Itzhak Perlman Says Lifelong Values Forced Him To Scrap North Carolina Concert Over Transgender Bathroom Ban
Itzhak Perlman, the famed Israeli-American violinist who performed at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, has become the latest musician to cancel an appearance in North Carolina over the state’s recent bill curtailing antidiscrimination policies for people identifying as LGBT.
“As my fans know, I have spent a lifetime advocating against discrimination towards those with physical disabilities and have been a vocal advocate for treating all people equally,” Perlman wrote on his Facebook page. “As such, after great consideration, I have decided to cancel my May 18th concert in North Carolina with the North Carolina Symphony as a stand against House Bill 2.”
Talking with the Forward over the phone, Perlman elaborated on his decision.
“Since I’d first known about the HB2 situation it was always on the front burner of my thoughts, whether I should cancel or not,” he said. “I felt on the one hand that this law was discriminatory and that it would affect people that don’t deserve to be affected that way. On the other hand, I said if I cancel the orchestra there would take the brunt of this cancellation.”
He decided to go, on one condition. “I said if I’m going to go, I would like to go and voice my opinion,” he said, “so I had a statement prepared which I was going to ask them to insert in the programs for the concert.” Two days before the concert he was told he would not be able to include that insert, at which point he decided to cancel his appearance.
Perlman sympathized with the Symphony’s position. “The orchestra is supported by the state,” he said. “They’re in a difficult situation.” He said the Symphony handled the situation well: “they understood when I said I was going to come, and they understood when I said I was not going to come.”
The North Carolina Symphony has released a statement contending, “The North Carolina Symphony welcomes all people with our hearts and minds open, and we are honored to share our music-making with everyone. However, as a non-partisan organization our performances are not an appropriate forum for political commentary.”
In choosing not to appear in Wednesday’s concert, Perlman is now part of a growing list of musicians cancelling North Carolina appearances in protest of HB2, including Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, and Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas.
“I hope that whatever I did in cancelling and whatever musicians do in cancelling will put this anti-discrimination law on the front burner,” Perlman said.
Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @TalyaZax
When Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchok Meir Helfgot take the stage of the Hollywood Bowl this evening for the latest stop on their Eternal Echoes tour, audience members who are not fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish or Aramaic will be able to follow the lyrics via English supertitles projected on giant screens located on both sides of the stage. This is all thanks to Hankus Netsky, the tour’s musical director and founder of the Klezmer Conservatory Band of Boston (KCB).
Netsky spoke to The Arty Semite yesterday en route to his hotel from the airport in L.A. in a van packed with his KCB bandmates, who will join members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the concert.
Netsky spent two weeks perfecting the supertitles for the repertoire, which includes cantorial selections, as well as Yiddish art songs and tunes from the Yiddish theater.
“One of the first things I said when the Eternal Echoes tour began was that we have to have supertitles because it’s like opera and it’s got to be treated like opera,” Netsky told The Arty Semite. “I think super titles will contribute a lot to the audience’s appreciation of this material.”
Who knew the man behind the Brooklyn homecomings of Jay-Z and Barbra Streisand had a thing for heimishe melodies?
Bruce Ratner, the developer and majority owner of the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, which opened last September with a Jay-Z show and hosted borough native Barbra Streisand a month later, holds a special place in his heart for cantorial music.
“My parents are both from Eastern European descent, so that type of Jewish music is in my blood,” Ratner said. “I grew up going to my Conservative synagogue in Cleveland, where they had an amazing cantor who I absolutely loved to listen to. And as I got older, I was always buying cantor CDs. The music is just so refined.”
Ratner, the chairman and chief executive of the real estate development firm Forest City Companies, is taking personal pride in having spearheaded efforts to put on the first Jewish event at the venue: a February 28 concert featuring the renowned Israeli-born violinist Itzhak Perlman sharing the stage with Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. The Barclays performance comes on the heels of the pair’s recent collaboration, “Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul,” an album of Jewish music released in August.
At Itzhak Perlman’s home on the East End of Long Island, the great violinist wakes up his MacBook to play back some khazones through a huge flat screen TV on the wall. As he flips through his iTunes collection and some YouTube videos, he recalls listening to such cantorial greats as Gershon Serota, Moshe Kousevittsky, Yossele Rosenblatt and an Israeli khazan named Leibele Glantz, who davened at the shul where Perlman had his bar mitzvah.
Growing up in Tel Aviv in the mid-1950’s. Perlman started listening to cantorial music on the radio. He was about 10 years old at the time.
“I remember the khazones hour was on shabbos,” he tells me. “The only entertainment we had in the house was the radio. There was no television, so the radio was on all the time. That’s how I got to hear my first recordings of classical music and cantorial music and later on, rock ‘n roll.”
Photo by Mark Berney
Itzhak spoke to Yitzchok in Hebrew. Hankus spoke to Yitzchok in Yiddish. The conductor made puns in English with a heavy Australian-South African accent. And this all happened in the recording studio where Bruce Springsteen recorded “Born to Run” and Madonna laid down her vocal tracks for “Like A Virgin.”
We’re talking, of course, about Itzhak Perlman, Cantor Yitzchok Meir Helfgot, Hankus Netsky of Boston’s Klezmer Conservatory Band (KCB) and conductor Russell Ger, who is Helfgot’s musical director at Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue. Last week they were joined by a 20-piece chamber orchestra composed primarily of the violin virtuoso’s former students and several members of KCB to record a new album of cantorial and Yiddish music at Avatar Studios in midtown Manhattan.
This article has been sent!Close