A favorite inspirational quote
“We are all standing in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.”
I love this quote because it serves as an inspiring reminder that you can stand in the gutter, but aspire for more – and when someone else sees you looking at the stars, they might look up too.
Choir Name: Hebrew Groove
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Style: Hebrew Pop & Rock
Number of singers: 18
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An emotional moment you had in a performance?
We played in the Museumnacht (Museum Night) Amsterdam; it’s a cool & hip event where museums stay open all night & there are loads of fun activities happening in them and in pop up venues all over town. For this event, we were invited to perform a flashmob during a memorial service at the holocaust museum.
At first it took me by surprise, as a flashmob is usually something very colourful, happy, and unexpected.
I decided to curate it as a sad lullaby as the singers were standing within the audience and gradually lighting up tiny lanterns. Slowly more and more singers gathered, until the entire dark square was lit with star-like little shining lights. We were all very emotional and the audience was touched likewise. After the song there was a long silence, filled with tears of joy and sadness. Eventually everybody filed out, leaving with a memory of a distant lulling melody.
How does your choir bond as a group?
We are a group of foodies! At least twice a season, we go out to eat or arrange dinners & singing parties in one of the members’ houses; it’s a lot of fun. Also, every rehearsal the members gather in advance, to usually share a sweet treat.
A funny moment in rehearsal
We tell jokes all the time; it’s important for me that the atmosphere in the group remains light yet focused. So I try to entertain them in addition to just teaching/instructing them, and that inspires them to become better singers.
For instance, we have a tradition that when a singer’s phone is ringing during a choir activity, they have to treat the group to a cake in the next rehearsal.
Any recent performances to note?
Our last performance was at Podium Mozaiek in Amsterdam and it was our 1st professional stage show! We’re now starting our 8th season and we have had many concerts, but they have always been in naturally-acoustic venues. This was our 1st opportunity to perform in a professional theater, with a sound system and lights.
How did it feel to have that full on concert experience for the first time?
It felt very encouraging to receive the audience’s support – we actually sold out! This was very impactful because in past experience, it has been very difficult to get our music heard, especially when some people doubt that that positive things can come from Israel. We would like to try and change this perception by performing pop/rock/indie songs with positive messages.
A juicy fact about a composer/arranger you love to tell your choir members
The song Eich Hu Shar (How He Sings) by Danny Robas is thought to be written about Zohar Argov, a famous Yemenite Israeli singer. But it was actually written about Elvis! The song depicts the singer’s rise to greatness from the moment his golden voice was recognized when he was a child and till his decline, and succumbing to drug abuse.
What is something you do in rehearsals that surprises new members?
I focus a lot on vocal coaching and we start every rehearsal with a long warm up, exploring our entire range. I aim to listen to each voice in the choir individually, and often times I will address specific singers during the rehearsal, giving advice and pointing them in the right direction for their vocal training/performance. Most people are surprised to hear a remark about what they just sang, because they wouldn’t expect me to be able to make out their own voice from within a large group.
An emotional moment in rehearsal?
Anni Shuv Mitahev (I Fall In Love Again) is one of the songs that touched me the most with this group. I took the liberty to compose a new musical part for the song and also added the line “I love you” translated into several languages: Spanish, Italian, English, Arabic, Hebrew and Dutch. At the first rehearsal when I taught the song & my arrangement to the choir, it felt like the singers really connected to the music and the message. The sentence “I love you” became transcendent, I could see it in their eyes, and I was touched too. This happens every time we sing the song, these moments in music are the ones that really open our hearts.
A challenging performance and how you faced it.
We once were called by the Paradiso National Choir Festival in the Netherlands, asking us to sub for another choir that fell through from the lineup. I had to reach out to the members and have everyone in the city and ready to perform within 5 hours. I was a bit worried because most members couldn’t actually make it and we had to perform with a small group of 6 singers. In the past we had only performed live as a large group and the singers didn’t have experience performing in chamber settings. But they did an amazing job and it worked like a charm! I was very proud of their flexibility and performance.
A favorite piece of repertoire & why
I love the song Haka’as (The Fury) by Rockfour band. It’s originally a kicking rock song with a lot of attitude. The original arrangement is nice, but I felt I wanted to bring out more depth in the song that already existed in the multifaceted tense lyrics. So I wrote an arrangement that transformed the song into a tear-jerking choral. Sometimes it’s up to the arrangement to bring out the true colors of the song. It’s a challenging arrangement vocally, especially because the singers have to control their breath technique. But when sung well, it’s a real treat.
What is one lesson your choir has learned from competitions?
Though we’ve never participated in a competition as a choir, in my own experience, the best advice I can pass along is to stay true to who you are and think about your performances as opportunities to play in front of an audience that doesn’t know you yet.
When I won the Mooie Noten competition in the Netherlands in 2010, they called me from the radio for a live interview. Their 1st question was “How did it feel to hold the trophy in your hand?” I was a bit taken aback by the question and replied with “It was ok”. The reporter was shocked and implied that I was being ungrateful. I explained that the actual trophy didn’t mean much to me as an object and nor does the winning itself. I mean, the jury consists of three or four people in total, and it’s only their personal opinion. However, the finals were held in the Open Air Theater in Vondelpark, where I got to perform in front of an audience of 2000 people! If I won their hearts during the concert, it means more to me than the trophy or the winning.
What is your audition process?
We don’t do a formal audition. We invite the aspiring new members to take part in a try-out during a rehearsal. I’m able to recognize the new voices and tell if they are able to blend within the group. In case people are singing too softly because of being shy, I usually ask them to stay for a few minutes after the rehearsal so I can hear their voice individually and place them in the vocal group that will emphasize the best features of their voices.
Hebrew Groove is a young, contemporary, Hebrew vocal group based in Amsterdam. The repertoire consists of Hebrew pop songs from all periods, retouched with the groovy piano and close harmony vocal arrangements of conductor and vocal coach Nani. Hebrew Groove has performed (among others) at: Amsterdam MuseumNacht, Paradiso Choir Festival, Salaam-Shalom solidarity event for Charlie Hebdo, Namen en Nummers, Koor en More Festival, Gouda bij Kaarslicht Festival and more. Hebrew Groove rehearses weekly on Tuesdays at Beth Shalom Amsterdam and welcomes new members. The texts are written in phonetics so no previous knowledge of Hebrew is required. For more info please email: [email protected]
Noam Vazana (Nani) is an acclaimed international Singer/Composer, reviving Andalusian & Sephardic sounds for the world’s 1st original Ladino album.
She has won the SENA Performers Award 2019 NL, ACE Premiere Award 2019 UK, International Sephardic Music Award 2017 ES and ACUM Album Award 2014 ISR.
Ranking iTunes Top-20 and officially selected as a WOMEX panelist, Nani performed at the Kennedy Center USA, Manchester Jazz Festival UK, North Sea Jazz NL, Jazzahead DE, Roccella Jazz IT, Intl. Peace Conference CH, TEDx NL and more. She composed music for BBC and NPO documentaries & released 3 solo albums. Discover more of her work at www.noam-vazana.com