An intimate evening with the acclaimed Israeli Chamber Project provided a memorable start to the Goddard Riverside Community Arts 2015 fall season.
“Oftentimes you go and listen to music and you want to know more and dig deeper. Tonight, you’ll have a chance to do that,” said Community Arts director Susan Macaluso, introducing the musicians and New York radio legend Graham Parker of WQXR.
The players shared some of the music from their concert scheduled for the next night at Merkin Concert Hall, including Gilad Hochman’s Slightly Disturbed and Henriette Renié’s Trio for Harp, Violin and Cello. In between, they shared their thoughts about music, Israel, and the role of the arts.
The group, which formed in 2008, is based in Israel and New York City. Its goals include showcasing Israeli culture and offering music education to students from all backgrounds. Its members have been praised as “outstanding instrumentalists” by the New Yorker, while the American Record Guide said they “have to be heard to be believed.”
Asked by Parker where they played when they traveled to small towns in Israel, pianist Assaff Weisman said the settings were usually humble. “Often you play in the kibbutz, you play in a cultural hall or a cafeteria,” he explained. “But that doesn’t mean people aren’t enthusiastic about hearing music.”
“There’s one kibbutz we used to go to very often, and they love it. They come every time, even on a Saturday morning when it’s maybe a bit too early,” added cellist Michal Korman. “That’s more exciting to me than playing in a big hall.”
Chamber music is especially popular in Israel, the members explained, because it’s less expensive to perform than orchestral music. They called the contemporary music scene in Israel “vibrant.” And they said they try to use that passion for music in some small way to encourage peace and understanding.
Weisman said the group made a point of stopping in Arab-Israeli villages on every tour, calling the experience “incredibly gratifying.”
“I personally find it a tragedy that growing up in Israel I didn’t really know any Palestinian or Arab people inside or outside of music,” he added. “In our way we’re trying to reach across that divide.”
The Community Arts fall season continues with Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, the popular drama about gentrification by the Harlem KW Project. Other highlights of the season include the Harlem Chamber Players on October 25 and a Veterans Day commemoration that will feature readings from the Civil War.