Shir Madness sure to be a success

Shir Madness sure to be a success

An eclectic festival celebrating Jewish music through the ages, the Shir Madness Jewish Music Festival returns next month as a mega line-up of musicians take to a new venue in Emanuel Synagogue's recently renovated premises. Sophie Deutsch reports.

Ilan Kidron fronts Glass.
Ilan Kidron fronts Glass.

TWENTY-FIVE acts in 11 hours. It’s a Jewish festival of epic proportions and festival director Gary Holzman is the first to proclaim his excitement.

“Shir Madness audiences will be able to experience all the incredible talent on offer in fully seated comfort,” said Holzman.

This year’s Shir Madness Jewish Music Festival will be held at Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra on Sunday, October 7 across three stages.

“Our program will again feature an astonishing variety of top-class local, interstate and international acts covering all musical genres from classical to klezmer, jazz to Jewish music and cabaret to contemporary pop,” he said.

Headlined by New York ‘Jewgrass’ band Nefesh Mountain, dynamic husband and wife duo Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg synthesise American Appalachian and Jewish traditions.

Zasloff told The AJN: “Our songs highlight the timeless and beautiful traditions of Judaism and bluegrass music set to the sounds of the banjo, fiddle, guitar and upright bass. We both have a very spiritual connection to mountains, forests, and nature in general.”

Nefesh Mountain’s Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg.

Combining bluegrass and Jewish roots may seem an unusual fusion upon first glance, but the two styles merge seamlessly, giving rise to one transcendental new genre that appeals to youth as much as adults.

In addition to their main performance, Nefesh Mountain will perform a special kids concert with Tiptoe Giants.

Creating music together comes with its challenges, but ultimately is “one of the most beautiful things one could ask for in life”, assured Lindberg.

Drawing on their European Jewish roots in a similar fashion, world music band Hello Tut Tut, fronted by Joshua Gluck, fuse klezmer, Balkan and Romani music traditions with the pulsating beats of contemporary dance.

No stranger to musical festivals, the band has performed at Falls Festival in Byron Bay and the Rainbow Serpent Festival.

The ever-popular Ilan Kidron – best known as lead singer of The Potbelleez, but who will perform at Shir Madness with his multi-genre band Glass, which has been described as entering a hazy Paris den, a sublime Rio de Janeiro club, a thumping New Orleans bar and a pumping New York speak-easy all in one session – speaks of festivals as an inspiring space where the inner spirit can roam free.

“Music festivals bring people together to experience collective awe through different styles of music. We like the audience to feel as though they have been invited into our space, so that they feel no inhibition to dance and expose their own feelings,” comments Kidron.

“It’s exciting music that is also heartfelt and emotional. The wonderful thing about Glass is that there have been many members of the band that have changed over the years, but one consistent thing is that there is no demographic.

“It’s about getting extraordinary people from all walks of life to play with you and who you love working with.”

Revitalising popular jazz loops and syncopated rhythms from pre-war America, Melbourne-based Alma Zygier, who is the daughter of leading performers Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier, calls on her appreciation of jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday for an energetic performance with her backing group.

Singer Alma Zygier.

New York-based Alexis Fishman and her three-piece band will pay tribute to the soulful sounds of acclaimed British singer Amy Winehouse in a new and uplifting cabaret performance, Amy: Reimagined.

Raining down Romani style harmonies, Raduga Trio delivers melodic arrangements, while pianist Simon Tedeschi and violist Roger Benedict will play melodies by Schubert, Schumann, Rachmaninov and Jewish wartime refugee Hans Gal.

Elena Kats-Chernin is sure to hit the right notes with her contemporary compositions, and ready to weave a Middle Eastern flavour into the festival, cantor George Mordecai draws on his Iraqi Jewish heritage in Baghdad to Bondi.

Composer Elena Kats-Chernin.

Melbourne singer Jude Perl brings her brand of successful musical comedy to the stage.

Also from Melbourne is Dafka, a vibrant ukulele and vocal duo comprising David and Rebecca Krycer, who play a variety of music including klezmer, blues and jazz.

A festival highlight is Song of Songs where Australia’s creme de la creme perform songs by their favourite Jewish composer. This year’s line-up includes veteran rocker Glenn Shorrock, Eurovision representative Dami Im, singer Richard Clapton, ARIA winner Josh Pyke and Israeli-born singer Nadav Kahn.

Im commented: “Jewish artists have made a disproportional impact on the music industry … Billy Joel, Pink, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand and it just keeps going.”


The Shir Madness Jewish Music Festival is at Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra on October 7 from 11am-10pm.

Bookings: The kids concert is from 11am to 1.30pm.

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