Article By: Yossi Zweig
Photos by: Chaim Tuito
This past Sunday night, Camp HASC put on their 31st annual benefit concert in Lincoln Center. Believe it or not, for the second year in a row, concert producer Eli Gerstner did not release ANY of the performer names prior to the event. One might expect that to be a tough sell to music fans, especially in a huge venue like David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center. That was not the case! The show was sold out, and the concert was one for the history books.
Everything about the event was remarkable. The stage setup was truly unique – a giant stage with LED monitors all around, creating one “massive” screen. The lighting and overall feel was amazing and has gotten bigger and better each year.
The evening’s lineup was amazing. The evening included not one, not two, but FOUR of the biggest names in Jewish music conducting the Yosis Orchestra throughout the show. These names included renowned composer and arranger, Moshe Laufer, Yuval Stupel who is Avraham Fried’s music director and well-known composer / arranger in his own right, the talented Yochi Briskman, who has also been arranging music over the last 20+ years, and finally possibly the youngest and brightest talented in JM today, Yoely Dikman from Israel, who has conducted and arranged some of the largest orchestras in the world today.
The evening’s emcee, Nachum Segal, entered the stage and thanked everyone for their generous support for Camp HASC and proceeded to announce the opening number, conducted and written by Yoely Dikman. Yoely is known for his big, full orchestra sound. Each section of musicians had a time to shine: strings, brass, drums, and percussions; it all came together in an amazing array of sound and light.
The concert itself began in earnest with a bang! First up was one of the most popular and talented singers out there today, Avraham Fried. “Avremel” came out strong, singing his hit songs Itcha Ani followed by the huge hit Hineni Beyodcho. Not only was Avremel’s performance flawless and energetic, but his vocals were enhanced by the fabulous Zemiros Group led and conducted by Yoily Polatseck. Fried then acknowledged and introduced the renowned composer and arranger Moshe Laufer, dedicating the next medley in his honor – with songs he composed/arranged for Avremel himself.
Now picture this: The music director Yuval Stupel conducting, Moshe Laufer playing on the piano next to him, and Avraham Fried on center stage singing his biggest hits from over the years. It was truly an historic moment of Jewish music.
When the final notes died down and applause faded out, Nachum Segal emerged on stage to introduce the next act, “A world famous composer, arranger and singer… Ari Goldwag.” Ari took his place at the piano and performed a medley of his top compositions, including Ivri Anoichi, Sholoim Aleichem, Ka Ribon Olam and Yesh Tikvah. It was clear that many in the audience learned then just how many hits Ari is responsible for! Yoely Dikman’s arrangements of Ari’s hits were just fun and was really appreciated by the audience.
The next composer to grace the stage was the talented Yitzchok Rosenthal who was joined by his group Shalsheles. They performed some of their biggest hits from the last 18 years. They closed out their set with the song “Al Chomosayich” from their latest album – their 7th, titled “We’re Coming Home.” All of the Shalsheles fans were thrilled to hear the famed group perform for the first time in years.
And then came one of the biggest surprises of the night. Eli Gerstner decided to put on the show of a lifetime with the biggest and hottest stars. I don’t think anyone expected this act! His songs are sung by Jews of all backgrounds, and his name is known by music fans far and wide.
Making his “ATFM” debut this Sunday was singer and songwriter Meilech Kohn. Welcoming the audience with his typical “Ello,” Meilech jumped right into his mega hit Veohavta a.k.a. Yeder Einer, the title track of his debut album. The song featured a “Big Band” arrangement written and conducted by Yoily Dikman… and Lincoln center was pulsating! Even those who never heard of Meilech or Veohavto were on their feet clapping and cheering. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the first of many appearances for Meilech at ATFM
Camp HASC board chairman Jeremy Strauss was up next. He talked about the amazing work that Camp HASC does each and every summer. He also thanked the camp’s staff who truly work miracles, 24/7 each and every year. Jeremy introduced the talented producer of the concert, Eli Gerstner. Just then, Eli announced that someone made a sizable donation in middle of the show and requested that Eli play one of his own compositions. Eli proceeded to play the request, his own Odcha, as a piano solo with no accompanying orchestra. It was a very moving and heart wrenching performance. Eli then shifted gears and performed the song they rehearsed, his own Daddy Come Home. Halfway through the song Eli was joined by the talented boys of his very own Yeshiva Boys Choir who took the song to the next level. YBC went on to perform the hit song Adir off their most recent album. When they were done, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the whole audience.
Who would be next? It was already a pretty full show, would there be someone new? It didn’t take long for Nachum to announce the arrival of Simcha Leiner. Simcha’s set was conducted by his longtime producer and friend Yochi Briskman. Simcha started out performing a medley of his fast hit songs, including Mi Mi, V’Ata Marom and Shebechol. Simcha’s voice, control, and charisma are something to behold. Be it the crazy high notes or his dancing around the stage, you can’t help but watch and smile. After the fast set, Leiner went into a slow set among which was his own composition Kol Berama. I am still amazed at how Simcha adapted so quickly from the fast songs to the slow ballads with his sweet voice and impressive range. Simcha finished his set with the title track of his latest album Meraked and even gave a shout-out to the song’s composer, Elie Schwab, who was sitting in the front row of the audience. If you like this song on the album you must hear it live!
But Eli Gerstner was not yet done with his surprises! The biggest one of the evening was Jewish music legend, the one and only R’ Baruch Chait! Rabbi Chait was joined by Simcha Leiner and Ari Goldwag and performed a medley of his most memorable hits spanning the last 50+ years. The incredible moments in the full 18 minute set are too numerous to fully list here; suffice it to say that the nostalgia was amazing. The set included classic hits like Mi Haish, Lo Amus and even the millennials in the audience enjoyed it!
Then it was back to Avraham Fried and we would try to Bring The House Down together. Yuval and the band were so energetic, and Zemiros added flavor that everyone was clapping and joining in. Fried then asked the audience if they wanted to hear Aderaba or Tanya and the audience expressed such excitement that Avremel decided to start and see what happens. He mentioned that one song started with Alef and the other with Taf, the first and last letters in the Alef Bet. What happend next was truly special… it was Adetanya as you have never heard it before! Avremel went high and improvised new harmonies with Zemiros, and when he went into the high part of Omarti Loi, the audience was enthralled. This one performance alone is why Fried is the greatest in JM today.
With the last notes of Adetanya fading away, Avremel called Rabbi Chait back to the stage to perform together his hit song Kol Haolam Kulo. Rabbi Chait dedicated this song to Lobo’s memory, adding that he and Avremel saw each other a year before at Lobo’s last child’s wedding. And so it happened… Avraham Fried with Rabbi Chait on his guitar joined by guitarists Chaim Bokchin, Hillel Kapnick, percussionist Adir Farbman and the full Zemiros Group. The feelings of joy watching Fried and Chait collaborating with all those around them, singing these world renowned nigunim, which they collaborated on together through the years (Keil Hahodos, Asher Bora, Avraham Yogel), was the most special part of the night for me. The “kumzitz” concluded with a crescendo and we were all caught up in the spiritual moment. Jewish music doesn’t get better than that!
When Rabbi Chait left the stage, Avremel went on to perform some of his biggest hits from the last 30+ years including Chazak, Yerushalayim and many others, followed by the finale, with all of the evening’s performers singing Avremels’ Baruch Habah.
As you see, ATFM 31 truly was a night to remember and one for the Jewish music history books.