Shining A Light
Song leader Sheldon Low will help highlight a love for Jewish music at Israel’s birthday party in Detroit.
When singer-songwriter Sheldon Low takes the stage on June 20 during the Israel@70 at River Days celebration on the Detroit Riverfront, he hopes to fill the air with a “holy sound.” But he’s going to need the help of several hundred of his new Detroiter friends of all ages.
“I have always enjoyed making music with other people, to hear all the sounds we can make together,” said Low, a third-generation Jewish song leader who attended day school and Jewish camp while growing up in St. Louis, Mo. Now, he’s made it his mission to shine the light on the importance of Jewish music through touring, playing the Jewish camp and JCC circuit and now highlighting new Jewish artists in his weekly podcast, Jewish Songwriter.
“Music can stir something within you and just draws you in. Jewish music is a holy sound that can only come from a bunch of people making it together, and I do look forward to seeing young Jewish families coming down to the Detroit River to sing along with me and celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday.”
Low’s performance will include songs from his 2016 album, Life (Hallelu Music), as well as songs from his two children’s albums, It’s All Challah to Me (2007) and Look At Me (2010; Jewish Rock Records), that have been distributed by PJ Library. Accompanying Low at his Detroit performance will be prominent musicians including percussionist Damian Bassman, who these days can be found playing in the pit for the Tony-nominated SpongeBob Squarepants on Broadway.
Low’s inspirations include fellow song leader Rick Recht (a co-founder of Songleader Boot Camp, of which Low is a member) as well as Israeli musicians such as Achinoam Nini and David Broza and the guitar stylings of Yonatan Geffen. Remnants of melodies from these artists, along with reworked melodies of Jewish liturgical songs, seep into his own creative works.
“When you write music, all the sounds and melodies that have ever entered your ears as well as your own experiences and memories come into play,” Low said. “For me and many other adults I know, music and singing remain the entry point into Judaism.”
Low created Jewish Songwriter to highlight the newest batch of Jewish songsters. Each episode features an interview with a songwriter, explores their own Jewish journey and songwriting process, and delves into the layers of meaning behind one song they have written.
“Jewish Songwriter can be a great tool for Jewish educators who wear many hats and sometimes their time and resources are stretched thin,” Low said. “Each episode can be seen as a self-encapsulated Jewish lesson that can be used in a Jewish education setting.”
Low’s Detroit connection runs through his wife and longtime creative partner, Hadar Orshalimy. Though she was born and raised in Israel, Orshalimy’s mother grew up on Seven Mile and went to Mumford High School before making aliyah. Her aunt, Jeri Fishman, is president of Congregation Shaarey Zedek and recently was honored with the Woman of Valor award at the Lois Linden Nelson Woman’s World event.
Low’s parents, Steven and Susan Low, reside in Grand Blanc, and his father is the executive director of the Flint Jewish Federation.
Low recalls the couple’s recent stop in Detroit during late summer of 2017 while they were on tour with We Are the Northern Lights, their indie folk-rock group and newest creative and more secular endeavor. They had just wrapped up a performance at Campus Martius and were enjoying a post-show cocktail at a downtown bar.
“The Tigers game had just let out and there were a lot of young people filling the streets and enjoying the nightlife,” Low said. “There is a renewed vibrancy in Detroit, something really exciting going on. It is very cool to bear witness to a city that is on the ground floor of something up and coming. Whenever I am here, I get a sense of how proud Detroiters are of their city and how they stick together.”
Though the couple continues to make Jewish music, they are enjoying the life of being relative newlyweds, living in their home in Harlem, N.Y., and seeing where the newest juncture on their musical path will take them with We Are the Northern Lights.
“[Northern Lights] is hardly a departure from Jewish music but a new creative direction,” Low said. “We collaborate and dig and tour with the new songs. We don’t yet have a plan for where this new path is taking us. Whether we are touring or writing for TV, movies or other artists, we just know we love making music together.”
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Sheldon Low will perform at Israel@70 among a backdrop of carnival-style, family-oriented activities to celebrate Israel on the Detroit Riverwalk. For ticket and parking information and a full description of activities, visit israel70det.org.
In addition to his performance at Israel@70, Low and wife Hadar Orshalimy will return to Metro Detroit for the following concerts: July 23, Farmington Hills House Concert (We Are the Northern Lights); July 27, Temple Israel Shabbat Under the Stars (Hadar and Sheldon); Sept. 28-30, Mid-Michigan Family Shabbaton at the Butzel Center. For details, go to sheldonlow.com.