Superstars of Australian music feature in festival

October 8, 2018 by Geoff Sirmai
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SHIR MADNESS returned to Sydney with the brightest of stars to bring light and joy to a rainy  Sunday.  

Dami Im and Glenn Shorrock

Taking place for the first time in the newly renovated Emanuel Synagogue in Woollahra, the shule proved the perfect host for the 11 hour music feast. Four separate stages including the light and airy new sanctuary rocked and rolled as audiences alternately sat spellbound, sang along, danced… or stood and cheered to 25 different acts that spanned the classical to the folk, the spiritual to Broadway, jazz and chanson and klezmer to pop.

Highlight and climax of the festival was definitely the ever-popular ‘Song of Songs’ segment this year featuring Glenn Shorrock, Dami Im, Richard Clapton, Josh Pyke, Emma Pask, Nadav Kahn, Dave  Rosen & Hannah Joy performing songs by Jewish composers that have inspired them – and accompanied by the spectacular Band of Bands, led by Jonathan Zwartz. 

Early on, classical music was the order of the day and Australia’s most popular contemporary composer Elena Kats-Chernindelighted the early arrivals with a performance peppered with entertaining anecdotes. A glorious treat of Romantic classics by Simon Tedeschi and Roger Benedict further underlined the quality of the lineup this year.

Elana Kats-Chernin

Nefesh Mountain, however, was the star attraction and they didn’t disappoint – their joyful ‘Jewgrass’ music literally making the joint jump! There was a special kids concert where the NYC headline act showed their versatility playing to a room packed with young families. Tip Toe Giants were likewise a hit with the young and young at heart. There were artisan stalls, workshops and demonstrations, food, drink… and much schmoozing! Plus a wonderful art exhibition curated by the indefatigable Estelle Rozinski.

Among the fresh and vibrant talent were Melbourne’s Alma Zygierwith her quartet, sequin-clad Bonnie Love  (aka Sara Yael) and a thoroughly charming set by Melbourne musical comedian Jude Perl.

US-based Sydney cabaret star and Helpmann nominee Alexis Fishman was a hit with her dynamite tribute to Amy Winehouse “Amy: Resurrected’ and brilliant young multi-instrumentalist Jonah Primo told terrifying and surreal stories that the crowd danced to!

Speaking of dancing, super-popular Ilan Kidron and his all-star band Glass and laterHello Tut Tut, had completely full houses dancing in the aisles and giving a standing ovation.

There was dancing of a different kind when cantor George Mordecai presented the Mizrachi/Eastern blend of “Baghdad to Bondi” with songs, exotic music and sensuous poetry.

 Phia and Shai Shrikibrought a change of pace before the very spiritual Temple of Song and zany “Mysteries of Mad River” (Keppie Coutts) brought the fun to a finish.

Leonie Cohen & Nicky Crayson, Foxman, Dafka, On the Stoop, Graeme Pillemer, Harmony of the Angels, Chelsea Berman, Raduga Trio and Jonno Zilber also featured in a best-ever Shir Madness that will have Sydney (and Melbourne!) counting the weeks before the next festival!

Photos: Asaf Luft and David Mane


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