Concert Review: 'Lord of Selihot'

Rhythmic reenactment of synagogue service engages audience.

beit shmuel 88 (photo credit: )
beit shmuel 88
(photo credit: )
Sephardi Vocalists and Instrumentalists, The Lord of Selihot, Beit Shmuel, October 2 ‘Repentance Chantings” - or selihot - sound like a solemn affair. But it wasn’t. True, the “Adon ha-selihot” performance was a mere staged reenactment of the synagogue service, with a Middle-Eastern, mildly jazz-inspired pop orchestra, a narrator (Ely Matityahu) and an actor (Hayim Deri). Nevertheless, it came amazingly close to the real thing, with authentic chanters, paytanim (Moony Moreno Armoza, Sammy Bognym), and even female folklore singer, Gila Bashari, who would not normally appear in a synagogue, but contributed her characteristic voice and performance style to the intensity of the experience. Surprisingly, the tunes were not heavy and whining, but catchy, rhythmic, melodious, and replete with joie de vivre, in the undiluted Sephardi tradition. The audience too was far from passive. In the spirit of le spectacle est dans la salle, the spectators actively and enthusiastically joined in the singing. Above all, there was a lot of nostalgia for the selihot services of Jerusalem’s Old City in the good ol’ days. A repeat performance will take place on October 11.