Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lights: Celebrate Hanukah Live - Coming to a Television Near You!

Album cover for LightsWhile I'm pretty passionate about the renaissance in Jewish music that's happening right now, let's face it...I've got a cozy seat in the press box but Craig Taubman is up on the stage making it happen. After years of recording his own music, including the ground-breaking Friday Night Live, and producing the popular Celebrate compilations, Taubman has given us all a Hanukkah present that will be remembered a long time. This year Taubman produced a performance called Lights: Celebrate Hanukkah Live In Concert that will be aired on your local PBS station sometime in the next few weeks. For us up here in chilly Michigan, it will be a prime time spectale airing at 8:00pm on Thursday, Dec 11 on Michigan Public Television. My kids are already primed and are asking daily if tonight's the night. Not yet girls, but soon.

Lights includes a range of performers that will be familiar to fans of the Contemporary Jewish music scene in general and the Craig 'n Co label in particular: Craig Taubman, The Klezmatics, Mare Winningham, Josh Nelson, Michelle Citrin, Caren Glasser, Cantor Alberto Mizrachi, Joshua Nelson, Dave Koz, and Laurence Juber. The performances mix uptempo takes on well-worn favorites, with a few new pieces mixed in. Citrin does a fine freshening up of Peter Yarrow's Light One Candle. Taubman and Juber give an earnest Maoh Tzur. Most notable of the new songs are the Klezmatics arrangements of two Woody Guthrie Hanukkah songs and Winingham's marvelous, if a bit off topic, Convert Jig.

Lights does have a few clunkers. As much as I admire Alberto Mizrachi, his take on Flory Jagoda's Ocho Kandelikas is ponderous and over-wrought. And I can't imagine what Taubman was thinking when he approved Dave Koz's elevator music cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Musically and thematically it breaks the flow of the program.

All in all, it's a spirited, if uneven, program. It's easy to say I could imagine a stronger line-up and some better song choices (Lori Cahan-Simon singing Ven kh’tsindt di likhtlekh on, di akht – When I Light the Eight or The Leevee's singing Latka Clan), but like I said, I'm just in the press box. This is Taubman's show and he made it happen. And I can't wait for it to air.


Heidi Estrin said...

Thanks to your tip about this concert, I was able to interview Josh Nelson about "Lights" for my podcast, The Book of Life. The episode is now live - if you'd like to hear Josh's interview, please visit - the episode is called "Spin the Dreidel." Thanks, and Happy Hanukkah!

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