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A Vocal Celebration of Chanukah on Old York Road
Of all the noises you may hear on Dec. 4 — the crinkle of wrapping paper being torn asunder to reveal the bounty of Chanukah’s last night; the muted sizzle of candle wax leaving a final trail on this year’s chanukiah; the energetic popping of the ultimate latkes in the pan — nothing will resonate quite like the sounds coming from the eighth annual OYR Community Hanukkah Concert.
This collaborative event from the Kehillah of Old York Road and the Old York Road cantors brings together the adult and children’s choirs from Congregation Adath Jeshurun, Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, Congregation Kol Ami, Old York Road Temple-Beth Am and Beth Sholom Congregation. The result is the congregational equivalent of a supergroup: a children’s choir some 60 voices strong, and an adult choir made up of more than 70 singers.
For Cantor David Tilman, this year’s concert is just the latest validation that his once-radical idea of bringing all of the Old York Road corridor congregations together for a community concert was the right one — even if it did initially come about because he wanted to bring in a folk band.
As Tilman, 69, explains, the first of these concerts in 2006 featured Work of the Weavers, a cover band. “They sing the Weavers songs better than the original, and they do it with the brachah of Pete Seeger. When I learned what it would cost to bring them in, I reached out to my cantorial colleagues. We wound up bringing in 1,000 people to the Beth Sholom sanctuary for the concert,” he recalls.
Although Tilman has since retired as the cantor at Beth Sholom, that hasn’t stopped him from remaining involved. And as the conductor of the Shir KI choir at Keneseth Israel, he will be conducting at the concert, including the big finale, which will feature both the adult and children’s choirs singing the Chanukah classic, “Al Hanisim,” alongside the a capella group Six13. “That is very exciting,” Tilman enthuses, “because it will have beatboxing!”
One of the six members of Six13 supplying those percussive vocals is the group’s founder, Michael Boxer, a 33-year-old New Yorker.
Boxer has a day job with JP Morgan in addition to leading Six13 to its status as the top Jewish a capella group in the United States. He says that Chanukah is one of his group’s busiest times other than Shabbat events. “People hire us to perform on Shabbat or a holiday when religious prohibitions don’t allow people to play musical instruments. We are one of the few musical acts who can do something like that without breaking Shabbat. We are a bridge between the antiquated and the contemporary.”
Six13 will be doing a full a capella concert of Jewish music before the finale, and Boxer is excited to have the chance to work with the congregational choirs. “Most synagogues don’t have that active a participation scene,” he says. “The choirs are going to sing in the same ranges we do, and we will just work together — it’s definitely cool.”
IF YOU GO
The OYR Community Hanukkah Concert
7 p.m. at Gratz College
7605 Old York Rd., Melrose Park
To order tickets, call Keneseth
Israel, 215-887-8700 or any of the other synagogues mentioned here.