Jewish News December 2017
Two Different Approaches to Hanukkah Music….Yeshiva Boys Choir and Y-Studs!
by Arlene Stolnitz
Two very different groups have come to my attention recently, just in time for Hanukkah…The Yeshiva Boys Choir and the Y-Studs. Both groups have recorded Hanukkah music that is creative, innovative and vibrant. According to the Milken Archive, their works, and recordings of countless other contemporary Jewish composers that I will write about in the future, are important in preserving the legacy of American-Jewish music and culture for future generations.
You may have heard of the renowned Yeshiva Boys Choir, which has achieved fame in the last 14 years. Traveling world-wide to countries such as England, Canada, and Israel as well as the U.S., they have excited audiences with their renditions of age-old favorites as well as new compositions. Based in New York City, the group is led by conductor and choreographer, Yossi Newman, a former third grade teacher from Cleveland, Ohio. Together with his childhood friend Eli Gerstner, who composes and arranges the catchy compositions, they have created a boys’ choir of nearly 50 talented young members. And what a choir it is!
One cannot listen to their music without jumping up from your seat! The group is spirited, fun and most of all original in their approach to their songs. Their album YBC-5 “Chanukah” contains many familiar and not-so-familiar tunes. Especially, you will want to hear “Daddy Come Home,” a tribute to all the daddies who serve in war. Listening to its emotionally charged plea will bring tears to your eyes. Anyone who has had a father who served in a war (my dad served in WWII) and everyone else will be moved by its powerful message. “Those Were the Nights of Hanukkah” is a light-hearted look at the holiday in past years, bringing back pleasant memories. It is filled with fun-filled antics, and showcases the talents of its remarkable young singers. The Yeshiva Boys Choir has many other outstanding albums that they sing on their sold-out worldwide tours.
A very different kind of group, older, yet youthful, also Yeshiva students, is known as the Y-Studs. A Jewish acappella group, they are an elite all-male group from Yeshiva University based in New York City. The fifteen member group was formed in 2010 by a group of singers from the school who wanted to get together as a singing ensemble. They are immensely popular and have produced CDs, music videos, and are available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and have travelled internationally with their program.
Of special interest is their CD/ Video entitled, “Evolution of Jewish Music”, in which the group sings mini-clips of Jewish music chronologically through the centuries. Presented are songs such as the Barchu, Quando Del Rey Nimrod, Maoz Tsur, Oifyn Pripcheck, Hatikvah, Shalom Aleichem, Hava Nagila, Bei Mir Bistu Sheyn, Ani Maamin, and many others. It is literally a history of Jewish music throughout the ages.
Two Chanukah videos stand out in their repertoire: “A One Direction Hanukkah-Epic Parody Mashup!” and “Don’t Let Me Down”. Both songs are not your standard Hanukkah-type tunes that we usually associate with the holiday. Instead they will appeal especially to the younger “hip” generation with their fun-filled outrageous antics and catchy tunes. Plus these guys are so handsome and cute, even the older generation can’t help love them! Their videos can be seen on You Tube and are just plain fun!!
***A correction to last month’s article: The refugees at Safe Haven in Oswego, N.Y. were housed there from August 1944 to February 1946. The facility was later officially closed in December 1946. By then, the refugees had all left to start new lives; some staying in the United States, others returning to Europe.