A Chanukah Gift to Us All
By Chaya Sara Schlussel
This Yom Tov, we've got an extra reason to celebrate. As
we light up our homes with dancing flames, we'll also
get to light up our hearts with music worth dancing
to! It's a special Chanukah gift to us all, from the
gifted Eli Gerstner. Once again, this beloved and acclaimed
composer/producer has created a work of musical artistry,
blending the vibrant voices of his Yeshiva Boys Choir
into a pure, unprecedented masterpiece. This latest
CD is not just a collection of Chanukah tunes. It's
YBC 5 - hitting the stands in time for Chanukah. Featuring
a perfect mix of all-new, all-original, as well as all-time-favorite
tracks, this album is guaranteed to leave its listeners
YBC 5 is reinventing the Yom Tov CD.
When people see a new Yom Tov or Shabbos CD on the market,
they tend to assume it's just a 'filler album.' They
think it's just a compilation of pre-existing songs,
or a miscellany of new pieces put together as an afterthought,
without measuring up to the time, effort, or monetary
investment of a 'real' CD. That may be true of some
albums, but anyone who knows Eli Gerstner can attest
to the fact that nothing he does is mundane, middling
or mediocre. Eli and the Yeshiva Boys continually set
new standards in the JM industry, always pushing the
envelope and raising the bar. The word 'filler' isn't
listed in his personal performance dictionary. And YBC
5 is no exception. There are eleven outstanding selections
on the CD, and every one is worthy of a standing ovation.
Every track bar none was a labor of love for Eli, for
at-the-helm choir leader Yossi Newman, and for their
select group of budding young stars. Nine of the songs
are brand new hits that will have fans alternately exploding
from their seats in excitement, and shedding tender
tears of emotion. And the other two (bonus tracks if
you will) are medleys that are stand-alone stunners
in their own right. No question about it: YBC 5 will
pluck at your heartstrings with every chord.
There are so many runaway hits on this
album. One especially dynamic and dynamite track is
the song that fires up the CD right from the beginning:
"Mizmor Shir Chanukas Habayis." If you tapped
into the rhythm of previous YBC hits like "Kol
Hamispallel," "V'ahavta" and "Shabechi,"
then this rendition is really going to give you an adrenaline
rush. "Mizmor Shir" is an even happier, even
more energetic version of those fan-favorites you most
enjoy. It's everything you love about YBC, wrapped up
in a faster, feistier tempo.
The first time Eli Gerstner debuted
an English song for the YBC, was on YBC 3. Until then,
Eli felt that in English everything had already been
said and done. Unless he could introduce a truly original
concept, he preferred to write beautiful compositions
to heartfelt pesukim in Tefillah and Tehillim. With
the then-recent tragedy of Gush Katif, Eli finally felt
he had the perfect English concept. So on a YBC 3 track
called "In a Song," Eli touchingly referred
to the calamity that had befallen our nation in Israel.
The song became very popular, and is still requested
frequently at choir performances. Since that time, everyone's
been repeatedly asking for another English song. And
now, with YBC 5, Eli accedes to us with not one, but
two! awesome renditions that are equally powerful, but
very different from one another. "Daddy Come Home"
will make listeners weepy-eyed and trembling. "Those
Were the Nights" will make them double over with
Eli didn't hesitate when it came to English lyrics.
As a Jewish music connoisseur, he knew to head straight
toward the man who is, hands-down, the 'best in the
business.' Nobody writes them like Country Yossi. English
songs come and go, but how many of them have the emotional
impact of, say, "Deaf Man in the Shteeble?"
How many of them have entertained and amused two generations,
like the unforgettable "Beep Beep?" Yossi
Toiv doesn't just put words to paper. He puts heart
and soul into every line. That's why, when "Daddy
Come Home" made history at the YBC concert on Chol
Hamoed Sukkos, the crowd was profoundly moved.
Eli, Yossi and their troupe have performed for many
years, in many places. Over the course of his musical
career, Eli has developed a special feel - an awareness
- for his audience. He can instinctively sense whether
or not they're 'into' a song. At the Chol Hamoed concert,
when this inspirational track was staged, the crowd
went wild. Everyone stood up unanimously, in tribute
to the awesome symmetry of stirring composition and
poignant lyrics. Eli had planned to perform another
song after "Daddy Come Home," but upon seeing
the reaction in the theater, he knew he couldn't top
it. He stopped there. After every show, Gerstner gets
many emails from his fans, voicing various compliments
(& complaints). But after that concert, every one
of his emails conveyed incomparable praise for "Daddy
Come Home". Heart-wrenchingly sung by Yaakov Mordechai
Gerstner on the album, if for no other reason, it is
worth purchasing YBC 5 just to hear this single musical
The second English song on the album is a humorous look
at Chanukahs past, called "Those Were the Nights."
This is straight-up, flat-out Country Yossi, doing what
he does best. It takes a hysterical look at those eight
dreidel-spinning, latke-gorging, gelt-giving nights
of our youth. The boys loved performing it in the studio.
They couldn't keep still while singing it though, and
had to do many retakes before they managed to stifle
a great new "Yevanim" song on the CD. Eli
wrote this composition years ago, and was just waiting
for the right platform upon which to properly display
it. For this track, Eli went to the same guy who does
all of their YBC Live remixes with techno music: Shai
Barak. Usually, Eli takes an existing track and gives
it to Shai to remix with new instruments, and a cooler,
funkier style. On their YBC Live DVD, Eli and Co. make
a full production music video of those remixes that
everybody loves. So this time, Gerstner decided to hand
the song to Shai originally, and have him work his magic
with it right from the start. And wow, is it magical!
Although Eli preferred to start off the CD with a song
that could be sung all year round; one that did not
specifically associate with Chanukah, "Yevanim"
is so incredible and intense that Eli seriously considered
putting it first. You've gotta hear it to believe it!
"Maoz Tzur" is a slow ballad that Eli wrote
along with the multi-talented Dovid Nachman from The
Chevra. They've written many songs together previously,
including the ever-popular "Shema Koleinu."
But Eli insists that "Maoz Tzur" is far and
away the prettiest piece they've ever collaborated on.
It was finished years ago, and Eli's been itching to
put it onto a CD ever since, but it had to be the right
CD to showcase such a remarkable rendition. YBC 5 puts
"Maoz Tzur" in the candle-lit limelight.
Many people are asking whether or not YBC will take
center stage this Chanukah. The answer is yes - only
not in Brooklyn. Their concert will be held in Toronto,
and hailed as the biggest JM show to headline in Canada.
The group completed an astonishing 8 shows this past
Sukkos in the tri-state area, at which more than 10,000
people attended. Concerts were staged in Far Rockaway,
Queens, Monsey, Brooklyn, etc. and every one was a stellar
success. So for now, they're giving fans in faraway
places a chance to enjoy the one-of-a-kind music that
had made YBC a household name. But they'll iy'H be back
in time for Pesach with YBC Live 4, during which they'll
record their wildly popular, blockbuster DVD. You can
expect seats in Queens College to sell out well in advance,
so don't be left out of that surefire show!
I can't help but trumpet and toot the horn about Yeshiva
Boys Choir Vol. 5. It's not just a CD, it's an upbeat,
uplifting experience. With classics of the past and
classics for the future, the album will leave its enduring
imprint on your memory, and its enduring impact on your
heart. This Chanukah, don't just watch the flames dance
in your home - get up and dance along with them, to
the music of YBC 5.