Anthem of hope

Young musician opens Carnegie Hall show with ‘Hatikvah’

18-year-old pianist Kevin Chen — who won an award in Tel Aviv earlier this year — plays Israel’s national anthem in show of support for Jewish state amid ongoing war

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

18-year-old Kevin Chen opens a performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall with Israel’s national anthem "Hatikvah," October 19, 2023. (Screen capture: YouTube, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
18-year-old Kevin Chen opens a performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall with Israel’s national anthem "Hatikvah," October 19, 2023. (Screen capture: YouTube, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

JTA — A rising star in the world of piano opened a performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall last week with Israel’s national anthem, as the country wages war against Hamas in Gaza.

Footage circulating on social media showed Kevin Chen, 18, sitting at the piano bench on Thursday evening and — without introduction — beginning to play the melody. After the first few notes, some members of the audience joined in singing the anthem, called “Hatikvah,” Hebrew for “the hope.”

Chen, who is Canadian, won first prize in the prestigious Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv earlier this year, which is geared toward young pianists.

He has performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and the Israel Camerata, according to Canada’s National Arts Centre. Chen is also a composer, and has performed with a range of other orchestras and won numerous awards.

Since Hamas’s brutal onslaught against southern Israel earlier this month, in which some 1,400 people were killed, thousands more wounded and at least 224 taken hostage, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra has held free concerts for evacuees from southern Israel and residents of the capital. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which performs in Tel Aviv, has canceled all upcoming events as the city continues to be targeted by regular rocket fire.

The announced program for Chen’s Thursday performance at Carnegie Hall included numbers by Felix Mendelssohn, Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt.

Israel’s official account on X shared footage of the performance, thanking Chen and saying he was “paying tribute to the Israeli victims murdered and those who are being held hostage by Hamas.”

“New York stands with Israel, from rallies and vigils to the stage of Carnegie Hall,” the UJA-Federation of New York said.

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