One of the most wonderful Hanukah recordings to come along in ages is Fesitval of Light, a compilation of traditional and modern holiday songs as interpreted by Marc Cohn, Klezmatics, Don Byron, Jane Siberry, John McCutcheon and others. It blends folk, jazz, cantorial and hip hop/dance beat into a lovely simmering musical broth.
For me, the most memorable song in the collection is Marc Cohn’s earthy, soaring English-language version of Maoz Tsur ( Listen Here–“Rock of Ages”). Michel Alpert also contributes the Hebrew lyrics as well to this rendition. Here Cohn takes a rather stodgy old Christian hymn-like melody and reworks it slightly giving it a more muscular, vibrant dynamic. Just a beautiful reworking of a classic.
In a private e mail, Ari Davidow has correctly pointed out that the only true Hanukah song on this album is Cohn’s (and possibly David Broza’s). I do wish the producers’ would have added more of the wonderful Hanukah songs extant in Yiddish. But they didn’t and unlike Ari, I don’t think this detracts much from the joy of listening to this recording. Some of the songs are more successful than others, but there are some extraordinary performances here especially Cohn’s.
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