Chava Alberstein warms up Laxson with songs of love and country
If I had any doubt (and I didn’t) as to whether I was in the right building, I may have been tipped off by some of the tidbits of before-show conversations I overheard: “There’s Rabbi!” “I owe you a menorah…”
I was definitely in the right place at the right time to witness the performance of Israel’s “First Lady of Song,” Chava (pronounced Hah-va) Alberstein. And what a moving performance she and her two accompanists—Oved Efrat on acoustic guitar and Avi Agababa on various percussion and background vocals—gave us.
Alberstein sang most of her songs in Hebrew, with a few in Yiddish and a couple in English, in her almost-two-hour-long show, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar as well. I didn’t understand a word of the first song of the night—in Hebrew—but I certainly felt the emotions she was putting across. “Plaintive” and “beautiful” were the words I scribbled in my notes.
Much of Alberstein’s performance consisted of songs of love of various kinds: love of country, love of those outside of your country, lovers meeting in a secret garden, love as improvisation ("Love is an endless improvisation,” she translated for us, “Listen carefully and find the right moment to enter…"). Alberstein’s warm, passionate voice on occasion threw in a little yodel-type move or would go into a mournful cry to illustrate a yearning emotion.
Alberstein’s song, in Yiddish, about an old Russian man who is longing to live in Israel was breathtakingly sad and lovely. He sits under a tree and repeats the names of the trees he yearns to see, and “a tear is almost falling from his eye.”
Some of Alberstein’s songs had a political bent to them, such as "Black Video," about an African foreign worker’s hard life in Tel Aviv, but she never came across as angry. She sang about difficult subjects—whether love or adversity—with beauty and hope.