Music to kids’ ears

Holon’s annual Sounds of Childhood Festival appears to have all bases covered. This year’s offerings include a tribute to poet and playwright Natan Alterman.

311_Circus (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Holon has long been the kiddies’ capital in this country, with a children’s museum and umpteen junior activities during the course of the year. And then there’s the annual Sounds of Childhood (Tzlilei Yaldut) Festival, which will take place for the 10th time at Holon Theater, from September 26 to 28.
The festival organizers, which include artistic director Guy Telem, composer-conductor Gil Shohat and producer Michal Aharoni, are obviously seasoned professionals and the lineup appears to have all bases covered.
Over the years, the festival has made it a habit to cheer up some less fortunate kids hospitalized in the children’s ward of Wolfson Hospital. This year, the young patients will be entertained by an item called Beethoven’s Fifth Meets David De’Or, which features vocalist De’Or singing classical works by Weber and Beethoven, and some contributions penned by De’Or himself. Full-blooded accompaniment is provided by the Ra’anana Symphonette, with Shohat on the conductor’s podium.
Shohat will be in action in another community-oriented event, presiding over a master class for gifted children; and music students from Holon will put on the Shabbat Spice musical created by the Steinberg Center, located in the Kiryat Sharett neighborhood of Holon, which promotes music and the performing arts for the community.
Junior and adult festival patrons alike will be reminded of the fact that 2010 marks the centenary of poet and playwright Natan Alterman’s birth, which the festival will note with a unique multidisciplinary show by the Hamila Theater. Five members of the theater will perform Tzror Niflaot Hakirkas (A Handful of Circus Wonders), based on Alterman poems, in which the thespians will convey the content and spirit of Alterman’s works through singing, playing instruments, movement and acting.
Meanwhile, the timelessness of Alterman’s poetic gems notwithstanding, the When the Shark and the Fish First Met show is of far more contemporary relevance.
Written by Gilad Schalit when the captive soldier was just 11 years old, the theme is painfully poignant 13 years on, and over four years since Schalit was taken hostage by Hamas.
“Of course it was written as a very innocent little tale, coming from the idea of mothers telling their children not to play with kids who are different from them, sort of with ‘the enemy,’” says Iris Penn, who helped to write the show and will perform at the festival.
“The story depicts a delicate, sensitive character – nothing like the image of the military combat hero at all,” Penn continues, adding that with Schalit’s current circumstances, the story is all the more relevant. She says that children get the original message in its contemporary human-political setting.
“My five-year-old daughter has the book, and she loves it. She knows we are all waiting for Gilad to come home.”
When the Shark and the Fish First Met also strikes a chord with Penn Sr.
“Gilad resembles my brother a lot,” he says. At first, I had nightmares about my brother being captured. I knew that at some stage I would use my acting and writing skills to portray Gilad’s story.”
When the Shark and the Fish First Met was put forward for the Haifa Children’s Festival last Pessah, and won first prize. Penn says that she and the other creators agonized over the writing.
“It was a long process, because of the sensitivity of the subject. We wanted to convey a message, but we also wanted kids to enjoy it, and that it should be entertaining and communicative.
“We also put in lots of messages we wanted the kids’ parents to get. The children get the ideas of the power of friendship and our ability to change things with love.”
Penn, like all of us, is looking for a positive real-life conclusion to the take.
“On Gilad’s Hebrew birthday, we went to the protest tent in Jerusalem and told Gilad’s parents about the show, and they were delighted. Of course Gilad’s release will be a happy ending to the story,” she says, adding: “and it would be wonderful to have him become part of the production. That would be perfect.”
The First Lady of Mistake-Land show certainly has a sunny denouement and is sure to be a hit with junior patrons and their accompanying parents.
The two-actor slot – featuring husband-and-wife team Yonatan Solaj and Ornat Lampert from the Balbalu street theater troupe – offers an attractive mix of slapstick humor, cool music and the odd didactic message or two.
The show tells the story of the queen of the Land of I Was Right (Eretz Tzadakti) who takes a break from her unerring homeland and ends up in The Land of I Got It Wrong (Eretz Taiti). What follows is a classic comedy of errors which, despite the queen’s horror at the seemingly slipshod way of doing things in the foreign country, produces the desired result.
”Parents often do their best to protect their children from making mistakes, but I believe – and I am a mother, too – that we all, and especially our kids, can learn a lot from mistakes,” says Lampert. “Mistakes can open whole new worlds and ways of thinking.”
She and Solaj learned their theatrical craft in different areas of the profession, which, Lampert feels, enhances the end product.
“I come from classical theater and Yonatan comes from physical theater, so the show is a combination of both with, of course, lots of humor. And there is a lot of highly visual stuff, like juggling, clowning, dance and even a unicycle routine. I chose smoky jazz-club music because I think it fits the story and its comic aspects.”
There is more educationally oriented entertainment on offer in And the Wolf Shall Lie Down With the Lamb written by Hamutal and Dori Ben Ze’ev and performed by a cast of four. The show aims to convey the wisdom of acceptance of others who are different from us, and the ability to distinguish good from bad – all by means of a charming tale about Ze’evik the wolf and Talia the sheep.

The Pictures at an Exhibition bi-genre production weighs in with the Haifa Symphonette orchestra, with Shohat once again wielding his baton, this time to the backdrop of an animated film edited by Dudu Shalita.
The Israeli Opera company gets into the act with a grand production of Hansel and Gretel, with conductor David Sebba, while the ever-evocative One Thousand and One Nights collection of stories gets a highly visual airing with a debut rendition by Yoav Karmi’s Fresco Dance company.
The Sounds of Childhood program includes a bunch of free entertainment items such as the Hop TV channel’s Dream Children show, storytelling and hands-on activities for kids, jazz performances and activities for the whole family.
Holon Theater is located on Sderot Kugel. For tickets and information call (03) 502-3001/2/3. More information at