Liturgical takes come to Tel Aviv

Artistic director Shira Sivan Monsongo and artistic program adviser Eli Greenfeld have put together a decade-marking cast list that culls from a wide range of creative and stylistic intent.

(photo credit: ORIT PNINI)
Liturgical music has become big entertainment business over the last decade or so. The lineup of the forthcoming 10th edition of the annual Zman Piyut (Liturgical Time) Festival in Tel Aviv (February 10-22) clearly reflects that. Artists such as Yoni Rechter, Beri Sacharoff and Ester Rada are big draws at any event, and there are the likes of jazz-based saxophonist and clarinet player Daniel Zamir, cellist-vocalist Maya Belsitzman and singer Shai Tsabari in there, too.
Artistic director Shira Sivan Monsongo and artistic program adviser Eli Greenfeld have put together a decade-marking cast list that culls from a wide range of creative and stylistic intent.
The festival started out, in 2010, with a bang. Rock star Sacharoff had increasingly begun to explore more ethnic climes, and he became a bona fide member of the non-rock side of the musical tracks here. The Turkish-born guitarist-vocalist has, in the interim, lent his gifts and marketing pull to countless ethnic-leaning projects. His highly successful Adumei Hasefatot confluence with drummer-electronic music artist and producer Rea Mochiach, which drew on texts by 11th-century Jewish Andalusian poet and philosopher Solomon Ibn Gvirol, opened the inaugural festival. It was something of a watershed moment in the evolving annals of liturgical music here, and drew new and larger audiences to the genre.
Monsongo and Greenfeld were clearly keen to unfurl as many strains of the thematic art form as possible, appealing to an expansive consumer spread in the process.
The proceedings kick off in style, with the curtain-raiser taking place at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on February 10 (9 p.m.) with the Ahavat Olam show. The stellar cast includes Sacharoff, Rechter, Rada and Zamir – who is also responsible for the musical arrangements and production – and with a quality sideman septet including veteran jazz trombonist Avi Lebovich, percussionist Rony Iwrin and bassist Gilad Abro.
This year’s festival repertoire largely feeds off the more romantic side of Jewish and Hebrew liturgical material. That will come across in the Shabbat Shel HaLev show, on February 12 (9 p.m.), featuring Tsabari, Belsitzman and veteran Iranian-born singer and percussionist Maureen Nehedar.
Each of the frontline performers brings different personal and cultural baggage to the collective fray, as they offer their own readings of Shabbat-related piyutim based on their own domestic musical backdrops. The front stage triad will be backed by a five-piece instrumental ensemble.
Other than the opening concert, all the shows will take place at the Brodt Center for Jewish Culture on Zeitlin Street, which, fittingly, leads off from Ibn Gvirol Street.
The February 18 (9 p.m.) meet between multi-instrumentalist-vocalist Eldad Zitrin and singer Narkis Reuven-Nagar – aka Narkis – promises to flex the disciplinary boundaries a little further. The first-time collaboration will see Zitrin fuse the liturgical sounds and sentiments with multilayered electronic textures, with Narkis adding her lyrical melodic offerings.
Thirtysomething Narkis, who hails from a religious family, became secular and subsequently returned to the fold, burst on the scene in 2016 with her emotive approach to ethnically seasoned pop-rock numbers. The show will also include some autobiographical slots in which Narkis will talk about her path in life.
Other festival items to look out for include a solo show by rocker Alon Eder and a couple of free entry morning spots (February 13 and 16, both 11 a.m.), featuring poet and spoken-word artist Sigalit Banai and acclaimed Hebrew linguist Dr. Avshalom Kor.
For tickets and more information: (03) 695-4522 and here.