Magical musical Sunday for Sydney

August 10, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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Shir Madness, Sydney’s first ever Jewish music festival, will feature 40 bands and four stages at its inaugural launch on Sunday.

J-Wire spoke to Festival Director, Gary Holzman.

JW: Where did the idea come from?

Gary Holzman

GH: It’s an idea I have had in my head for a very long time. I have been running a course for the last five years for the Jewish School of Rock…an eight week course at Shalom College and Temple Emanuel North Shore looking into the Jewish involvement in the rock music industry. It revealed the extent of Jewish participation and also how many of them went out of their way to hide their Jewish identity….Robert Zimmerman becoming Bob Dylan, Carol Klein becoming Carol King and so on. Whereas they underplayed their Jewishness, listening to their music often invoked a strong undercurrent of their background. In today’s world, Jewish youth is producing so many talented musicians and performers and I felt the community as a whole does not do a wonderful job in supporting, promoting and encouraging that talent. The art and cultural activities are the life and blood of all communities.

JW: Will Shir Madness have a similar feel to the Byron Bay Blues Festival and the Thredbo Jazz Festival?

GH: Exactly right. We’ve adopted that same idea where every style of music can be sampled with four stages running simultaneously. I love the mix of people who went to the Blues and Jazz festivals…people from varied backgrounds who share a love of music. 20-yr-olds engaged with 60-yr-olds in discussions about the same music.

JW: Do you play music yourself?

GH: I am a failed musician. I did play steel guitar in my youth,,,but very badly. At least it gives me the ability to appreciate true musicianship. My neighbours where extremely happy when I stopped playing.

JW: What are the guidelines for the Festival?

GH: We auditioned Jewish performers who can play any material and non-Jewish musicians who play Jewish material.

JW: So you have the idea in place. What now?

GH: I ran two courses last year at Shalom College one on Phil Spector, the other on Blacks, Blues and Jews and an extra one called Yidstock, Sydney’s First Jewish Music Festival? I wanted to see if there were others interested in the concept of a Jewish Music Festival. More than 25 people came to the discussion and many shared my enthusiasm for the idea. From that nucleus grew the whole concept…so here we are today.

JW: Were those joining your management group aware of the risks at stake in mounting such an ambitious project?

GH: Absolutely. Everyone was doing it for their love of music and to support Jewish performers. But there was a good reason to feel fairly confident. Many of the volunteers came from a background from which they had the expertise to pull this thing together. For example…Phil Meltzer. Phil is handling the technical side. He has been a sound and light man for Australian bands like Rose Tatoo and stars like Julie Anthony. He move to Israel and was in charge of the main theatre in Tel Aviv for five years and now works with Haycom…the company which stages events such as The Festival of Sydney.

JW: So far, does it appear that the community is accepting of the Festival?

GH: The response has been fabulous but our big job remains to spread the word as widely as possible. We have now got more than 130 people lined up to help on Sunday.

JW: Will this be the fore-runner of an annual event?

GH: That is most certainly our plan. Not only will we make it manual but we would like to extend it to Melbourne as well…that will make it more viable for international acts.

JW: Have any of the networks shown any interest In Shir Madness?

GH: ABC Radio is sending a crew on the day to broadcast and record some of the acts and SBS too. We are making a documentary which we hope will find it’s way to TV screens.

JW: 40 performers…four stages all working simultaneously…how?

GH: Times are staggered on the stages but there will be performances running at the same time so you have to choose your favorite performers as it will be impossible to see them all.

JW: What if it rains?

GH: We have taken all the necessary precautions…including the logistics in moving the bands’ equipment….and security.

JW: Are you promoting Shir Madness in the Jewish community only?

GH: No. We have advertised in the local papers and hope to attract the broader community, too.

JW: Good luck with Shir Madness.


One Response to “Magical musical Sunday for Sydney”
  1. admin says:

    Looking forward to seeing you on the weekend


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