Yiddish Soul: A Concert of Cantorial and Chassidic Music was part of Kulturfest NYC, an eight day festival that cast the spotlight on Jewish arts, as previously reported by VIN News. Presented by The National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene in honor of its centennial, Kulturfest is currently featuring films, documentaries, classical and cutting edge Jewish music, comedy, symposia, workshops, children’s programming and other exhibits and events at venues throughout New York City.
Last night’s concert featured Jewish music’s elite, with musical styles that ran the gamut. Taking the stage throughout the night were Avraham Fried, Netanel Hershtik, Yanky Lemmer, Joseph Malovany, Lipa Schmeltzer and Zusha, a neo-Chasidic band that has been top ten ranked by Billboard, a well known music publication serving the entertainment business.
Turnout for Yiddish Soul, an effort by the NYTF to reach out to the Orthodox Jewish community, was higher than expected, despite threatening skies and rain, which ended just before the concert began.
“We almost got rained out twice but it was a fabulous concert, with everyone from all walks of life, whether Jewish or not, coming together with the message of the impact of Jewish and Yiddish culture throughout the world,” Christopher Massimine, chief operating officer of the NYTF and executive producer of Yiddish Soul, told VIN News. “The most amazing thing we saw was how many people came and appreciated the message of peace, sincerity and contribution.”
While the notion of Yiddish music and chazanus might seem to appeal only to the older set, concert goers of all ages were swept up by the music during the program, which ran over two and a half hours and was hosted by radio personality Nachum Segal. Even the attire of the performers, from Malovany’s white dinner jacket to Schmeltzer’s white derby and colorful bow tie, seemed to echo the message of the night: that Jewish music is alive and well with something to appeal to everyone.
Having five of Jewish music’s top performers taking the stage in the midst of the most visited urban park in the city and one of the most filmed locations in the world seemed surreal for some.
“Chazzanut in a park? Impossible,” said Chazan Yanky Lemmer. “Yiddish to young teenagers from across a wide spectrum of backgrounds? Impossible. Well that’s exactly what happened and from the reactions we know it was effective. Towards the end, the crowd was on fire! The blend of the two and the way the program kept escalating was superb.”