A duet of the new and familiar with Yermi Kaplan and Maya Isacowitz
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A duet of the new and familiar with Yermi Kaplan and Maya Isacowitz

The annual Piano Festival performance paired the two guitarists onstage for an intimate performance

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Yermi Kaplan onstage at the Piano Festival in Tel Aviv on Thursday, October 25, 2018 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Yermi Kaplan onstage at the Piano Festival in Tel Aviv on Thursday, October 25, 2018 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Guitarist and singer/songwriter Yermi Kaplan was completely attuned to his sold-out Piano Festival audience on Thursday night, seated on chairs encircling the small stage at one of the smaller Cameri Theater spaces.

He cracked jokes about looking for spaces in the Golda parking lot underneath the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Cameri Theater complex, and told latecomers that he wouldn’t start until they were seated.

Those are the intimate comforts of performing in the relatively smaller theaters of the Piano Festival, when performers and audience come into closer contact with one another.

Kaplan started late, about 20 minutes after the allotted hour for the short, hour and a half performance. But he was paying attention to the crowd, snapping and gently clapping for the beat, and encouraging everyone else to join in.

Accompanied by a pianist, bass guitarist and drummer, the band set off with some of Kaplan’s best-known songs, “Kvar Acshav,” “Kama Nedaber,” presenting a tight, musically sound set of about seven pieces before being joined by Maya Isacowitz, his duet for part of the evening.

The concept of the annual Piano Festival is to pair musicians together, often pianists, although not only, sometimes putting longtime collaborators or friends onstage, or a younger musician with an older, more veteran performer.

Kaplan, a Chicago-born American who moved to Israel with his family when he was eight, bears some similarities in background to Isacowitz, who was born here to South African-born parents. But Kaplan, who has been working as a solo artist for years, has always composed his sometimes plaintive songs about relationships in Hebrew, while Isacowitz tends to prefer English for her folk-rock compositions that have turned decidedly more pop in recent years.

The two singers tried out each other’s songs on Thursday night, Isacowitz leading on Kaplan’s “Modedet,” while Kaplan sang backup on two of her works, “Wait” and “Brave.”

Their best duet was toward the end, when Isacowitz came out again to sing Soft Cell’s 1981 hit “Tainted Love,” which finally got the crowd out of their comfortable seats, although Kaplan did have to ask everyone to get up.

There wasn’t enough time for all of Kaplan’s encores, as another performer for the Piano Festival was due to set up onstage.

But the crowd was pleased with Kaplan, and he shrugged with a grin, bidding us farewell.

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