In a humming second story of busy midtown Manhattan, photos of music icons line the walls, and nationally recognized artists are plugging away at their upcoming albums and tours in state of the art rehearsal spaces. Tucked into this restless scene, an all-Jewish group of top shelf musicians is rehearsing for a show in Michigan that hits the stage on Sunday, March 26 at Temple Israel.

“For our Laker Concert this year, I wanted to present a concert that blended favorite American songs with some of our heartwarming, heimish Chassidic tunes and stories in a way that will get our audience tapping their toes and smiling” says Cantor Smolash, with a grin. “For that we needed a very special group of handpicked musicians.” And that they are: Alicia Svigals, top klezmer fiddler in the world today brings a flair that made her band The Klezmatics legendary. Jazz recorder virtuoso Tali Rubinstein makes her array of recorders croon like a Charlie Parker record. Percussion master Rich Stein adds any groove you can imagine on his djembe and frame drums. The stellar group is rounded out with top Israeli/New York players on piano, drum kit, bass and guitar.

“This band can deliver any style we need” says Cantor Smolash. “You’ll hear a few Broadway favorites, some Israeli and Yiddish music, some American pop hits, and some niggunim that will invite your soul to dance. And each player is an absolute musical monster. During the break, I walked back into the studio to see our incredible guitarist whipping off some pristine Mozart on the piano. Their depth is unreal”

The concert is titled “Lighthearted”, not just because that is how the audience at Temple Israel will feel listening to the wonderful sounds of Jewish music, but also because Cantor Smolash will be sharing some of the most inviting niggunim (melodies) and stories from the Chassidic tradition – the Jewish mystical path that encourages a joyful heart.

“Temple Israel is a big tent,” explains Cantor Smolash, “and we love adding a bit of musar or kabbalah into our Reform traditions. I have a sense our community will respond to a sprinkling of Chassidic joy with the same delight.” Cantor Smolash has been spotted dropping in on the occasional farbrengen in town, and has been studying for three years with Rabbi Laibl Wolf, a renowned teacher of kabbalah and chassidus. So when the audience hears a beautiful tune from the old country, they can listen for the spiritual source behind Cantor Smolash’s sweet tenor voice.

“Lighthearted” takes place at Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Road, West Bloomfield, MI on March 26, 2017 at 4pm.  It is free and open to the community. Please call 248-661-5700 or email to RSVP.

The Laker Concert is sponsored in loving memory of Sarah and Harry Laker.