Celebrating and Singing Shlomo Carlebach’s Best

I would love to share with you some highlights of the beautiful concert I just performed on January 15th in Beverly Hills, California, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. It was a concert in honor of Shlomo Carlebach (of blessed memory), who was not only one of my mentors but was a friend and one of the most soulful, generous people I have known. The concert actually took place on his Hebrew birthday. It was arranged by one of my students, Cantor Arik Wolheim, who is now the Cantor of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, a very flourishing modern orthodox synagogue. Arik has a beautiful voice and is such a fine & respectful human being, a true mensch. It was a pleasure to see how he is loved by his congregation.  

Reb Shlomo Carlebach was a Rabbi, Composer, and Singer who was also known as “The Singing Rabbi”. His musical style was unique and filled with warmth. It had a Chassidic undertone and was filled with great Neshama (soul) and had a participatory spirit. His music captivates people from all backgrounds, Chassidic, Modern Orthodox, Conservative & Reform. His career spanned 40 years, but was cut short much too soon by his untimely passing. His music & melodies continue to be popular all over the Jewish world today. His music is celebrated on Shabbat & Holidays at the “Carlebach Shul” on the upper west side of Manhattan. I remember, whenever I would meet Shlomo; on the street, at a concert, at a hotel up in the Catskills or anywhere, he would say to me “Mein Bruder…How is the voice? How are the concerts? How is the shul?” He would hug me and kiss me and tell me about all of his happenings. Keep in mind that we were both on the same concert circuit. He sang & composed the same way he loved, with his whole heart & soul.

The concert in Beverly Hills was beautiful! It was with a full symphony orchestra (I think 53 pieces), in a beautiful concert hall (Wilshire Ebell Theatre) which holds about 1200. The concert was sold out and I heard that an additional 150 people were unfortunately turned away with no more seats available. We sang some of Carlebach’s most popular melodies and the audience went wild. I was so proud to have been asked to sing one of my own pieces, my Avinu Shebashamayim. I was able to hear the entire audience singing along and the emotion that filled the hall. When I heard the claps & howls at the end of my numbers, I looked up and was overcome with joy when I saw Danny Clivner (our beloved member Mira Clivner’s son and one of our recent Simcha Dinner Dance Honorees) right in the center of the audience standing & clapping. Though he lives in California, his heart belongs in Hollis Hills. He is a special person and a dear friend and I was so happy that he was there.

I was so proud to be asked to perform in this concert. After all, I learned so much from Shlomo Carlebach’s musical style. He had a special way of keeping traditional sounds together with a participatory style which brings people together and makes them feel as one. That has always been my musical style & mission as well. I believe so strongly in bringing melodies to the synagogue that can make everyone feel the meaning of the prayer, even without knowing how to read the Hebrew words. It’s the “Neshama” in the melody that can relay the words. By the way, speaking of “Neshama”…Shlomo’s daughter “Neshama Carlebach”, also a well-known singer in her own right, surprised the audience by attending the concert. It was a very emotional and beautiful moment when she walked on the stage to thank everyone for remembering her father and for keeping his music alive.  Let us always remember Shlomo Carlebach and the beautiful music he created for our people.

See you in shul.

Cantorially always,

Cantor Sol Zim