Israel’s independence celebrated in empty Dutch music hall
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The show must go on

Israel’s independence celebrated in empty Dutch music hall

What should have been first public concert to mark anniversary of Jewish state’s founding is canceled due to coronavirus lockdown, but organizers record performance anyway

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — This year was supposed to be the first time that Israel’s Independence Day was celebrated in a public concert at the main royal concert hall in the Netherlands.

Planned for April 28 at the 134-year-old Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the concert was to feature well-known artists including Shuly Nathan playing her iconic “Jerusalem of Gold” before an expected sellout crowd of 2,000 spectators.

The event was canceled because of the coronavirus, yet Israel’s 72nd birthday was still celebrated at the Concertgebouw thanks to the determination of the concert’s producer, Barry Mehler, who also produces the annual Hanukkah concert at the hall.

Mehler, a US-born professional singer and cantor who has been living in Amsterdam since 1989, in recent days recorded five tracks in Israel’s honor with a group of musicians from the Jewish Amsterdam Chamber Ensemble. They played in an empty hall while observing social distancing protocols.

The setup used the empty hall as background to haunting effect: The musicians are facing the camera with their backs to the red velvet-upholstered seats.

The tracks, which Mehler has shared online, include an instrumental rendition of “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, and the melancholic song “Mishehu,” or “Someone,” written by Matti Caspi, for Israel’s Memorial Day, which symbolically precedes the nation’s Independence Day.

“Performing in the main hall of the Concertgebouw is an honor reserved to few professional musicians, and more so, that they have allowed us to record parts of our canceled concert,” Mehler, 54, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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