Beit Avi Chai Piyyut Festival 2012

Abate Berihun/Photo: Ayelet Dekel
Abate Berihun/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Piyyut – the meditations, prayers, hopes and wishes of the Jewish people expressed in these liturgical poems live on in song through the centuries. The Beit Avi Chai Piyyut Festival brings the power and wonder of piyyut to the stage, creating a unique meeting between sacred poetry and contemporary musicians, in rich hues and rhythms from Abd el-Wahab to heavy metal. The festival will take place from September 10 – 13, in several Jerusalem venues – Beit Avi Chai, Zappa Club, Tower of David, Yellow Submarine, Givat Ram Campus – as well as one performance at the Ozen Bar in Tel Aviv.

A prelude to the festival, “Jerusalem Makam” will have a festive world premiere on September 6, 2012 as part of the Sacred Music Festival, with a second performance on September 8th. Conceived and artistically directed by Yair Harel and Omer Avital, and performed by The New Jerusalem Orchestra, the evening will include two sets: a musical expression of longing for Jerusalem, drawing on the poetic and musical traditions of different cultures through the ages; and in the second part of the evening, a new work by Omer Avital, creating a correspondence between Eastern and Western musical traditions, jazz and improvisation. The concert will feature an amazing ensemble of performers, including vocalist/musician Abate Berihun.

The festival will open on September 10th with “Abd el-Wahab and Umm Kultum in the World of Piyyut” a concert that explores the relationship between Arab and Jewish culture through music, as classical and modern Arab music has entered the Jewish canon over the years through piyyut and prayers in the synagogue. Rabbi David Menahem and other leading paytanim, accompanied by the Nazareth Arab Music Orchestra will perform at the concert, conducted by Dr. Nizar Radwan.

Later the same evening, in the Beit Avi Chai courtyard, the public is invited to enjoy a free performance, “Sounds of the East.” The Center for Middle Eastern Classical Music, based in Musrara, teaches the musical instruments and traditions of the east. The Center’s ensemble, directed by Elad Gabbay, will perform a selection of classical works from Middle Eastern cultures.

Mark and Piris Eliyahu/Photo: Rivka Eliyahu

The festival offers an opportunity to become acquainted with the music traditions and instruments of a wide range of cultures, and connect to the Jewish musical heritage. Piris Eliyahu’s “The Mother Tongue,” an evening musically produced by Mark Eliyahu (September 12th), will explore Jewish folksongs through the ages. Produced in cooperation with the National Library, this project is a tribute to the National Sound Archive (the Phonotheque) at the National Library, which collects and preserves the songs and recordings, keeping the music created by the people alive for future generations.

“To the Sound of the Bağlama” presents the music of Eastern Turkey, Kurdistan and Crete, through a focus on the bağlama (saz), a stringed instrument. Musically directed by Yochai Barak and Eliyahu Dagmi, this concert will take place on September 11th at 22:00 in the Beit Avi Chai courtyard, and admission is free. Special guest at this concert is singer Ilana Eliya, who brings such joy and power to her performance, this is sure to be a night to remember.

The festival ventures into the world of theatre, with “I Will Move as if Intoxicated” a production of the Interdisciplinary Arena, Hazira. Written and directed by Guy Biran, the longing for union – between woman and man, human life and spirit – expressed in relationship to the tradition of piyyut. Original music by Yisrael Breit for the piyyutim of the great poet Rabbi Israel Najara will be performed by a women’s choir. Performances will take place on September 12th and 13th at the Gerard Behar Center.

Dan Steg & Iyar Wolpe – I Will Move as If Intoxicated/Photo: Nadav Harel

There is nothing like a live performance, but if you can’t make it to the festival in person, Beit Avi Chai will be broadcasting several concerts live on their website:

September 10 — Abd el-Wahab and Umm Kultum in the World of Piyyut  7:30 PM
September 10 — Sounds of the East / 10 PM
September 11 — From India to Here / 7:30 PM
September 11 — To the Sound of the Bağlama / 10 PM
September 12 — I Shall Make Music / 7:30 PM
September 12 — Adon HaSlichot / 9 PM
September 13 —Finding a Place / 8:30 PM

The full details and schedule for the Piyyut Festival, as well as ticket information, are available online in English on the festival website, or call the Beit Avi Chai ticket office: 02-6215900.

The Fifth Piyyut Festival – September 10 – 13, 2012 – Performances

Monday, September 10th Abd el-Wahab and Umm Kultum in the World of Piyyut
Rabbi David Menahem and the Nazareth Arab Music Orchestra
A tribute to the Arab-Jewish culture and the classical and modern Arab music incorporated throughout the generations into the world of piyyut and synagogue prayer. Leading paytanim, accompanied by the Nazareth Arab Music Orchestra, will perform traditional and new piyyutim set to the works of the great Arab composers. Musical direction: Elad Gabbay, Dr. Nizar Radwan;  Conductor: Dr. Nizar Radwan; With: Soloists—paytan Rabbi David Menahem, vocalist Maamun Zayyud; Chorus of paytanim—David Saliah, Shalom Arieli, Yonatan Saliah; The Nazareth Arab Music Orchestra, founded and directed by Suheil Radwan; New songs—Almog Behar. Opening remarks: Pepe Alalu, deputy mayor and portfolio holder for Culture and Arts, Dr. Meir Buzaglo, Hebrew University, AVI CHAI Foundation. Doors open at 19:00, event begins at 19:30. Tickets: 70 NIS/students 30NIS. The event will take place in the BEIT AVI CHAI courtyard; warm attire recommended.

Monday, September 10th – Sounds of the East
The Ensemble of the Center for Middle Eastern Classical Music, in a special performance

A performance that combines classical works from all around the Middle East with piyyutim and melodies by Jewish artists, performed by the Ensemble of the Center for Middle Eastern Classical Music in Musrara. Musical Direction and Preparation: Elad Gabbay. The Center for Middle Eastern Classical Music, founded in Jerusalem in 1996, is located in a beautiful historical house in the Musrara neighborhood of Jerusalem. This is the only school in Israel that teaches a large variety of musical instruments and traditions from every corner of the east. Over the years, the school has educated many musicians who are now active in diverse areas of classical eastern music in Israel. With: Mushon Vetori—qanoun / Yossef Oren—oud / Anomarel Ogen—saz / Shachar Ouzan—saz / Hila Achiel—violin / Johanna Rietmuller—violin / Alon Grinfeld—violin / Tal Hayoun—darbuka / Yael Lavie—darbuka / Omer Lahav—vocalist / Or Shemesh—vocalist / Yair Kochav—vocalist. Admission FREE, subject to available space. The event will take place in the BEIT AVI CHAI courtyard; warm attire recommended.

Tuesday, September 11th – From India to Here
Psalms and piyyutim from India and Afghanistan
An evening of psalms in original arrangements based on the principles of classical Indian music, the ecstatic Qawwali songs of the Chopis of Rajasthan, and old Jewish piyyutim from Afghanistan. Yaron Pe”er, accompanied by an ensemble of instrumentalists and vocalists, will create a unique link between the Hebrew word and the ancient music of India and its neighbor, along with some of his recent compositions. The evening begins with deep prayer and ends with sweet celebration. Research, melodies, and musical direction: Yaron Pe”er. With: Yaron Pe”er—vocals, harmonium, and Afghan rabab Sharon ben Zadok—classical Indian vocals, Narayan Jyoti (Ron Paz)—vocals and harmonium, Idan Hameeiri—vocals and harmonium, Eitan Refua—santour, Erez Mounk—table, Amit Shani—pakhawaj and nagara, Shai Massala—bells, mohan veena Chorus—Shimon Lev Tahor, Gai Tiram, Ofir Even Odem, Elyashiv Etzion. The concert will take place at 19:30. Tickets 60 NIS/students 30 NIS. The event will take place in the BEIT AVI CHAI courtyard; warm attire recommended.

Tuesday, September 11th – To the Sound of the Bağlama
A Piyyut Journey through Eastern Turkey, Kurdistan and Crete
An enthralling musical project focused on the bağlama (saz) a stringed instrument used in Turkey , Kurdistan and other places in Eastern and Central Asia. To the sounds of the bağlama we will embark on a journey that combines piyyutim and songs from the Jewish tradition of Kurdistan, hundreds of years old, climaxing in rhythmic and exciting works featuring an ensemble of eight bağlamas. Musical direction and production: Yochai Barak and Eliyahu Dagmi. Special Guest: singer Ilana Eliya. With: Yochai Barak (Diwan Saz)—bağlama, diwan saz and jorah,  Eliyahu Dagmi—bağlama, vocals, and saz, Udi Ben-Knaan (Matbucha project, diwan-saz, sheva)—bağlama, lira and saz, Yaniv Ovadia—bağlama, zurna and vocals, Eyal Loman—qanoun and percussion, David Dagmi—percussion, Rani Lorentz—bass; joined by three additional bağlama players. The concert will take place at 22:00, admission FREE, subject to available space. The event will take place in the BEIT AVI CHAI courtyard; warm attire recommended.

Tuesday, September 11th – Rock Brings Peace
Orphaned Land host Kobi Aflalo, the Amram Brothers, and other guests
A powerful performance that connects East, West, heavy Metal, Psalms and verses from the Koran. Orphaned Land—the world-renowned Israeli rock-metal band, winner of three peace awards—has won itself  a fan base of tens of thousands throughout the Arab world. The band has received such broad exposure due to its exceptional musical assortment, which combines Death Metal, progressive metal and authentic Eastern music, with the words from the Psalms and the Koran. The band has created a special program for the festival, where it will host, along with an expanded musical ensemble, singer-songwriter Kobi Aflalo. Aflalo is one of the most acclaimed artists in Israel and his hits have become an inseparable part of the Israeli soundtrack. Additional guests will include the brothers Shachar and Elram Amram, sons of the famous paytan Aharon Amram. Shlomit Levi, the band’s soloist, will host her current creative partner, Rabbah Sol. Orphaned Land: Kobi Farhi—vocals, Yossi Sassi—guitars and bouzouki, Chen Balbus –guitar, Uri Zilcka—fretless bass, Matan Shmuely—drums, Ro’i Friedman—percussion, Itzhak Ventura —ney, Shlomit Levi—vocals. Special guest: Kobi Aflalo—vocals. Guests: Rabbah Sol—guitar, mandolin, vocals, Shachar Amram—vocals, Elram Amram—vocals. Elad Gabbay—oud and qanoun, Ronel Ratzon—violin. The concert will take place at Zappa at the Lab, 28 Derech Hevron, Jerusalem, doors open at 20:30, the concert begins at 21:30. Tickets 100NIS/students 50NIS.

Wednesday, September 12th – I Shall Make Music
A gala to mark the launch of a new album of piyyutim, E’erokh Zemer
A concert with unique arrangements of piyyutim from the tradition of Libyan Jewry, which was one of the most ancient and diverse traditions in the Jewish world. In the wake of “From Desert and Sea,” their show at the 2010 Piyyut Festival, the members of the ensemble continued their work until it ripened into this unique and surprising debut album. This performance to launch their new album sums up years of work collecting, arranging, and gaining a deep knowledge of the fascinating tradition of Libyan Jewry, and brings the music created by the Jews of Libya, between Africa and the Orient, to center stage. The following artists contributed to the album: Barry Sacharov, Erez Lev-Ari, Shai Gabsso, Ravid Kachlani. The project is sponsored by the Or Shalom Center for the Preservation and Perpetuation Teaching of the Libyan Jewish Heritage, Bat Yam. Opening remarks: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Aviad – Jerusalem district inspector, Department for Religious Culture, Ministry of Education, Pedatzur Ben-Atia—chairman, Or Shalom. Arrangements and musical direction: Yaniv Raba and Yankale Segal; Artistic Direction and Research: Yaniv Raba. Special Guest: Shai Gabbso, with paytanim: Yitzhak Chayun—soloist, Rafael Chayun, Assi Maimon. Band: Yaniv Raba—oud, Yankale Segal—guitar and tar, Ariel Qassis—qanoun, Itzhak Ventura—ney, Roei Fridman—percussion, Avi Agavava—percussion. The event will take place in the BEIT AVI CHAI auditorium, 19:30. Tickets 50 NIS/students 20 NIS.

Wednesday, September 12th – Lior Almaliach
Launch Concert for the new album
Lior Almaliach—one of the leading artists in the world of piyyut in Israel and abroad, offers an intriguing debut performance with special guests and the accompaniment of top musicians. Lior Almaliach and his guests will perform a selection of piyyutim set to Andalusian and Egyptian melodies, in unique arrangements from their new album that bring the traditional sound into contact with elements of World Music. Musical direction: Elad Levi, Artistic Direction: Lior Almaliach. Opening remarks: Mr. Yossi Sharabi, head of the Society and Youth Administration, Jerusalem municipality. Special Guests: Paytan Yuval Tayb—vocals, Shlomo Bar—vocals and percussion, Maurice El Médioni—piano, Imad Dalal—oud. With: Lior Almaliach—vocals, Eli Zeruya—classical, acoustic, and Spanish guitar, Hanan Kadosh—oud and jumboush, Hagai Bilitzky— double bass, Elad Levi—violin and viola, Erez Mounk—percussion and acoustic set, Yochai Cohen—percussion and darbuka. The event will take place in the Gerard Bechar Center, 11 Bezalel St., Jerusalem, 20:30. Tickets 70 NIS/students 30 NIS.

Wednesday, September 12th – I Will Move as if Intoxicated
Piyyut Theater in the footsteps of Rabbi Israel Najara, produced by the Interdisciplinary Arena.
An original multidisciplinary theatrical performance that confronts the yearning for exaltation, and the attraction between a man and a woman, who live together but do not meet. Piyyut is an expression of the eternal longing for oneness. The new melodies for the piyyutim by the great poet Rabbi Israel Najara are performed by a women’s choir. Written and directed by: Guy Biran. Acting: Iyar Wolpe and Dani Steg. Original Music: Yisrael Bright / Choir: Inbal Jamshid, Michal Lotan, Nitzan Bernstein. Video and Set: Hila Spector / Costumes: Lou Moria / Lighting: Shachar Verchson. Assistant director and dramatic production: Inbal Dekel. Our thanks to: Prof. Tova Beeri, Prof. Edwin Seroussi, Sheli Elkayam, Ruthie Bar-Shalev, Yair Harel. Additional performance: Thursday, September 13th. Gerard Bechar Center, Leo Model Auditorium, 11 Bezalel St., Jerusalem, 20:30. Tickets 50 NIS/students 20 NIS. Supported by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Culture Administration.

Wednesday, September 12th –  Adon Haselichot
Piyyutim, melodies, and stories with an original Jerusalem Sephardi flavor

A musical show that uses music, song and acting to present the heritage, milieu, and selihot prayers recited in the synagogues of Jerusalem. Among the piyyutim that will be performed: Adon HaSelichot, Ya Shema Evyonecha, Atanu le’halot Panekha, El Nora Alila, and others. The performance continues an 11-year tradition of reviving the atmosphere of the Days of Awe that existed in the Jerusalem synagogues of a hundred years ago and still survives in a few synagogues to this day. Artistic Director and host: Eli Matityahu, Vocal Direction: Moni Moreno-Armoza, Musical Direction: Elad Gabbay. Special Guest: Stefan Sablic, cantor of the Belgrade community. Gai Doron—acting. With the paytanim: Moni Moreno-Armoza, Rafi Naftali, David Saliah. The Beit Abba Band: Elad Gabbay—qanoun, Eliyahu Dagmi—oud and saz, Ilan Kenan—bass, Yehuda Ashash—Spanish guitar, Yoni Sharon—percussion, Ofer Benita—drums, Ronel Ratzon—violin, Hayim Jerbi—ney. The event will take place at 21:00 in the BEIT AVI CHAI courtyard; warm attire recommended. Tickets 60 NIS/students 30 NIS. Cosponsored and produced by the Sephardic Heritage Alliance.

Wednesday, September 12th – The Song of Life
Piris Eliyahu’s “Mother Tongue,” in the footsteps of lost Jewish folksongs
The songs of Jewish life—lullabies, songs of birth, love, longing, and laments—make up a moving and emotional form that was created in a variety of Jewish vernaculars and preserved over the years mainly by the women of Jewish communities around the world. The National Sound Archive (the Phonotheque) at the National Library has collected and preserved the musical works of the Jewish people from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. Piris Eliyahu and the other artists who take part in this special performance conduct a dialogue with the works and old recordings in search of the Jewish folk music of our time. Opening remarks: Dr. Gila Flamm, director of the Bella and Harry Wexler Music Library at the National Library, Givat Ram. A tribute to the National Archive of Sound (Phonotheque), the National Library. Joint production by the National Library and the Piyyut Festival. Musical Production: Mark Eliyahu. Singers: Victoria Hannah, Lea Abraham, Ruth Levin. With: Piris Eliyahu—music and tar, Mark Eliyahu—kamancha, Yarden Erez—keyboard, sampler and electronic instruments, Moshe Yankovsky—percussion, Shlomo Oz—guitar, Oded Goldschmidt— double bass. The concert will take place in the Weintraub Auditorium, the National Library at Givat Ram, the Edmond J. Safra campus, Jerusalem, 20:30. Tickets 60 NIS/30 NIS. In cooperation with the National Library.

Thursday, September 13th –  Finding a Place
A gala performance to launch Nitsan-Chen Razel’s solo album, Motze Makom (Finding a Place)
Razel, a new voice in Jewish music, creates an intriguing encounter between synagogue music and the rock ’n roll sound, between local melodies and world music, and between Ashkenazi piyyutim, and original compositions. With his unique mastery of the violin, Razel connects the old and the new, the acoustic and the electronic, then and now, and puts out a unique debut album. With guest artist Ehud Banai, with whom Razel played for the last fifteen years. Banai contributed his musical talent and his voice to the album, and several of his own personal songs will be included in the concert program. “Verse after verse, tune after tune, Razel and his excellent band create an interesting musical dialogue that provides many musical sparks, which reminded me of the excellent Icelandic band Cigar Rós. It all certainly shows that Razel is in the right place—which evokes great curiosity in anticipation of the coming debut album” (Yaki Hofstein, YNet). Special Guest: Ehud Banai. Musical Production: Gil Smetana. With: Hagai Halbertal—piano and vocals, Yankale Segal—bass, Nachman Helbitz—guitar, Alon Yofe—drums and vocals, Yoni Sharon—percussion and vocals, Nitsan-Chen Razel—vocals and violin. The event will take place in the BEIT AVI CHAI courtyard; warm attire recommended, 20:30. Tickets 70 NIS/students 30 NIS.

Thursday, September 13th – Rock from the Shtetl
Jeremiah Lockwood and Sway Machinery (USA) host Daniel Zamir
Jeremiah Lockwood, the grandson of a famous Ashkenazi cantor and a member of the international Balkan Beat Box group, embarks with the Sway Machinery ensemble on a fascinating musical journey that combines classical Ashkenazi cantorial singing with the New York world of rock-blues-jazz. An energetic concert of progressive rock and Jewish music from Eastern and Western Europe. Special Guests: Daniel Zamir and Tomer Tzur. Opening remarks: Mr. Eyal Sher—director of the Culture and Arts Department, the Jerusalem Foundation. With: Jeremiah Lockwood—guitar, vocals, Matthew Bowder—tenor saxophone, Kenny Warren—trumpet, Timothy Allen—bass, John Bollinger—drums. Doors open at 21:00, the concert begins at 22:00. The event will take place at the Yellow Submarine, 13 Harechavim Street, Talpiot industrial zone, Jerusalem. Tickets 60 NIS/students 30 NIS.  Additional performance on Wednesday, September 12, at 21:00 in the Ozen Bar, 48 King George St., Tel Aviv. Tickets 70 NIS (60 NIS advance purchase). Tickets available through and

Special performance September 6th & 8th – “Jerusalem Makam”
World premiere – The New Jerusalem Orchestra – A polyphonic musical fantasy
Concept and Artistic Direction: Yair Harel and Omer Avital
“Makam Jerusalem” is a fantastic journey between musical cultures to the new sound and the old-new and audacious Israeli tradition. An amazing Israeli cycle of melodies and arrangements with an ensemble of 18 instrumentalists, vocalists, and a choir of paytanim, who perform songs of nostalgia and yearning for the Heavenly Jerusalem and the Earthly Jerusalem, in various languages. Musical Direction, original compositions, arranger, and conductor: Omer Avital. Research and Editing: Yair Harel / Management: Barak Weiss. Additional composers and arrangers: Rabbi David Menahem, Piris Eliyahu, Itamar Borochov, Re’ii Hagai, Elad Levi, Rafi Malkiel; Vocalists: Lubna Salame, Chaya Samir, Abate Brihun, Maimon Cohen, Yochai Cohen, Yair Harel; Omer Avital—double bass, Guitar: Nadav Remez; Winds: Itamar Borochov—trumpet, Rafi Malkiel—trombone, Matan Chapnitzky—saxophone; String Quartet: Yonatan Keren and Avner Kelmer—violin; Galia Chai—viola; Hila Epstein—cello; Classical Oriental Ensemble: Elad Levi—kamancha, Elad Gabbay—qanoun, Yaniv Rabbah—oud, Tzachi Ventura—ney, Mark Eliyahu—kamancha and saz, Piris Eliyahu—tar. Percussion: Yochai Cohen, Roni Ivrin and Yair Harel. Chorus: The Piyyut Ensemble of the Ben-Zvi Institute Directed by Yair Harel, Choral director: Abraham Cohen. Stage Consultant: Dafna Karon; video: Kobi Levi and Uri Sukhri; writing and text editing: Almog Behar; lighting: Felice Ross; sound: Uri Barak; executive producer: Sigal Streier; technical director: Nissim Sheizaf. Performances will take place: Thursday, September 6, at 20:00, as part of the Sacred Music Festival; Saturday night, September 8, at 22:00, both events will take place in the Tower of David Museum. For tickets: Bimot *6226.