Sefi’s slogan: ‘Let’s party’

Sefi displays his oud, a stringed instrument with a round back.

By Lindajoy Fenley

“Would you like a Greek party? … a Balkan party? … a Middle Eastern party?”

Midwestern children at the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble’s workshops shout “yes” as Sefi Asfuri Hirsh picks up his bouzouki with intricate mother of pearl inlay for Greek sounding music and Talya Solan sings Hebrew lyrics.

Fun at final workshops

Smiling musicians give a thumbs up.

By Lindajoy Fenley

When I heard a Jefferson school third grader listening to the ensemble’s sound check say their music sounded both Egyptian and Indian, I knew the last workshop of the tour was going to be good. The kids were primed for it and so was the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble. The only thing left on the ensemble’s itinerary were two classroom conversations at Valley City State University, a short musical presentation at the Sheyenne Care Center on Friday, and their final concert on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Reaching out to everyman

Workshop in a high school gymnasium.

By Lindajoy Fenley

We drove nearly an hour over straight prairie roads to give workshops to high 70 high schoolers in the small town of Marion and later to about the same number of elementary students at Litchville Elementary. This small North Dakotan school district with dwindling enrollment draws students from a 400-square-mile area.

Appreciative high schoolers were shy about asking questions but as soon as the workshop ended, they told their choir teacher they’d like to get a bus for Saturday because so many of them want to go to the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble’s concert at Valley City State University.

Successful Q&As

Band teacher directs a room full of students with instruments and music stands.

By Lindajoy Fenley

Valley City students filling the auditorium twice Monday morning asked the same well-worn questions the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble has heard for the past month: How long have you played? When did you form the band? What is the most difficult instrument to play?

But things got interesting after Yonnie Dror turned the tables on them in the band class that followed lunch.

Exploring visual arts

Theater marquee announces Israeli Ethnic Ensemble concert on Nov. 6th.

By Lindajoy Fenley

There is much to report about rich experiences in world of visual arts last week as South Dakotans responded to the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble’s musical gifts with plastic arts, ranging from opportunities to work with crafts to an invitation into the studio of a nationally acclaimed sculptor.

Too young; too old; just right

Yonnie stands in the parking lot of local radio station building.

By Lindajoy Fenley

Sometimes World Fest residencies feel a little like Goldilocks’ experience with the Three Bears. After giving workshops for kindergartners through sixth graders at six Aberdeen schools, the ensemble performed for two groups of senior citizens. Finally they found a coffee house frequented by people their own age.

Crossroads culture

Avri plays the upright bass on stage.

By Lindajoy Fenley

Just as Israel sits between Asia, Africa and Europe, members of the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble look to those three continents for their ancestry. “Each one of us has a parent from Europe [or America] and another from either Asia or Africa,” Avri Borochov told an Aberdeen audience this week.

Young Dakotans welcome ensemble

Aberdeen high school students pose with members of the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble.

By Lindajoy Fenley

At the Monday evening welcome reception, Mayor Mike Levsen congratulated the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble for their efforts to bring diversity and cultural exchange to the community during their upcoming residency in Aberdeen, SD. Jeff Bahr of the Aberdeen American News asked the traveling musicians how they liked giving workshops and traveling to new parts of the world, and what Israel and its culture were like.

Wrapping up the Beauty & Melody tour

Beauty & Melody on stage in front of school children.

By Shigeyo Henriquez

The last stop, the last week of Beauty & Melody in the U.S., brought us to Knoxville, Iowa. Every day we could feel closer to the day to say “Goodbye.” It’s the toughest day of the tour, the final day.

A week went by as usual, workshops at Northstar Elementary school, West Elementary school and middle school. We visited the 3M factory in town, took a tour of the production area, and gave a mini performance for the workers.

The final workshop in Knoxville was for high school students.

Sound man is keen observer

Evgeny Krolik stands in front of antique cars

By Lindajoy Fenley

You won’t see Evgeny Krolik on stage. But without this silent member of the group, few people would hear the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble, now touring five Midwestern States. Since he uses a finely-tuned ear and years of experience to control the sound board, audiences appreciate his work whether they see him or not.

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