Yehoram Gaon and the Israeli Philharmonic – two classics come together

To play in Heichal Hatarbut [the Charles Bronfman Auditorium] with the Israel Philharmonic is the jewel in the crown of my appearances as an Israeli singer.”

Yehoram Gaon (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Yehoram Gaon
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
On July 31 at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv, Yehoram Gaon, one of Israel’s most beloved singers and actors, will repeat his December 2017 successful and lauded first-time-ever concert with the Israel Philharmonic. Joining him is conductor Yaron Gottfried,who will not only conduct the IPO, but is also responsible for creating the new symphonic arrangements of the music performed on this special evening.
“I have appeared and sung in most of the concert halls in Israel,” explained Gaon, “ as well as internationally distinguished ones, from Carnegie Hall in New York to the Palacio de Bellas Artes hall in Mexico, with wonderful and respected orchestras. However, to play in Heichal Hatarbut [the Charles Bronfman Auditorium] with the Israel Philharmonic is the jewel in the crown of my appearances as an Israeli singer.”
It is had to believe, but Gaon’s performance last December was his first with the IPO in his long and distinguished career. It was not only a first for Gaon, but for Gottfried’s arrangements as well. Together they are excited about being invited do a repeat performance on July 31.
Gottfried states emphatically, “Yehoram Gaon’s music deserves new arrangements, and I am privileged to have been chosen to do them for him and the IPO. I orchestrated 17 new arrangements (individual ballads and medleys) for this concert, in which the orchestra is very much involved, and have received much positive feedback from the musicians.
“Writing an arrangement is not just finding the right chords,” Gottfried pointed out. “I have to find my musical voice within the context of the culture, style, as if to say the ‘neshama’ [soul], in which the music was written. Many of the ballads Gaon sings are influenced by Sephardic, Ladino, and Spanish styles. I, as the arranger, must learn the background of the music. In addition, I have to understand how the great composers, such as Manuel de Falla, captured the essence of Spanish music, because Ladino music is tempered with Spanish influences which were not written down but passed orally from one generation to the next.
“Each arrangement is a story, and every composer or arranger,” explains Gottfried, “has a vision of how he wants the music to sound. It is amazing how the IPO delivered. They are so into it. When I raised my hands at the first rehearsal and we started to work, it was all there – a dream come true.”
Gottfried’s arrangements provide a new and exciting touch to the top hits that Gaon has made famous throughout his career. The program of beloved, popular Israeli music brims full with selections such as “Hineni Kan,” “Elef Neshikot,” “Kazablan,” “Ha’sar Montifiore,” “Balada Lahovesh” and “Od Lo Ahavti Dai.” These songs and many more form the core of modern Israeli song.
Gaon is a stellar musician and the recipient of the Israel Prize and the Jerusalem Award. Being voted, in an online survey in 2005, the 27th-greatest Israeli of all time further attests to his popularity.
ISRAEL IS where Gaon’s heart is. Except for a short stint in the early 1960s when Gaon went to New York to study acting at the famous Herbert Berghof Studio with the well-known teacher Uta Hagen, and graduated with honors from the RCA Institute for TV Production, Israel has been his base for his work as a singer and as a successful actor on stage and in movies. After his return to Israel in the ’60s, he was cast as one of the stars in the stage show Kazablan which ran for hundreds of performances, and he later starred in the Israeli movie of the same name. His autobiographical feature Ani Yerushalmi is a legendary hit. In 1977, he was cast as Yoni Netanyahu in the movie, based on the Entebbe raid, Operation Thunderbolt.
Highly rated as a weekly radio and TV personality and an author, he also entered the area of politics and civil service. In 1993, he was elected to the Jerusalem City Council, presiding over the portfolio of cultural affairs and special education needs. Gaon is a man whose actions speak louder than his titles. He donated the proceeds of the song “Shir Ha’avoda Veha’melacha” to the Israel Cancer Association and has given highly successful benefit concerts for the Israeli Society for Autistic Children.
Born in 1939 in the Beit Hakerem neighborhood of Jerusalem, Gaon recounted in family memoirs that his parents were both Sephardi Jews who spoke Ladino. His father, Moshe David Gaon, was born in Sarajevo in 1889, and immigrated to British Mandate Palestine, where he joined family members who had lived in the country for five generations. Moshe David Gaon was a poet and scholar of Ladino. In addition, he was a schoolmaster and Hebrew teacher, who taught in Jerusalem, Buenos Aries, and Izmir. While in Turkey, he met and married Sarah Hakim, returning with her to Jerusalem. The house Gaon grew up in, he remembers in his writings, was filled with opera and love of bel canto singing, the love of a beautiful song.
Gaon also recalls that, in his younger years, most of the city of Jerusalem was off limits to Jews. It was only after the Six Day War that he felt that his birthright was restored. Eight of his top hits are about Jerusalem and discoveries within the city.
He also remembers his Ladino birthright, and wrote the book In the Middle of the Road, which contains poems, family history and photos. He edited Spices from Spain, a collection of Ladino quotes (with Hebrew translations) passed down to him by his father, and also published the second edition of Eastern Jews in Israel, an encyclopedic work, originally published by his father, which contains the biographic information of almost 3,000 rabbis and scholars from the Sephardi world (Spain, France, Italy, the Ottoman Empire [including the Balkans], the Middle East and North Africa), who immigrated to or visited Israel.
Gaon’s further contributions to Israel’s cultural resources include the Moshe David Gaon Center for Ladino Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which he and his late brother, Benny Gaon, established in memory of their father, and the donation of books to launch the Sarah Hakim Gaon Library, in memory of his mother.
Looking forward to the concert on July 31, Avi Shoshani, executive secretary-general of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, says he is very proud to present Gaon and Gottfried in concert with the Israel Philharmonic.
“This will be a repeat performance of their very successful December concert before an audience of thousands,” concludes Shoshani, “and it will be an evening to be remembered”.
For ticket information: or *3766.