Lavry, Emek Song, and Cafe Kassit


Newsletter from September 3, 2014:

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Conductor Marc Lavry, Singer Yosefa Shoken, Kol Israel String Orchestra, and Kol Zion Lagola Choir

Conductor Marc Lavry, Singer Yosefa Shoken, Kol Israel String Orchestra, and Kol Zion Lagola Choir

The Emek Song (Shir Ha-Emek) is the first song that Marc Lavry wrote in Israel, a few months after he emigrated there. In a radio interview from the Sixties he described how the song came about. Like many Bohemian Tel Aviv residents, Lavry frequented the famous Cafe Kassit where he teamed up with artists like poet Nathan Alterman, singer Yaffa Yarkoni, actress Hanna Rovina, and director Moshe Halevi. Many of his songs began at Cafe Kassit, and Shir Ha-Emek was the first.

In our research on Lavry we discovered a rare radio interview — there is only a handful of recordings in which he talks about his work. In addition, we found last week a historic recording of Shir Ha-Emek from 1958 in which Lavry conducts the Kol Zion Lagola Choir (which he founded and which later became known as the The Broadcasting Service Choir.)

Translation of transcript:

Shir Ha-Emek (Emek Song) is the first song I wrote in Israel. I remember that after I visited Kibbutz Degania where we danced all night, the dance left a huge impression on me. An endless Hora dance — with shouts and rhythmic legwork — the young people were wonderful. As I got back [to Tel Aviv] I shared my experience with director Daniel — we, by the way, were working together on a play that never came to fruition — we decided to add a song in the rhythm of the Hora.

Of course we sat down, as we all did in the old days, at Cafe Kassit, which was then at the corner of Ben Yehuda St. and Frishman St. [in Tel Aviv], and considered the choices for a lyricist. The best fit for Daniel was poet [Rafael] Eliaz — maybe because they were both Bulgarian. Eliaz wrote the text. And I told him [my vision] of the light, the joy, the rhythm. We then constructed the song and I, of course, wrote the tune. The song became a popular hit.

It is interesting to note that after a short while Shlomo Kaplan(*) asked me to adapt the song for choir and decided to perform it in Ein Harod, at a national choir convention. Something strange happened: they managed to sing the first part, but when they started to sing the Hora, the stage collapsed and they never resumed the performance. I do not know if it was the fault of the music, or that of the constructor, or architect, but it was the first disaster with Shir Ha-Emek. Despite everything, I believe that all choirs and soloists have since performed Shir Ha-Emek.

* Shlomo Kaplan was a renowned choir conductor in Israel

We unfortunately do not know the exact date of the recording nor do we know the name of the radio program.

Best regards,

The Marc Lavry Heritage Society

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