Grapevine: More than one good turn

Young pianists from China and from Israel will participate in a unique encounter produced by the Jerusalem Music Center.

Piano (photo credit: Wikicommons)
(photo credit: Wikicommons)
NEW YORK- born Sara Roth and her late husband, Arty, came to Israel in 1949. Because he could speak at least one other language in addition to English, Arty was pulled out of boot camp during World War II and recruited into the fledgling Office of Strategic Services (OSS). He was given sealed orders from the US State Department and shipped out to North Africa on the Aquitania, a former British luxury cruise ship which the Americans were using to send out their troops. After the war, he assisted Teddy Kollek (who was later to become the long-term mayor of Jerusalem) to acquire arms for the nascent Jewish state. After his wedding to Sara, he and his bride decided to set sail for Israel, where they planned to spend the rest of their lives.
Arty, due to his experience in the OSS and his close relationship with Kollek, was offered a job in the Foreign Ministry and promptly looked for a place to call home. He found a large rambling house with a garden in the German Colony, where Sara Roth resides to this day.
The Roths were avid Gilbert and Sullivan fans, and when Robert Binder founded the Jerusalem Gilbert and Sullivan Society, they were thrilled and went to every Gilbert and Sullivan recital and production. After Arty died, Sara continued to be a fan and went to concerts and opera productions with a friend or on her own. Over the past year or two, she has encountered mobility problems and finds it extremely painful to climb or descend stairs and has therefore had to forfeit her theater outings. But Binder, knowing of her enthusiasm, and appreciative of her support in former years, decided to give her a Hanukka treat and brought several members of the current Gilbert and Sullivan production The Gondoliers to her house and had them give her a preview performance.
It was not exactly a surprise, so Roth had time to invite a few friends to join in her enjoyment. The price? She had to tell her guests about how she got to Israel on board ship and how she spent her early years in the country. It’s quite possible that Binder may one day write an operetta based on that story.
For the past few months, Roth has been housebound while extensive roadwork has been undertaken on her street, but she is still capable of making coffee for the workmen who are improving the roadway. Because she has some steps leading from her front door and can no longer manage them and a tray at the same time, one of the workers comes to her kitchen to collect the coffee for everyone.
Blessed with a huge family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Roth recently had to go to the brit of a great-grandchild but was unable to cross the trench in front of her house. She told the workers that her daughter Rivka was coming by car to pick her up, but she didn’t know how she would make it to the car. The workers put down a ramp for her and made sure that it would still be there when she returned home.
On another occasion, Rivka showed up with a huge supply of food, but there was no way that the workers could make the street accessible for her car. So they themselves took delivery of everything she had brought and carried the supplies into the house. Roth makes coffee for them several times a day but says that the many kindnesses she has received in return more than compensate for the effort.
FROM DECEMBER 30 to January 3, six gifted young pianists from China and six from Israel, their ages ranging from eight to 20, will participate in a unique encounter produced by the Jerusalem Music Center.
They will engage in a musical dialogue at the Music Center, which has organized bilateral master classes for outstanding young pianists from China and Israel.
China is a rising star in the musical world, with many outstanding young talents, and some lively interaction is anticipated when the Chinese pianists interact with their Israeli counterparts. For five days the 12 young musicians will participate in master classes, conducted by a group of outstanding pianists and teachers. Among them are Murray Perahia, who is president of the Jerusalem Music Center; concert pianist Stephen Kovacevich, who is making a rare visit to Israel; Dan Zhaoyi, one of China’s most distinguished piano teachers; and Arie Vardi, who is the musical director of the project.
In addition to the master classes, each of the Chinese guests will be partnered with one of the Israeli pianists to play music for piano for four hands. The six duos will be coached by Michal Tal and Yaron Rosenthal, two of Israel’s leading pianists and piano teachers. In addition, an introductory workshop giving the pianists an insight into conducting a piano concerto will be led by Chinese pianist-conductor Xu Yi-An, who lives and works in Israel.
Some of the events, particularly the master classes taking place daily from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., will be open to the public free of charge, but only if advance reservations are made by telephoning 624-1041.
The project initiated by Barry Swersky, who over the past five years has been active in promoting cultural relations between Israel and the PRC, was facilitated by the support of the Guilford and Diane Glazer Foundation, Los Angeles.
Throughout 2013 the Jerusalem Music Center, which encourages young musical talent, will celebrate 40 years of activity.
ANOTHER MUSIC event will involve husband and wife team Roger and Anita Kamien. The old-time, highly popular American radio program Family Theater was always preceded by a deep baritone voice proclaiming “The family that prays together stays together.” With the Kamiens it’s not only the family that prays together but also the family that plays together. On January 17, they will perform a Mozart concerto for two pianos with Anita, who is also a well-known conductor, conducting from the piano.
Proceeds from the recital at the Jerusalem Theater will go towards A Package from Home, an organization that supplies lone soldiers with fleece jackets, long underwear, socks, towels, deodorant, wet wipes, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sweets and other comfort items. It also provides respite care for wounded soldiers. A Package from Home began to pack and deliver care packages to soldiers without family in Israel, as well as to other combat soldiers, at the start of the second intifada in October 2000. Since then, it has packed and sent out more than 180,000 packages to soldiers stationed throughout the country. The concert in January is in celebration of the organization’s bar mitzva year.