There were some well known cantors and singers in the audience; Mr. Bernhaut, after a few words about his hopes to revive the love and appreciation for chazzanut, asked Asher Scharf to start out the evening of liturgical song.
Mr. Scharf, a seasoned professional, both a cantor and popular singer in the Jewish scene, clearly showed his art and the lessons gleaned from years of singing.
Next up was Ari Heinemam, who is the chazzan at a Brooklyn shull, although during the week he deals with Customer’s Relations at Pomegranate, NYC’s best stacked, cleanest and newest kosher supermarket. His selection was on the Birchas Kohanim - The Priestly Blessing. His melodious, sweet voice was magnificent! His phrasing flawless, his emotion powerfully obvious, as he intoned Yivorechecho Hashem veyishmerecho… veyosem lecho sholoim. May Hashem bless you and safeguard you… and establish for you peace.
Next up was Pinchas Ben Ari, u café‘s owner. His energy, his movements to the cadence of the melody, his gestures as he intoned the different words, made it obvious he had suddenly transcended to another sphere, singing to a far higher audience than that of us – mere humans – sitting in his cafe.
Pinny, as he’s affectionately called, used to be a chazzan in New Jersey; he retired a few years back, from that position, but he showed he still has most of what it takes.
The star of the evening, however, was none other than Yitzchok Meir Helfgott. Cantor Helfgott has a busy schedule of concerts around town as well as overseas. His December 2006 concert at the Metropolitan was phenomenal, he performed before a packed house of Jews and non-Jews. On this particular Saturday evening, he did not strain himself but his voice showed a power and mastery far above anything we’d heard.
So, what great food did we partake of? I had a superbly seasoned Grilled Tuna with Sesame Ginger (tuna, coconut rice, grapevine tomatoes, white asparagus and fennel) while my oldest grandson had the Portobello Salad (portobello mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, mesclun salad, mozzarella with a Balsamic Vinaigrette), Penne alla Vodka with Smoked Salmon and a slice of “the best Cheese Cake” he “ever tasted.”