Tag Archives: Jewish music

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Notes From The Spirit

From left, Ayelet HaShachar is  composed of Lisa Aronson Friedman, Stephanie Rabinowitz and Shalomis (Shelly) Koffler Weinreb.

From left, Ayelet HaShachar is
composed of Lisa Aronson Friedman, Stephanie Rabinowitz and Shalomis (Shelly) Koffler Weinreb.

They’ve been compared to musical acts such as the Indigo Girls and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, but local trio Ayelet HaShachar brings a unique blend of musicality, spirituality and religious devotion that sets them apart.

Ensemble members Shalomis (Shelly) Koffler Weinreb (guitarist, percussionist, vocalist and composer), Lisa Aronson Friedman (pianist, composer and vocalist) and Stephanie Rabinowitz (vocalist) have been singing together for the past 12 years. The group recently released its second CD, “Matai,” which translates to “When.” They will celebrate the new album with a concert for women only on Nov. 17.

Ayelet HaShachar started when Rabinowitz, who was trained in musical theater, met Friedman, a classically trained pianist.

“I was looking for more creative expression,” said Rabinowitz. “Lisa and I connected immediately, and we were looking for a third woman. One night, Shalomis came to a women’s music event at my house with guitar in hand. I called Lisa and said, ‘I found her!’” The three women have been making music together ever since.

The group released its first album, “Ohr Chadash,” in 2005 and have performed locally and in multiple venues in Israel. Both “Ohr Chadash” and “Matai” were produced by Jeff Order of nationally known Order Productions. Ayelet HaShachar is a nonprofit entity, and all funds from ticket and CD sales go toward band expenses and to fund free concerts for senior centers and elsewhere.

“We all come from different musical backgrounds,” said Friedman, a fact that Weinreb, whose roots are in blues, folk and pop music, believes is a strength of their collaboration.

“My influences are singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, even Motown,” said Weinreb.

Since the women of Ayelet HaShachar came to Orthodox Judaism as adults, they were exposed to a range of cultural and musical influences prior to composing and singing exclusively Jewish and religious music. As part of their transitions to Orthodoxy, Weinreb, Friedman and Rabinowitz came to accept and even appreciate the fact that they only perform for other women.

“In Jewish law, there is something called kol isha. It is part of the laws of modesty. Women don’t perform in front of men,” said Friedman. “There are different interpretations of this. We’ve decided that we won’t perform in front of men, but if men want to listen to our CDs and their rabbis approve, we aren’t going to pass judgment.”

Rabinowitz said she is perfectly happy to work within religious boundaries when it comes to performing.

“The voice is really the soul, and there are clear and beautiful boundaries,” she said.

“We have to ask ourselves why we are singing. Is it about ego or is it about spirituality?” noted Friedman. “The attitude today can be self-centered. One thing that happens when you become Orthodox is you realize the world isn’t about you. There’s a higher purpose. There is work to do.”

Weinreb admitted that when she first became religious she thought observing kol isha might be a conflict for her. She discovered it was not.

“There’s a spiritual kind of sisterhood that you feel when you’re performing for a women’s audience — they really get it,” said Weinreb.

“You go from performing to get something to performing to give something,” said Rabinowitz.

Ayelet HaShachar performs only original music, and their intimate knowledge of one another as people and musicians means that Friedman and Weinreb write music with individual ensemble members in mind.

“Each new song feels like a new child,” said Rabinowitz.

After more than a decade working together, group members feel their sound has matured and tightened. Although “Matai,” like “Ohr Chadash,” deals with spiritual and religious themes, Friedman said the group feels more like an ensemble.

“There are fewer solo pieces on the new CD,” she noted.

“I think our music has become more complicated because our lives are more complicated,” said Rabinowitz. “We have shared each other’s experiences. There’s a depth to it that wasn’t there in the first album. … There is a pleading [quality in the music] like the album’s title, ‘Matai,’ (‘When’). When are you [God] going to bring us home?”

“Harmonies are really the hallmark of our sound,” said Weinreb. “When we sing the same note together we sound like one voice, but it’s not the voice of anyone of us. We are friends on and off the stage. We call each other sisters, and that shows up in the music. People have remarked on how well we get along onstage, and it makes the audience feel good.”

The three believe their music is accessible to less religious women as well as women of other religious traditions, and they hope to draw music lovers from outside the Orthodox community to their upcoming concert.

“Sometimes the fact that men can’t come is a barrier,” said Weinreb. “But think of it as a ladies night out.”

The Ayelet HaShachar CD release concert (for women only) will take place on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. at 3209 Fallstaff Road. For additional information, email Basia Adler at info@ayeletmusic.org or call 410-358-9492. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $8 for students. Concert sponsorships are also available. CDs by Ayelet HaShachar will be available at the concert and are on sale at ayeletmusic.org and Pern’s Bookstore and Shabsi’s Judaica Center.

Preview Ayelet Hashachar’s album, Matai here

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter — sellin@jewishtimes.com

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Ah, Music

David Broza will bring his charismatic and energetic music to Jewish Baltimore later this month.

David Broza will bring his charismatic and energetic music to Jewish Baltimore later this month.

David Broza is an Israeli music superstar. And with more than 25 albums, many of which have become multiplatinum, he’s also someone who gets attention worldwide.

His style has been described as charismatic and energetic, a fusion of the three countries in which he was raised: Israel, Spain and England.

In the past, Broza, 58, would tour the country singing his songs for the masses. His sound engineer was a local man, Peter Winer, who tragically passed away in a motorcycle accident in June 2012. He was 54. On Nov. 21, Broza will return to Baltimore for a concert in Winer’s honor.

The Baltimore Jewish Times caught up with Broza to ask him about his music and his friend.

JT: How are the parts of the world in which you were raised reflected in your music?
Broza:
With Spain, I spent my teenage years there. But it was only after that it had an effect on me. My connection to Spain came in the aftermath, when I returned to Israel. Then I realized how much Spain was a part of me and how I had been influenced there. I furthered that connection in 2000 when I went again to live in Spain and write music. I had three albums released in Spain.

You always put on an energetic show. But your life off stage is pretty robust, too. Talk about your passion for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
It is not a passion, but I am living in the reality of what I come from, and I have been dealing with a possible solution [to the conflict] coming on a people-to-people level, not political. People-to-people needs to be introduced at a very young age through education, and we can condition ourselves to tolerance and coexistence. This is just part of my life.

Have you done work with Palestinian artists?
I have … collaborated with Palestinian musicians, and I work in East Jerusalem a lot. I am about to release an album I recorded in East Jerusalem. This is not a show, it is part of my way of life. … I have been working with Palestinian-run studios in East Jerusalem — on an engineering level and playing together.

Talk about how music can be a catalyst for peace.
Art and music penetrate deep into the subconscious, into the heart and soul of people; it is not about intellectualizing. If you like it and you strike a tone, then people connect. … They could decide to put earmuffs on and block the sound, but if they don’t, then they get affected. It is a nice role to try to build trust, to try to break down the walls through music, which inadvertently can
help in conditioning people toward resolving the conflict. After that, the politicians have to come in and finish up the hard work. But music can penetrate the heart and mind.

The lyrics for your songs are often poems — your own and others. Talk about the importance of the rhythm versus the words. How do they interplay?
Lyrics and music are one; when I write lyrics, I try to dress them with a melody. One feeds off the other.

Talk about your connection to Peter Winer.
I met Pete when I came to the U.S. in the 1980s. He was introduced to me by a friend who used to work with me in Israel, and we struck a professional relationship. He toured with me as sound engineer. … We crisscrossed this country together for about 13 years. He got to know me very personally, and I knew him intimately. In the last years, we were each in our own worlds, and we lost touch a bit, though we tried to keep in touch. His life ended tragically in an accident. I feel honored to be able to bring [this concert] in his memory.

Is there anything special/unique that people should expect?
I like the city of Baltimore, I have always liked it and have written a few songs around that. Since Pete came from Baltimore, it was a reference point for 13 years; we started in Baltimore, or he came from Baltimore to pick me up. I have not been back in a long time, and I am looking forward to coming and playing this concert.

David Broza
In Memory of Peter Winer
Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
$28 in advance; $32 at the door (subject to availability)
Visit gordoncenter.com

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief — mjaffe@jewishtimes.com

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It’s Showtime In Baltimore

Is it our imagination or is Charm City’s arts scene super Jewish this fall? Whether it is theater, film, dance, music or visual arts, Jewish themes, venues and performers are stealing the spotlight. The following is a guide to some of the hottest picks of this eclectic and artful season.

 

Virtuous Virtuoso

Piano prodigy to open Gordon Center’s 19th Season

Ethan Bortnick has traveled the world. He will be at the Gordon Center next month.

Ethan Bortnick has traveled the world. He will be at the Gordon Center next month.

Ethan Bortnick has traveled the world. He will be at the Gordon Center next month.

Ethan Bortnick is short in stature, but tall on talent. The 12-year-old musician will wow audiences at the Gordon Center For Performing Arts, when he opens the venue’s fall 2013 season — its 19th — on Oct. 12. Although his father and manager, Gene Bortnick, said the family doesn’t think of Ethan as a prodigy, he
admits that he and his wife, Hannah Bortnick, both Ukrainian immigrants, are “beyond overwhelmed” by what their son can do. MORE>>

 

CrackerJack Theater

Fall theater season offers something for everyone

Bruce Randolph Nelson will star in two Jewish-themed plays this fall. Shown here, he takes the stage  as Groucho Marx in Centerstage’s  revival of “Animal Crackers.” (Photos by Richard Anderson)

Bruce Randolph Nelson will star in two Jewish-themed plays this fall. Shown here, he takes the stage as Groucho Marx in Centerstage’s revival of “Animal Crackers.” (Photos by Richard Anderson)

It will be a busy and intensely Jewish fall for veteran actor Bruce Randolph Nelson. The City Paper’s choice for best actor of 2012, Nelson is playing Jewish comedian Groucho Marx in Centerstage’s revival of “Animal Crackers” and Jewish artist Mark Rothko in Everyman Theatre’s production of “Red,” all within a three-month period. In fact, said Nelson, the last week of “Animal Crackers,” which is a wacky musical comedy, will be the first week of rehearsals for “Red,” which is a serious drama.

But Nelson, 47, a longtime member of Everyman’s resident company, isn’t complaining about the demands of his schedule or the remarkably dissimilar roles he will play in such short order. In fact, he couldn’t be happier. MORE>>

 

2.MOZART---QUEEN-OF-THE-NIGHTLooking Forward

New exhibitions offer visual intrigue, big ideas

American Visionary Art Museum founder and director Rebecca Alban Hoffberger calls the museums’ new exhibition, “Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity,” opening on Oct. 5, one of the most important and most prescient ones AVAM has ever developed.

Although the multiple issues raised by technology’s ever-growing impact on our society are the subjects of many creative projects, Hoffberger pointed out that recent events — such as the gathering of journalists’ phone records, secret drone strikes and the recent chemical attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian government against its own citizens — have only made the exhibition more timely and the questions it raises more critical. MORE>>

 

Lights On At Eutaw Place

Toby Lightman shines

Toby Lightman

Toby Lightman

Even if you haven’t heard Toby Lightman’s name, you’ve probably heard her music. Since her first album, “Little Things,” debuted in 2004, the 35-year-old singer-songwriter’s music has been virtually everywhere. Lightman will be in Baltimore on Nov. 2, when she performs at Eutaw Place, a venue that has featured up-and-coming singer-songwriters since spring 2012.

Although Lightman, who grew up in a Jewish family in Cherry Hill, N.J., performs live regularly and has made four albums since “Little Things,” her music is heard most widely on television shows including “Brothers and Sisters,” “Eli Stone,” “Bones” and “The Vampire Diaries” and in movies such as “P.S. I Love You,” “17 Again” and “Mean Girls 2.”MORE>>

Lights On At Eutaw Place

Toby Lightman

Toby Lightman

Even if you haven’t heard Toby Lightman’s name, you’ve probably heard her music. Since her first album, “Little Things,” debuted in 2004, the 35-year-old singer-songwriter’s music has been virtually everywhere. Lightman will be in Baltimore on Nov. 2, when she performs at Eutaw Place, a venue that has featured up-and-coming singer-songwriters since spring 2012.

Although Lightman, who grew up in a Jewish family in Cherry Hill, N.J., performs live regularly and has made four albums since “Little Things,” her music is heard most widely on television shows including “Brothers and Sisters,” “Eli Stone,” “Bones” and “The Vampire Diaries” and in movies such as “P.S. I Love You,” “17 Again” and “Mean Girls 2.”

“[TV and movie] placement is really the best and most realistic way to get your music exposed to new listeners,” she said. “I still get emails from people who see “P.S. I Love You” and say they love my song. They [the filmmakers] used the song so well, and it made the scene so good.”

Lightman’s style has been compared to legendary singer-songwriters Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell and to contemporary artists such as Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill. Her songs combine elements of rock, rhythm and blues, jazz and hip-hop with thoughtful, evocative lyrics.

Earlier this year, Lightman released her newest extended-play album, “Holding a Heart.” Five songs from the EP were featured on an episode of ABC Family’s “The Fosters.” She will release a full-length album of original music — her first since 2008 — in early 2014.

Lightman’s love of music first revealed itself when she was 6, and she was inspired to study violin after watching a PBS program about Itzhak Perlman. In high school, Lightman’s interest shifted to voice, and she began taking vocal lessons and singing in choral groups.

At the University of Wisconsin, Lightman taught herself to play guitar and began writing music and performing with local bands. After college, she moved to New York City and a year later landed a record deal with Lava Records. Once Lava released “Little Things,” Lightman’s career soared. She appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Good Morning America” and “The Early Show.” Her appearance on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” was seen by Prince, who asked her to be the opening act for one of his concerts.

When it comes to songwriting, Lightman said she is a “melody person 90 percent of the time. First I hear a melody, then I pick out the chords and then I write the lyrics. I still have no idea how it happens.”
But happen it does. And Lightman feels fortunate that she has been able to thrive in the uber-challenging music industry for more than a decade. She attributes her success to the honesty of her songs and the fact that she enjoys performing.

 

Also On Tap

Toby Lightman is one of several singer-songwriters performing this fall at Eutaw Place. On Oct. 5, it’s Aoife O’Donovan with The Sweater Set, and on Dec.14, Liz Longley performs with Bob Sima.

To purchase tickets to Toby Lightman’s concert on Nov. 2, visit eutawplace.org. Lightman will be joined
by Doug Wamble. To learn more about Lightman and her music, visit tobylightman.com.

Lights On At Eutaw Place

Toby Lightman

Toby Lightman

Even if you haven’t heard Toby Lightman’s name, you’ve probably heard her music. Since her first album, “Little Things,” debuted in 2004, the 35-year-old singer-songwriter’s music has been virtually everywhere. Lightman will be in Baltimore on Nov. 2, when she performs at Eutaw Place, a venue that has featured up-and-coming singer-songwriters since spring 2012.

Although Lightman, who grew up in a Jewish family in Cherry Hill, N.J., performs live regularly and has made four albums since “Little Things,” her music is heard most widely on television shows including “Brothers and Sisters,” “Eli Stone,” “Bones” and “The Vampire Diaries” and in movies such as “P.S. I Love You,” “17 Again” and “Mean Girls 2.”

“[TV and movie] placement is really the best and most realistic way to get your music exposed to new listeners,” she said. “I still get emails from people who see “P.S. I Love You” and say they love my song. They [the filmmakers] used the song so well, and it made the scene so good.”

Lightman’s style has been compared to legendary singer-songwriters Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell and to contemporary artists such as Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill. Her songs combine elements of rock, rhythm and blues, jazz and hip-hop with thoughtful, evocative lyrics.

Earlier this year, Lightman released her newest extended-play album, “Holding a Heart.” Five songs from the EP were featured on an episode of ABC Family’s “The Fosters.” She will release a full-length album of original music — her first since 2008 — in early 2014.

Lightman’s love of music first revealed itself when she was 6, and she was inspired to study violin after watching a PBS program about Itzhak Perlman. In high school, Lightman’s interest shifted to voice, and she began taking vocal lessons and singing in choral groups.

At the University of Wisconsin, Lightman taught herself to play guitar and began writing music and performing with local bands. After college, she moved to New York City and a year later landed a record deal with Lava Records. Once Lava released “Little Things,” Lightman’s career soared. She appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Good Morning America” and “The Early Show.” Her appearance on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” was seen by Prince, who asked her to be the opening act for one of his concerts.

When it comes to songwriting, Lightman said she is a “melody person 90 percent of the time. First I hear a melody, then I pick out the chords and then I write the lyrics. I still have no idea how it happens.”
But happen it does. And Lightman feels fortunate that she has been able to thrive in the uber-challenging music industry for more than a decade. She attributes her success to the honesty of her songs and the fact that she enjoys performing.

 

Also On Tap

Toby Lightman is one of several singer-songwriters performing this fall at Eutaw Place. On Oct. 5, it’s Aoife O’Donovan with The Sweater Set, and on Dec.14, Liz Longley performs with Bob Sima.

To purchase tickets to Toby Lightman’s concert on Nov. 2, visit eutawplace.org. Lightman will be joined
by Doug Wamble. To learn more about Lightman and her music, visit tobylightman.com.