Thursday, February 2, 2012

Debbie Friedman: Under the Stars & Over the Rainbow (1991)

On July 13, 1991 Debbie headlined an outdoor concert at camp to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, WI. A limited edition VHS tape of concert highlights is the source of these performances, posted here with the camp’s permission.
As Debbie sang, she was distracted by the buzzing and biting of “dive bomber” mosquitoes, and also by a small plane that flew overhead with a banner bearing a humorous message for camp Director Jerry Kaye. Hundreds of campers, staff, alumni and fans welcomed Debbie as a celebrity and sang her songs enthusiastically, yet at times she seemed ill at ease, even as she launched into bits of silliness. Beginning the chords of “Kumi Lach” she seemed to be overcome with emotion, perhaps having to do with returning to the place where she had written that song, and so many others, some twenty years earlier.
She was, of course, still learning to cope with the physical limitations of her illness and may not have been feeling great that day. But I wonder, as she looked out at the crowd, if she was being moved by the power of that place, and the realization that more than a few of those singing her songs were the children of her contemporaries, a new generation. I hope she knew how much this new generation, raised on her "Aleph Bet Song" loved and looked up to her.
That night Debbie sang as sweetly as I have ever heard her, offering stunning renditions of “Shelter of Peace," and “The Rainbow Blessing,” and making a point to introduce her Bubbe as she began a very spirited "Miriam's Song." She ended with all the musicians who had played during the evening (yours truly among them) joining her to sing a new song, “The Angels’ Blessing."
Kumi Lach

Rainbow Blessing

Miriam's Song

Shelter of Peace (Hashkiveinu)

The Angels' Blessing


Ross said...

Jeff, thank you so much for sharing these glimpses into the past.

Mindy Nadell said...

You brought back a beautiful memory. Randy and I were sitting on the lawn. Our 2 month old baby, Sam, was there with us. His first, but certainly not the last, Debbie Friedman concert! She was actually sitting right next to us in the audience while others sang. She looked at Sam and remarked, "what an adorable child." and I replied, "He's your newest fan. I sing your songs to him nightly." Thank you Jeff for sharing. Your baby and mine are almost 21! You probably don't remember, but they share the same birthday!