Sounds of Yiddish in the night

YID! performs Dona Dona in Yiddish at In One Night concert, with the English translation of the lyrics projected above the stage. Photo: Peter Haskin

CONCERT REVIEW by Danny Gocs — Simon and Garfunkel’s 1970 hit The Boxer sung entirely in Yiddish? And by the 22-member big band YID! That was one of the highlights of the In One Night concert on Saturday night (March 17) in Elsternwick to usher in this year’s In One Voice festival.

The former ABC sound stage hangar opposite the Kadimah proved to be the perfect venue, creating a music hall atmosphere for the crowd of about 400 that spanned all ages.

Husky Gawenda, YID!’s lead vocalist, started the Yiddish version of The Boxer quietly with just his guitar for accompaniment, building up into the chorus with the full brass band as many in the audience started dancing in front of the stage.

All of YID!’s songs were in Yiddish, and with English surtitles on the screen above the stage, everyone in the audience could follow along.

The 19 musicians of YID! included Simon Starr, Willy Zygier, Gideon Preiss, Tomi Kalinski, Alex Burkoy, Josh Abrahams and David Haberfeld – all musicians who play in other bands – augmented with the Zygier sisters – Alma, Syd and Hettie – as back-up vocals.

YID! showed its class with songs including S’a Mekhaye, the folk song Dona Dona, Rebbe Elimelekh and the upbeat Bei Mir Bistu Shein, all of which had the audience dancing along.

Alma Zygier and her four-member jazz band had the tough task of opening the concert, but quickly set the bar at a high standard with her powerful versions of hits such as Summertime, Let My People Go, Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Just a Gigolo.

The Ghetto Cabaret Orchestra – which grew out of A Night to Remember: The Ghetto Cabaret at the Kadimah last year – featuring a line-up of Tomi Kalinski on piano, Alex Burkoy on violin, Toby Bender on percussion and vocalist Yuliya Mik, performed powerful renditions of Yiddish songs.

Unfortunately for audience members who did not know Yiddish, the lack of introductory remarks or surtitles left them in the dark.

Well-known performer Galit Klas joined The Ghetto Cabaret Orchestra for a solo number about a Purim poem and a duet with Mik.

Between acts, comedians Lainie Chait (as MC), Eve Ellenbogen and Eli Landes presented short routines, bravely battling the sounds of the musicians setting up on the narrow stage.

The final act, Japanese Wallpaper (aka 20-year-old DJ Gab Strum) took In One Night late into the night. The fine acoustics and spacious surrounds of the former ABC sound stage, coupled with a warm night, food truck and bar, created a wonderfully festive atmosphere.