Ger Conducts Perlman

December 15, 2011 by Henry Benjamin
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Sydney’s Russell Ger’s dreams of becoming a recognised conductor have taken a massive leap forward…he has just completed a recording session in New York conducting an orchestra featuring the iconic Itzhak Perlman.

Russell Ger

Itzhak Perlman

The 30-yr-old Sydneysider now based in New York was the conductor on a project for Sony Music to produce an album starring celebrated cantor Meir Helfgot performing with Itzhak Perlman with a hand-picked orchestra of New York’s top resident musicians. The CD features chazzanat, Klezmer and classic Yiddish music. The Boston Klezmer Conservatory Band make an appearance on two of the tracks…and all under the baton of the ex-choirmaster of Sydney’s The Central Synagogue.

Ger told J-Wire: “To become a conductor has been my dream. To conduct an orchestra featuring Itzhak Perlman was something I could never have imagined.”

Following his Barmitzvah at Central, Ger joined the synagogue’s choir. Cantor Shimon Farkas told J-Wire: “When he was 18, an opportunity arose to take over the choirmaster’s position and despite his young years, we took a chance and offered him the position. The choir went from strength to strength.”

Cantor Meir Helfgot has visited Sydney on a few occasions, notably one during which he performed with Australian rock star Jimmy Barnes. He first sang in the synagogue accompanied by its choir under the direction of the young Russell Ger in 2005.

Three years ago, Ger left Sydney to further his music studies on a path which he hoped would lead him to the conductor’s podium. He attained a Masters degree in Conducting in Boston following which he moved to New York.

In a conversation between Farkas and Helfgot, the New York chazan told his Sydney friend that the Park East Synagogue at which sang, was without a choirmaster and the congregation was  searching for a new one.

Farkas strongly suggested that his former choirmaster Russell Ger, no stranger to Helfgot, be considered. The job was his.

This year, Sony Music received a request from world famous violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman who wanted to produce a CD with Helfgot. The music company welcomed the project, accepting  Helfgot’s demand  that the recording session had to be conducted by his musical director..Russell Ger.

The ex-Moriah student found himself on the conductor’s podium  holding the baton in the Avatar Studios in New York where Bruce Springsteen had recorded “Born to Run”.

The session is now complete.

Ger told J-Wire this week: “I only knew and admired Perlman for his Brahms and Betthoven violin concertos. I knew his recording so well that he felt oddly familiar to me. He has this old European Jewish charm and is extremely humble.”

Ger, who studied music at the University of New South Wales, was not aware that Perlman had a background of performing Klezmer. He added: “I felt somewhat intimidated, but the quality of the musicians and the humble charm of Ithzak Perlman overcame the challenge…Meir Helfgot does not read music. During the two days we recorded, the spirit of collaboration was amazing.”

For a very proud Shimon Farkas in Sydney, Ger had special words: “I grew up listening to Perlman play and never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would one day have the opportunity to work with him. I tell you this because in large part it is because of you. You took a chance on me when I was young, inexperienced and headstrong. But you had enough foresight, patience, and belief in my talent to endure what I know must have been difficult at times. From my perspective, you know that from the first time I ever heard you sing I was desperate to work with you; and I learned an inestimable amount from the experience.

The factor that really has made the difference to my life, however, was your continued support in helping me to attain the position at Park East. You didn’t stand anything to gain from this but took it upon yourself to help me anyway. It is only because of this position that I was able to stay in the United States and make a living as a working musician.

I hope that we will have a chance to work together soon.”

The Central Synagogue’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Levi Wolff, told J-Wire: “We are extremely proud of Russell being accepted in his field of endeavour at such a high level.”

The president of Moriah College Mark Schneider told J-Wire: “It gives us great joy to see a Moriah student excel on on the world stage. Russell’s success must serve as an example to all students as to where talent, ambition and hard work can take them.”


Sony expect to release the new CD in mid 2012.


One Response to “Ger Conducts Perlman”
  1. Barry Smorgon says:

    Could not have happened to a nicer person.
    good on him for pursuing a dream & turning it into reality.
    well done russell

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