| Standing Ovation |

The Concert that Set the Stage


ack in the summer of 1987, my friend Sheya Mendlowitz called me and said he had spent an amazing Shabbos at Camp HASC, but that they were experiencing financial difficulties. He was psyched to do a concert for them, to raise some badly needed funds. I thought for a moment and said, “So let’s do something really huge.”

Sheya responded, “We’ll get Mordechai Ben David and Avraham Fried together.”

“We need to go even bigger!” I replied. “We need to reinvent the whole concert formula. Let’s do it in Lincoln Center, let’s make it a black-tie event, and let’s charge $500 a ticket.”

“Five hundred dollars a ticket?? Who will pay that?!”

“You’ll see,” I said, “there will be people trying to buy tickets and we’ll be sold out.”

For the next three months, we worked around the clock. We contacted Lincoln Center and they called Sheya, Yisroel Lamm, and me down for a production meeting. On the way, Sheya said, “Let’s go pick up some food at Lou G. Siegels — it’ll put everyone in a good mood.”

When we got there, ten people from Lincoln Center were seated around the table, plus three of us. “Okay,” they began, “who’s your LD?” I whispered to Yisroel Lamm, “What’s an LD?” He whispered back, “Maybe a lighting director?”

“Oh, my LD? That would be Shimon Golding,” I replied, trying not to miss a beat. “And what company is he with?” they asked. “He’s the head of Golding Lighting.”

They weren’t done. “Who’s your set designer?” Another question for which I had no ready answer. “Chaim Halbfinger,” I replied. “Excellent! And his company is…?” “Halbfinger Design,” I answered.

Another person asked who our stage manager was. “That would be me!” At least I knew the answer to that one.

As we were leaving the meeting, I walked over to Bobby, Lincoln Center’s production manager. “Bobby, you need to know that we’re new at this.”

“No kidding!” He smiled. “But when we saw the brochure you showed us of the work Camp HASC does, those children became our children. So no need to worry — we’re here for you guys… and by the way, the chopped liver sandwiches didn’t hurt either!”

We left with lots of homework. Yisroel Lamm began creating the now famous HASC concert theme song and Sheya began the advertising campaign with the help of Mark Weisz Design. They created the famous logo with the three musical instruments that’s still used today. I thought of the name A Time for Music and then called Rabbi Nosson Scherman of ArtScroll to ask if he could write some narration to tie the evening together between songs.

The next call was to my good friend Zale Newman in Toronto. I asked him if he was available on January 17th..“What have you got? An Uncle Moishy job?” Not this time. “Zale, I need you to host the first Camp HASC concert.” He said he would gladly be there.

Next, we needed an adult choir. I contacted Yochi Briskman, Ari Pollack, Yitzy Braun, and Mordechai Z. Dicker. They all agreed.

Now it was time to start working on the actual program. Sheya, Yisroel, and I sat down with MBD and Fried and hammered out what we thought would be a great show.

The day finally arrived. There was one thing I really wanted to accomplish, and that was to start the concert at 7:30 sharp. In those days, every single Jewish event started up to an hour later than the time scheduled, and my friends bet me it couldn’t be done. But come 7:30 that night, A Time for Music began. After the overture, Yoel Sharabi performed two songs, and then from backstage, Avraham Fried began singing, continuing onto the stage with mic in hand, while the surprised audience screamed with joy. Ninety seconds later, MBD joined him onstage to more applause — it was a dream come true. The singing. The lighting. The choir. The orchestra. The backdrops. The narration. Every single aspect came together in beautiful harmony. Every song was a winner, and the audience let us know it.

With about ten minutes left to the show, Sheya walked over to me, gave me a hug and said, “We did it! We sold out, we helped Camp HASC survive, and we put on a great show!” I said, “Almost. We still have ten minutes to go.…”

I wanted the finale to be great, but wasn’t sure how it would work. I thought that Avremel should sing “Forever One” with a slideshow of Camp HASC, and at the end of the song, have MBD and Yoel Sharabi bring out a HASC camper in his wheelchair. As soon as MBD wheeled the child onto the stage, the entire audience stood up and began cheering wildly. Finally, I was able to smile at Sheya and say, “We did it.”

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 692)

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