Composer/pianist Matti Kovler and singer/actress Reut Rivka (Israel/Holland) present a cabaret featuring Kovler’s Children’s Songs, with lyrics by contemporary Israeli poets. The songs, in part humorous and in part poetic, deal with the pains and joys of coming of age in modern Israel.
Children’s Songs emerged out of a social service program of Jerusalem’s Israel Arts and Science Academy (IASA). I was paired with Eli Amzaleg, a blind boy roughly my age from the Jewish Institute for the Blind. In our weekly sessions, I aimed to teach Eli some piano.
Everything went just fine, except one thing – Eli had a “snoozing problem,” He simply couldn’t stay awake. After trying all kinds of possible and impossible solutions, I finally confronted him. But apparently he had a good explanation: two monsters, named Ho-Ho-Ho and Balakba, decided to visit him at night and interrupted his sleep. Nothing helped, Eli said. Not even the Headmaster’s sitting at his bedside. Ho-Ho-Ho and Balakba kept reappearing and torturing the poor guy until one day a magical solution was found: if he fell asleep sitting up, the monsters would not show up. “They thought I was still awake,” Eli explained, and promised to try and stay awake.
Thus was born Ho-Ho-Ho, our very first song.
Since then, our weekly meetings usually ended with a song. Eli would tell the story, I would improvise on the piano, then he would pick up the tune and adapt the lyrics. We even produced a small concert at school. I could not imagine anyone else singing these songs besides Eli.
A few years later I met Reut Rivka and heard her unforgettable crystal-clear voice (in Hebrew, we use the word “tzalul” to describe “clear”, which is almost the same as a “tzlil” – sound). I was so moved by Reut’s ability to convey something childlike without sounding childish that I adapted the cycle especially for her. I continued writing songs in high-school and throughout my military service and since the “Eli story” many others came about and found their way into these songs, with lyrics by Zvi Landsman, Yair Vardi, Hava Pinhas-Cohen and Ilan Schenfeld.
«…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