Joey Roberts sometimes shows up twice a day at Soul Café, his home away from…
They’ve Got The Beat
The Maccabeats bring their golden voices to the 2018 Walk4Friendship.
Julian Horowitz grew up with a Modern Orthodox outlook and especially enjoyed singing holiday songs around the Shabbat table and participating in the melodic portions of synagogue prayer. Attending a Jewish high school in Brooklyn, he broadened his interest by participating with choral groups.
When Horowitz enrolled at Yeshiva University in New York, he became friendly with students who shared his enthusiasm for a cappella singing, and they joined together for an informal glee club.
Horowitz, preparing for a career in finance and real estate while becoming a founding member of this club, realized there was some outside attention to the vocalists’ approach, and with his fellow singers, accepted invitations for two public performances in their first year together.
That was some 10 years ago, and since then, group members named themselves the Maccabeats, released recordings and have been booked for ever-increasing numbers of appearances, some bringing them to Michigan. All the while, their fan base worldwide activated more than 20 million views on YouTube.
The Maccabeats’ next local appearance will be Sunday, Sept. 2, when they will entertain at the 13th annual Walk4Friendship to support children, teens and adults with special needs as served by the Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield. The repertoire will include an eclectic mix of Israeli numbers, contemporary Jewish songs and recent American selections rewritten as religious parodies.
Hoping to be part of raising $600,000 in the daylong event, the Maccabeats will be getting ready for their segment as walkers come together at 10:30 a.m. for the opening ceremony at the West Bloomfield Town Hall. A 1.4-mile stride along Walnut Lake Road will wind up at Friendship Circle’s Farber Center for the concert, with hot dogs along with other treats and additional entertainment.
Activities, scheduled through 3 p.m., feature bounce houses, face painting and 3-D images created on the spot by Ann Arbor-based chalk artist David Zinn, joined by talented Soul Studio artists who represent Friendship Circle guidance. An inflatable and interactive game, Hippo Chow Down, also will be offered for youngsters.
“We always try to gear each concert to the event and audience,” says Horowitz, Maccabeats music director who has firsthand appreciation for the vocational, recreational, social and emotional programming offered to 3,000 individuals with special needs and their families across Metro Detroit. “Several of us have worked with disabled children and adults so it’s very special for us to be performing for Friendship Circle knowing all the good work they do.”
In 2005, Horowitz was a counselor for a special needs unit at a Jewish camp in the Poconos.
“We played basketball, did woodworking and took part in whatever else was going on at the camp,” Horowitz recalls. “To me, what was most exciting about that summer was the fact that kids in the camp — all 10 years old — were so eager to include my campers in whatever they were doing. It brought out the best in everybody.”
This year’s family-inclusive Walk4Friendship encourages the best as suggested by the slogan “Be the Light.”
“When we see thousands of people from across Metro Detroit walking together as one for a common cause, it is truly inspiring,” says Bassie Shemtov, director and co-founder of the nonprofit Friendship Circle that puts a spotlight on the abilities of those with special needs, most notably as they offer the public a wide menu and their artwork at the Farber Soul Center in West Bloomfield.
“We want each individual person to know they have the power to ‘be the light’ and make a positive difference. We are looking forward to another amazing turnout and event this year. We are so grateful for the community’s support.”
In addition to providing entertainment, the Maccabeats can serve as role models for realizing possibilities.
“We started as an auxiliary branch of Collegiate A Cappella,” Horowitz explains of the early choral involvement that didn’t anticipate the acclaim they would get. “When we arrived at Yeshiva, there was no Jewish a cappella group.
“We all loved to sing, and many of us had trained in harmony and had a choral background. We put together an album and released a Chanukah video in 2010 that just took off with a life of its own.”
The Maccabeats, which launched with about 10 members, basically has held a consistent membership.
“We’ve all graduated and gone on to different areas of life, but we all make a place for singing in a serious way,” Horowitz says. “We’re on the road pretty much once a week. We’re flying in and out of cities on Sundays, oftentimes back on a redeye flight and straight to other work on Monday mornings.”
The group always plans concerts with sounds they love as expressions of a positive outlook. They feel fortunate their a cappella interests appeared at a time when a cappella performances were getting mainstream attention in movies, on television and through pop recordings.
“They say the human voice is the only instrument that really has soul so a cappella is exciting and continues to be dynamic,” Horowitz says. “Besides, we don’t have to schlep instruments.”
The Walk4Friendship activities run 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, in West Bloomfield. To learn more, register or support a team, visit walk4friendship.com.