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On the Wings of a Song

Yisroel Besser

Onstage he’s Avraham Fried, one of the Jewish world’s most popular singers. Offstage, though, he’s Avremel Friedman — a Yid who knows that he has been given this gift for a purpose.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

avraham fried mishpacha“Lincoln Center.”

The driver nods and shoots into Sunday afternoon traffic, one more dot in the streak of yellow taxis on the avenue.

“Backstage entrance, please.”

I’d expected more of a reaction, having announced so impressive a destination; the expressionless coal-black eyes in the rearview mirror are disappointing. 

The main entrance is quiet — the concert won’t start for hours — and after I alight by the second, humbler entrance, a guard checks my name against his list and waves me upstairs.

Cavernous Avery Fisher Hall is fairly empty. Its seat cushions are upright, the carpet is freshly vacuumed. Only a few lone figures are scattered around the periphery. Onstage, though, there is action. The orchestra is rehearsing the celebrated HASC concert theme song amidst all manner of bustle; sound engineers huddle, stagehands carry equipment back and forth, lighting technicians switch bulbs on and off, choir members practice notes audaciously high and daringly low. Standing off to the side, leaning serenely against the wall, is David Golding — aka Ding — the producer of tonight’s event, who manages, without raising his voice or appearing rushed, to answer questions, issue instructions, reassure fretful musicians. 

In the center of the stage are the singers who headline the performance — Mordechai ben David and Avraham Fried — who are doing a run-through. When one sings, the other cheers him on. Fried begins to practice an English set; even in rehearsal, his dynamism and vigor draw the onlookers in. 

“Take me on your wing.” He pauses in mid-refrain. A sound swells up from several volunteers scattered among the assorted spectators, who continue for him, “teach me how to sing.”

The key is beyond almost everyone. After waiting out the interruption, the singer effortlessly continues, “Teeeach me how to sing, the one song the world wants to hear.” 

No one needs to teach this man how to sing, I think as I walk — with Ding’s permission — across the wooden stage toward the person I’ve come to meet. His “Shalom Aleichem” is warm, gracious. These two words are all we exchange for now; tomorrow we will schmooze. Now, Avraham Fried is preconcert. Even after 30 years, tens of albums, and hundreds of concerts, he still gets nervous. 

But even without dialogue, the activity on and offstage provides its own story — one that is as much about the value of mentchlichkeit as about Fried’s voice.


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