by Josh Warshawsky, Performing Arts Coordinator
On Sunday night Camp Ramah in Wisconsin hosted an incredibly ruach-filled and memorable Zimriyah song festival. Since we are celebrating Ramah’s 70th anniversary, the evening mainly featured songs that were written by camp alumni. Each aidah spent the last two weeks practicing their song, and had the opportunity to sing and perform it in front of the whole camp. The Zimriyah is one of my favorite events – it’s the first time we gather together as a camp, and it’s an awesome way to kick off the summer. The evening was emceed by two Nivonimers, Rocky Cohen and Natan Vales, who seamlessly and energetically led us through the evening.
Our Rishonim campers (staff children) started off the evening, singing a song called Chanoch La’na’ar written by Eliana Light, 2013 Rosh Shirah. Next came our Garinim campers, with an awesome new rendition of Etz Chayim He written by Naomi Less, a Jewish rock star and camper and counselor in the 80’s. Our Garinim campers liked the song so much that they have continued to use it during Tefillah on Mondays and Thursdays when we read Torah! Next our Solelim campers sang Dodi Li by Brian Gelfand. They sang this smooth, jazzy tune so well, it blew us all away! Brian Gelfand was the artist-in-residence in my first years at camp, and I still remember recording music with him when I was in Halutzim and Shoafim. Next came Shoafim, with Vi’li’yerushalayim ircha, also by Brian Gelfand. This was one of the first songs I ever learned at camp, way back in 2001!
Bogrim followed with an awesome rendition of Habocheir, a new tune that I wrote just for this year’s Zimriyah. Then came Machon and Tikvah, singing Modim by Matt Kalin, an awesome musician and Ramah alum who was on staff in the 1990’s. Nivonim and the Tzevet (staff) closed out the evening with songs of the future and a tribute to one of our most world-famous camp songs. Nivonim sang a song called Zocher Ani by Yishai Ribo. It’s a song about creating memories, and thinking back on the special moments in our lives. Our international staff sang V’shamru by Rabbi Yosi Gordon and Rabbi Moshe Rothblum, which was actually written for a camp play in 1967! Our Mishlachat sang Lev Chofshi by Muki, and finally our entire tzevet closed out the evening with Et Rekod by Yaakov Schwekey, a song about dancing and celebrating happy times together. All in all it was a fantastic evening of song and music.
In addition to all of the beautiful singing, over 25 campers and staff participated in our Tizmoret (orchestra), conducted by Nadav Gal, (who arranged all the music for orchestra performance), and the wonderfully talented musician-in-residence Meira Silverstein.
Our Rosh Musica this summer, Edon Valdman, shares a little about the Tizmoret:
The Tizmoret is an orchestra made up of both campers and staff that plays all the music live for each of the six Hebrew Broadway musicals, as well as for the Zimriyah. The Tizmoret experience is extremely fun and is a great way for campers who play instruments to continue practicing during the summer. In preparation for the performances, we have about three rehearsals over the course of each week leading up to each play. For the Zimriyah, we have a rehearsal almost every day due to the much larger set of songs to learn. Along with performing the music during all of the shows, the Tizmoret also plays jazz or Klezmer music as the rest of camp enter the Beit Am.
The presence of music professionals – together with programming like the Zimriyah, the Broadway musicals, the camper orchestra, the a cappella choir, instrument lessons, as well as shira (song) sessions after meals and on Shabbat – create a vibrant camp atmosphere filled with music!