Friday, December 22, 2017

Celebrating the Winter Solstice with Yoni Rechter

Several weeks ago, our daughter surprised us by saying that she had booked us a Thursday night/Friday morning stay in a boutique hotel, including a performance by Yoni Rechter. That's the way things happen: I haven't stayed in an Israeli hotel for over ten years, and then it happens to me twice in a few weeks.

The boutique hotel is situated in the top four stories of a ten story building in Rehovot; it is strategically place between the train station and the Science park, thus providing an ideal location for visiting scientists, investors and collaborators to stay. Quite how we ended up there is an unknown; I suspect that the hotel management noticed that they had a very low occupation rate for that night and so offered to their consumer club a deal with the Rechter concert (held in a winery some twenty miles away) as a sweetener. Supposition again, this deal was offered to my daughter who knows my fascination with Rechter along with my wife's upcoming birthday, so she decided to surprise us.

We arrived at the hotel just after 12pm; our room was ready - in fact, we had been upgraded (giving further strength to the under-booked theory) to a large room with a sofa and chairs as well as the double bed. Once we unpacked our few clothes, we descended to find somewhere to eat - an easy task. After a reasonable meal, we once again ascended in order to have a little rest.

Upon arising, we went to the hotel's tea room; it was 5 o'clock and my body was screaming for its daily fix of tea with milk. The hotel has a 'business lounge' open from 2-10pm, which serves hot and cold drinks, cakes and even light meals (potato latkes, noodles, salad): all free to hotel guests. So we had a cup of tea, a piece of cake, another cup of tea, a piece of a different cake, a third cup of tea and a biscuit. By this time, I was sated and knew that I wouldn't need to eat supper.

My wife, though, wanted to eat. I pointed out that the meagre information that we had about the show said that doors open at 8:30pm and that the concert begins at 10pm, implying that food was to be served. Despite that, she decided to have something to eat at a nearby cafe.

We set out for the winery, which is situated about half way between Rehovot and where we live. By the time we arrived at 9:30pm, the hall was almost completely full of people who had been eating well. This was not a concert hall with ramped seating, but rather a very large room filled with round tables and chairs - what we call a function room - with about 400 people. We were shown to one of the few tables which still had some room (the maitre d' maintained a list of who was to sit where) and turned our chairs to face the stage. I had very good sight lines of the stage (at least, when everyone sat down).

By counting microphones and instruments, I could see that Rechter would be accompanied by a four piece band (guitar, bass, percussion and drums) and three backing vocalists, although there were another two microphones and two guitars set up. At 10:01, the band came on and proceeded to play exquisitely for an hour and a half, followed by another fifteen minutes of encores. As I had guessed, there were the four piece and three singers: one of the singers spent half her time at the front of the stage (one of those microphones), and a guest singer/guitarist took the other place.

The set list was quite interesting: along with several Rechter standards, which he is almost obliged to play, there were also five songs from his new album (released two months ago) and some rather obscure material which first appeared on a live album in 1991.

After the show, we waited outside by the group van for the master to appear. We spoke to the percussionist and we spoke to the drummer, both of whom noted that the van couldn't go until Rechter turned up. Although there was quite a crowd hanging around at first, most of them disappeared quite quickly which is when we discerned that only about eight people were waiting for the man. Eventually Rechter came out; it transpires that he knows two of the girls who were waiting to speak to him. Then he spoke to a couple of boys from a nearby settlement, one of whom was clutching a book of Rechter's music; my wife took a picture of them with Rechter. One of the boys reciprocated and took a picture of us with Rechter, which unfortunately is somewhat blurred.

Then it was our turn; I mentioned that we had met with Rechter twenty years ago when he came to our kibbutz. He surprised me by saying that he had been there the night before (i.e. Wednesday night); when we asked how this was so, he said that there had been an orchestral evening held (true) for a friend of his and he had come as a personal favour and as a private person. I offered him the new album booklet for an autograph, joking that this showed that at least someone had bought the album (he had made a joking reference to a non-existent merchandise table during the show). I also asked about one of the songs on the disc (not one which was played, by the way), as to whether it was in a 5/8 rhythm all the way through; I had tried counting and got lost in the middle. No, he said, the time signature changes here and there. He asked if I read music, and when I said yes, he kindly offered to send me the sheet music! So I left a message today on his Facebook page, reminding him of my name, my kibbutz and my request; let's see what happens.

We then returned to the hotel, arriving at around 1am. It was hard to me to fall asleep (because my back had gotten cold while we were waiting outside), and noise from the railway station woke me in the early hours. We had breakfast in the hotel - the breakfast at the Dead Sea hotel was better - packed, and then headed home. All in all, an enjoyable 24 hours!

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