Matthew Shifrin and Tutti Druyan

A song cycle with lyrics by Israeli children, coming up on March 23 as part of the BitterSweet Cabaret! The songs, in part humorous and in part poetic, deal with the pains and joys of coming of age in modern Israel.



Program Note

Children’s Songs, most recently features as part of the BitterSweet Cabaret performance, emerged out of a social service program in Jerusalem high-school, where I was paired with Eli Amzaleg from the Jewish Institute for the Blind. In our weekly sessions, my initial goal was to teach Eli to play the piano.

The lessons went just fine, apart from a “snoozing issue.” Put simply, Eli was not able to stay awake! Once he came up with a good explanation: two monsters visited him at night-time and interrupted his sleep. Nothing helped, Eli complained. The monsters (named Ho-Ho-Ho and Balakba) kept reappearing and torturing him until one day a magical solution was found; Eli discovered that he is able to trick the monsters by falling asleep while he is in a seated position,

Thus was born Ho-Ho-Ho, our very first song.

Since then, our weekly meetings usually culminated in a song. Eli would tell the story, I would improvise on a piano, he would then pick up the tune and adapt the lyrics. We even produced a small concert at school.

A few years later I met Reut Rivka and was so moved by Reut’s ability to convey something childlike without sounding childish that I recorded the entire cycle with her. It includes other songs I’ve written throughout high-school and during my military service, with lyrics by Zvi Landsman, Yair Vardi, Hava Pinhas-Cohen and Ilan Schenfeld. In the newest rendition of the songs, I collaborated with my friends Boston-based Tutti Druyan, American Idol’s Brett Loewenstern, the Israeli Jazz bassist Ehud Ettun and my student, the singer-composer Matthew Shifrin, in addition to an improvised choir of friends and students. Each participant brings their own personal flavor and personality to this performance.

Matti Kovler


«…The star of the evening, soprano Reut Rivka owned the show and sang like a nightingale, (though even that word can hardly describe her)… Remember that name!»

–De Volkskrant, Amsterdam

«…Possessing a certain understated elegance in her appearance and demeanor, Reut Rivka seemed to be one who might be equally at home in a traditional classical voice setting as in folk music – and indeed her biography reveals this to be true, as she has both extensive operatic and art-song credentials… After her very first number I was a bit short of breath from the painful beauty she evoked.»

–Six Strings of Society, Los Angeles

photo credits: Gali Tibbon, Irena Arzutova