Los Angeles Jewish Symphony Presents Hershey Felder
At The Theatre with Audrey Linden
Please note, that while this evening is a one time event, Hershey Felder is opening his new show, “Irving Berlin” at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood November 11th.
The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, under the baton of Dr. Noreen Green performed at the John Anson Ford Theatre with Hershey Felder in Concert September 7th. It was a glorious evening of celebrating Jewish music. I have seen Hershey Felder in his solo performances of “Gershwin Alone”, “Beethoven As I Knew Him”, “Monsieur Chopin”, and Leonard Bernstein” at the Geffen Playhouse, and this was a first for me to see him perform as Hershey Felder. Of course, he did give us a taste of his upcoming performance at the Geffen Playhouse as “”Irving Berlin”. That show will open November 11th, and after hearing a bit of the upcoming show, I definitely will be attending!
Dr. Green met Hershey Felder over 20 years ago when he came to Los Angeles from Canada and she had commissioned him to do an arrangement for the LAJS. She had asked, “Do you arrange for orchestra.” His reply, “yes, I am trained, ” and that reply led to a 20 year friendship. Both have gone on to accomplish a vast body of musical performances. The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony performs orchestral music of long recognized Jewish composers as well as fosters new talent. They have an educational component and bring music into the schools. They are “committed to building bridges of music and understanding” within the culturally diverse ethnic groups of Los Angeles. Over 14,000 school children have heard the music of LAJS.
The evening opened with Felder giving the introduction and spoken word to his beautiful and stirring arrangement of “Hatikvah” to which we were invited to sing-along. Fe lder explained that “Hatikvah” is not just hope, but “our anthem and how we celebrate our joy.” He dedicated “our pocket of tears” to the recently killed journalists and pledged to “do everything we can to achieve peace.”
Mark Kashper (violin), Barry gold (cello), Zinovy Goro (clarinet), and Leslie Lashinsky (bassoon) gave us a spirited and upbeat “Rhondo a la Klez” . All toes were tapping to this one!
Then the evening was turned back over to Hershey Felder who mentioned another brilliant Jewish performer, Theodore Bikel. Then we heard Irving Berlin’s “Putting On The Ritz”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, and a fun rendition of “Old Man Rosenthal” which Felder sang with so much “schmaltz’. “Cohen owes me ninety-seven dollars, and that’s no time for a business man to die”. That was so funny and Felder gave it his all and sang in character.
Felder told how he had promised Gil Cates he would do Irving Berlin someday. When he had approached Cates, the creative director of the Geffen Playhouse about “Gershwin Alone”, Cates had told him to do Irving Berlin. Felder was not impressed with Berlin who he felt just wrote tunes. And, as a Jewish composer, Berlin wrote “Easter Parade” and “White Christmas” which were not exactly Jewish songs. But in order to do “Gershwin” at the Geffen, Felder had to promise. Cates produced our Oscars shows and had wanted to use “There’s No Business Like Show Business” but Berlin refused to give Cates the rights. Gil Cates passed in 2007 and finally Felder decided it was time to honor his old promise and do the Iriving Berlin show. He went to New York and met Berlin’s three daughters in the Oscar Hammerstein office and got their okay.
That led into his introduction to Leonard Bernstein’s “Westside Story” which is the one show most people remember Bernstein for. Bernstein also did the”Al Joelson Story” about the son of a hazan and Felder played “Blue Skies” beautifully.
He did a selection of “Yiddish” songs and told of Avram Goldfarb, who was nicknamed “the Yiddish Shakespeare”. Felder performed “Roseline and Mandeline” in Yiddish and many in the audience sang along to this hauntingly beautiful lullabye. He met another Yiddish composer, Abe Elstein’s widow and was made the heir to all of Elstein’s music. It turned out Elstein and Felder had a birthday on the same date, July 9th which was a sign for the widow that this was meant to be. This led into “Bei Mir Bist Du Shcoen” and again we all joined our voices and sang along.
Felder then performed his own composition of “Aliyah for Piano and Orchestra” which was inspired by Dasha Lewin. The piece was both modern with its discordant sounds and also paid homage to traditional Jewish thematic music. It was a beautifully crafted mix of old and new. It has the cultural heritage of the old musical themes with a mix of avante garde sounds in juxtaposition and is both sweet and jarring.
Felder gave us his tribute to Gershwin and told how he had started with his show of Gershwin at the Tiffany Theatre on Sunset in Hollywood and took it to the Helen Hayes Theatre in Palm Beach and brought it to Philadelphia. I saw his performance at the Geffen Playhouse. He played “Rhaposody in Blue” and ended as he does in his show with the audience singing along to “Embraceable You”.
It all made for a stimulating evening of Yiddiskeit in celebrating years of great Jewish composers. And it was a wonderful way to celebrate twenty years of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. Felder captivate his audiences with both his acting, and with his musicality. He is such a gifted performer.
Be sure to put “Irving Berlin” at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood on your “must see’ list. The show will run from November 11th through December 21st. Call the Geffen box office at 310-208-5454 or go
online to www.geffenplayhouse.com for show times and tickets.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” , “Shimmer” commercial etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. Her classes start Thursday, January 8th, 2015. Enrollment in December is advised as class fills with 12 students. For more information, contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org