Andreas Scholl performs together with the Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble

But what does an internationally acclaimed classical musician with many albums to his credit have to do with folk music?

ANDREAS SCHOLL: The connecting factor are the musicians (photo credit: JAMES MCMILLAN AND DECCA)
ANDREAS SCHOLL: The connecting factor are the musicians
Two far from usual concerts will take place Saturday night in Haifa, and in Tel Aviv next  day. Renowned German countertenor Andreas Scholl, together with the Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble, will present his new Family Songbook album. The disk includes music by Sasha Argov, Billy Joel, Johannes Brahms, Oren Lavie, Aaron Copland and James Taylor. The concert program features folksongs as well as vocal and instrumental pieces by Handel, Vivaldi, Arvo Part and Tzintzadze.
“It was such an honor that Oren Lavie wrote a song especially for our “Family Songbook”, says Scholl in an interview on the eve of the concert.
The singer, who is married to Israeli pianist Tamar Halperin, an intriguing musician in her own right, reveals “My wife and I sing a lot for and with our daughter Alma. Since we have a recording studio at home, Tamar suggested to record some of these songs. I connected that idea with a dream I entertained for a long time: to invite members of Tamar’s musical Shklarsky family –  her brother and her cousins – to our studio and record songs together. Whenever we are in Israel, we meet up for a beautiful dinner at the Shklarsky’s home and play and sing music together.
I wanted to capture that beautiful spirit in a recording.”
Speaking of the pieces which were included in the album, Scholl explains that all the participants in the recording could bring their favorite songs. The album was recorded in May this year “in our recording studio in Kiedrich, my hometown [a village of 4,000 people near Darmstadt in Hesse]. We had 16 family members and friends from Israel. We met every day in the studio and our producer Guy Sternberg made a plan for the day; everybody brought some of their favorite songs and most of them needed to be arranged ‘on the go.’ We were especially proud, that our friend Maya Avraham joined us for three songs. We know her through our collaboration with Idan Raichel and are big fans of Maya.”
But what does an internationally acclaimed classical musician with many albums to his credit have to do with folk music?
“As a student, I started singing English Renaissance songs and folk songs. I knew the recordings of Alfred Deller with the most beautiful folks-songs and sensed, that they have a very special magic. While an ‘art song’ triggers emotions through understanding and mediation by the brain on a conscious level, a ‘folk song’ speaks directly to the soul of the listener. The simple shape and melodic structure means that you can’t hide behind ‘artistry’ and clichés as a singer. You need to be completely open and vulnerable to communicate these songs. My teacher Richard Levitt always said: ‘In classical music you are the messenger; in folk and pop music you are the message.’ Any ‘operatic’ attitude would destroy a folk-song and the singer becomes ‘storyteller.’”
“Later I found Charlie Haden’s (a famous jazz musician/double bass player) recording of “Wayfaring stranger” gospel song in an arrangement for a chamber orchestra and was blown away by it. Haden lost his voice as a child because of complications with a viral infection and was persuaded by his producer to sing this song on one of his albums (“The Art of Song”). He has almost no voice and sounds so fragile, but this exactly what makes his interpretation so moving.”
“After singing folksongs for many years with lute-accompaniment at that time, inspired by Charlie Haden, I proposed a recording of contemporary chamber orchestra  arrangements of folk songs to my record label. The songs were arranged by Craig Leon, who did extensive research about each individual song and its roots. If I had to choose just three of my own favorite recordings, the “Wayfaring Stranger” CD would be part of it.”
Back to the album, which includes both folk songs and art songs in Hebrew, German and English. How does this mixture of cultures and genres manage to co-exist at all?
“The connecting factor are the musicians. We have Yael Zvi-Shklarsky singing a German lullaby and me singing Sasha Argov’s “Shir eres”. For us musicians there are no borders. We need to maintain a constant curiosity about music from other countries and genres. The Hebrew-, English- and German-language songs complement each other and offer a greater variety for the listener than a ‘one country’ playlist,” accentuates Scholl.
The singer goes on to explain that he wouldn’t differentiate between the music from different countries, “but more between music that contains a “folk” element that reflects an oral tradition and ‘art-music.’ Whenever a song has its roots in the folk tradition it is connected to all other songs that share this root. This becomes very clear with lullabies, songs that are meant to calm down a baby and express a parent’s love and care for the child. These emotions are truly universal and connect lullabies all over the world. To sing a lullaby like an art-song will most likely scare a child or make it laugh; it needs to be free of any ambition and ego.”
The singer has nothing but compliments for Barak Tal’s Tel Aviv Soloists.
“They were the first Israeli chamber orchestra I worked with. In the past we have played many concerts together, and to me it’s like coming back to friends for music making.”
The concerts take place at 20:30 on November 24 in the Rappaport Auditorium in Haifa and November 25 at the Israeli Conservatory in Tel Aviv.
For reservations call: Haifa 04.836.3804, and Tel Aviv 03.546.6228.