles on tenor saxophone. Jazz singers often talk about emulating the sound and textures of a particular instrument while, for their part, players frequently try to make their instrument “sing.” Meader says there is a strong reciprocal influencebetween his two performance roles.
“One of the things I am well known for in the vocal jazz world is my vocal improvisation, my scat singing.
So much of that vocabulary, which I developed as a vocalist, is because I played saxophone first. I learned bebop vocabulary, and I was transcribing [iconic jazz saxophonist] Sonny Rollins’s solos when I was 20 years old. Doing all that stuff really got me inside the instrumental sensibility, so that definitely influences the way I sing,” he says.
It works the other way, too.
“I think a little bit more melodically on the saxophone than I would have if I had not been a vocalist,” he says.
Working together as a group for so long can have its benefits and drawbacks.
“We’ve all grown up, had families and spread out geographically,” notes Meader. “The four of us live in four different states, so it is more difficult to get together and rehearse. But because we have had such a long career together, we have a large repertoire that we can draw from. And when we do work on new material, the process is much quicker because we know how it all works for the four of us.”
Accrued life experience and time on the road have also left their mark on Meader and the other three.
“I think we sound more mature, and there’s a different depth to the color of our voices now,” observes Meader, adding that while youth does offer an unblemished purity of delivery that may not last into later life, there are definite advantages to having been there and done that.
“When I listen to our early recordings, we just sound young. There is a lightness to our voices, and we sound like puppies on a leash,” he laughs. “We were so anxious to prove ourselves. I sometimes call it the ‘higher, faster, louder syndrome.’ You want everything to be chopsy and impressive, and now we are like ‘Let’s do a ballad’ or something with a bit more emotional content.”
With all due respect to Meader’s take on his and the other group members’ age-related energy downturn, it is unlikely that there will be a dull moment when the New York Voices teams up with an 18-piece big band under the direction of Meir Eshel at Heichal Hatarbut on May 19.
Elsewhere in the eclectic 10-day program, you can find Yiddish numbers, hard-kicking rock shows, rebetiko music from Greece, blues, Gypsy and Balkan music and tango.
For tickets and more information about the Spring Festival: (03) 948-8666; (03) 948-8688; and www.springfestival.co.il.