Upcoming January 15 concert at Wilshire Ebell Theatre gives Carlebach’s best-known melodies a classical touch.
Arik Wollheim, Cantor at Beth Jacob Congregation Beverly Hills, remembers the very first concert he ever attended. “I was about three years old, and my parents took me to see Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach perform,” he relates. That experience, along with other encounters with the iconic rabbi, singer, composer, and Jewish storyteller, deeply resonated with him, and helped propel him on his path as a chazzan and ardent student of Jewish liturgy.
Now Wollheim is fulfilling a dream of sorts. On January 15, 2017, he – along with well-known singer Shlomo Simcha and Cantor Sol Zim – will be showcasing Carlebach’s music in a new form, at a concert entitled Carlebach Goes Symphonic, to be held at the Wilshire Ebell Theater. Carlebach’s familiar tunes will be set to the music of a full symphony, a 41-player orchestra, giving the traditionally informal songs a classical sound.
Wollheim, who frequently leads Beth Jacob’s Modern Orthodox congregation using popular Carlebach melodies, hopes the concert will attract Jews from across the spectrum of Jewish life. “I’ve always admired Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach for his ability to transcend all boundaries and denominations,” he relates. Indeed, Carlebach’s rare aptitude for connecting Jews of all stripes to their tradition is still on display at synagogues across the world, his inspiring liturgical melodies sung by all movements and affiliations.
Carlebach hailed from a traditional yeshivish background, studied in Rav Aharon Kotler’s Beth Medrash Govoha, obtained semicha from Rav Yitzchok Hutner, and went on to inspire religious and secular Jewry alike in unprecedented ways – largely through his unorthodox focus on music, acceptance, and brotherly love. He is credited with bringing many lost, far-flung souls across the globe closer to Judaism and spirituality.
Carlebach Goes Symphonic, directed and produced by Dr. Mordechai Sobol and his son Ophir, was first brought to the stage as Carlebach and the Symphony at the Tel Aviv Cultural Center in 2014. The concert, played by the Israel Philharmonic to a sold-out house, was very well received by its mixed secular-religious audience. It is Wollheim’s hope that the show, which melds divergent genres, will generate that same kind of enthusiasm here in L.A., both for its musical value, as well as its unifying power.
“Carlebach’s unique brand of kiruv lives on today though his music,” remarks Wollheim. “I look forward to seeing a diverse audience on January 15, as we celebrate his legacy together.”
Beth Jacob is a Modern Orthodox Congregation which has played a pioneering role in the development of Jewish life in Southern California. Beth Jacob is dedicated to creating a community of engaged, Torah educated, socially conscious, Zionistic, and caring Jews. Beth Jacob strives to provide members of all generations, and the broader Jewish community, a spectrum of spiritual, educational, social, chessed, and cultural opportunities.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit bethjacob.org, or call 310-278-1911.