YBC Live: Succos 09

General, Reviews, Videos — By on October 6, 2009 9:29 am

Make sure to also read our review of Pruzansky’s Simchas Beis Hashoeiva here.


What would Chol Hamoed be without concerts? But if you enjoy boys choirs, more often than not you are faced with a tough decision: Yeshiva Boys or Miami? Lucky me. I am going to both concerts and will, iy’H, be reviewing them both.


There are certain realities about concerts that just cannot be avoided. There will always be people around you talking. The performers will never sound as good as they do on an album. Mistakes will always be made. The music will probably be too loud. And if you have a family of music lovers, taking them all to a concert is an expensive proposition. But the energy in the room is palpable and while purists may complain that the music isn’t as good as on an album, you can’t beat the fun and excitement of a live concert.

This one was a sell out and started about twenty minutes later than the advertised start time, not too bad by Jewish standards. The opening act was a surprise guest, Shea Rubenstein who sang Modim from his debut album, Ohavti. While the orchestra was a little loud relative to Rubenstein, he did a great job warming up the crowd and getting the evening off to a leibidic start. I would have loved to hear Rubenstein sing Window in Heaven, but nobody asked my opinion.

Next up, Yosef Chaim Shwekey with Emes, the opening song from his debut album and probably one of the best, as well. He was warmly received by the audience and I think that Yosef Chaim is just going to get better and better as he gets more and more experience and becomes more comfortable performing live. I was both surprised and disappointed to see him leave after just one song.

The minute Dovid Stein walked on stage, he was greeted with a standing ovation by the two packs of yeshiva bochurim who were seated at the front of the auditorium. It’s very clear that he is very much at home on stage, as he waved and shook hands with some very enthusiastic fans who clearly enjoyed his rendition of Lazer’s Niggun. Stein sounded terrific and it left me wondering if perhaps one day we might hear another album from him. His debut album, Melech has a few excellent songs and never did as well as it should have. Are you listening, Dovid Stein? We want to hear more!

Again, only one song, and then on to the next performer, this time Dovid Gabay, who sounded fabulous. The crowd went wild when Gabay came out and the excitement only grew as he sang Don Don, from Omar Dovid. From there, Gabay segued into a medley of songs from both of his albums, singing Sois Asis, Birchos Avicha, Yimloch, The Letter and Yerushalayim. After a touching story about an accident he recently witnessed on the highway, Gabay sang Hagomel, an upbeat song which left everyone ready for more good music.

There was thunderous applause when the Yeshiva Boys Choir finally came out on stage. Maybe it’s just me getting older, but the choir seems to have gotten a lot younger. There were so many unbelievably adorable boys who looked to be no older than ten years old. If I had to guess I would estimate there were approximately twenty boys aged ten and under and maybe a dozen who were older than that. Have all the older boys retired? Or does it just make sense to start with younger boys because it will take longer till their voices change?

Either way, the boys came out in black vests, holding tambourines, singing L’maan Daas. I don’t know if I noticed it on this song or not, but when they started their next song, Hillel Omer, it was obvious that in addition to the boys onstage, there was a soundtrack in the background. There was no way they got that full a sound out of that group of boys. This topic has been discussed many times before and I’m not going to get into that debate right now. Clearly all the soloists were performing live and I’m guessing they just wanted a fuller sound. The choreography on Hillel Omer was very nicely done. In the shtick department, there was a little bit of gymnastics and two inflatable guitars tossed out into the audience.

The next song was Hamalach, a beautiful slow song from YBC 4 which opened with a single spotlight on one soloist sitting on the floor at the edge of the stage. All in all, there were five soloists and it was the right mood for a hartzig song like Hamalach, which was then sung again by the entire choir. All in all, very enjoyable.

I was impressed with Yaakov Mordechai’s poise and confidence, trying his best despite the fact that he was clearly hoarse. While Yaakov Mordechai Gerstner is still young enough to be with the choir for a few more years, it’s obvious that YBC is going to have to start cultivating some younger boys. There were two tonight who were featured quite prominently, and working off the CD booklet (correct me if I’m wrong), it appears they were the Kogan twins, Moshe and Aron. None of this is a problem – it is the reality of working with boys, but it means that over this year, YBC should be working on cultivating a new crop of soloists for us. I look forward to hearing them!

Back to the concert. The final song before the intermission was the upbeat Ata Kidashta, which featured top hats in the choreography and was very enjoyable.

Yosef Chaim was the next performer to take the stage, singing Lo Lefached, the title track from his album. Most of the audience didn’t seem to know the song, but that didn’t matter. Yosef Chaim did a great job and was very well received. In just a few short months, Yosef Chaim has already proven that he isn’t just another Shwekey brother. He is a talented singer in his own right and if he plays his cards right, he could be around for a very long time.

The next performer was Yaakov Mordechai Gerstner, who sang an original composition called V’Zaro. The younger Gerstner is clearly very at home on stage and even attempted some dance moves. Once again, this kid oozes poise and confidence. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been performing for almost your entire life.

Dovid Stein did a beautiful job with one of my favorites, Hashem Yimloch, even though he had to sing it without Yaakov Mordechai Gerstner. Stein’s last song was Melech, the title track from his album, and he literally had people dancing in the aisles.

Dovid Gabay returned with a new song that Eli Gerstner wrote for this concert called Malchuscha. His final song for the night was, what else, LeGabay, which is just as terrific now as it was when he originally released it. Once again, there was lots of dancing and there is no question that the crowd enjoyed every minute that Gabay was up there.

The boys emerged again, this time in grey vests, amid loud chants of “YBC! YBC!” from the audience. They sang their hit song Shabichi, with nice choreography to keep it even more interesting. Yossi Newman took a minute to thank the staff at Brooklyn College for all their efforts which I thought it was a real Kiddush Hashem.

Then it was a trip down YBC’s memory lane for Shir Hamaalos, with solos by Tani Martin, the Kogan twins (at least I think that’s who they were, someone correct me if I’m wrong, please) and Yaakov Mordechai Gerstner, followed by In A Song with solos by Tani Martin and Yaakov Mordechai Gerstner. Finally, finally, it was time for the song we were all waiting to hear – Shmoy and it they didn’t disappoint. V’Ohavta was enjoyable as it always is, with beach balls flying all over the auditorium and there was one boy (again, how am I supposed to know who they are?) who appeared to be made out of rubber who danced, and did handstands and splits.

The finale was Kol Hamispallel, and while the adult performers didn’t come back on stage some smaller people did. Yossi Newman’s daughter, who appeared to be about five, joined him on stage, and as Eli Gerstner was introduced and took the mike for the first time, his son who couldn’t be more than four, joined him as well, and got a mike of his own, to sing along as well. Will he be the new face of YBC? Only time will tell.

See many photos at Shlager.net!

In a final note, my most sincere apologies to Shea Rubenstein, for not managing to catch him on video!

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  1. Voice of Reason says:

    I was at the concert and much of the audience was wondering what was up with YM Gerstner. Some were speculating that his voice was changing, and I’m happy to hear that he was just hoarse.

    Which brings up an interesting issue. If your one of your star soloists doesn’t have his voice, what do you do?

    If you put him up like that you are being both unfair to the audience AND to the kid. You cannot tell me that putting up a kid who was obviously struggling and having him try to hit those high notes isn’t going to do damage to his vocal chords. You should have seen the poor kid up there trying to hit those high notes on Shir Hamaalos. WIthout exaggeration, he was literally doubled over trying to get the notes out. And it wasn’t just that one song he had trouble with. His voice just wasn’t there. It wasn’t fair to him and it certainly wasn’t fair to the audience who paid good money to come to the concert. I don’t in any way mean to bash YMG or suggest that he isn’t any good. He just didn’t have his voice last night. It happens to singers all the time. But I don’t think that putting him up there was the right decision for so many reasons.

    So then who should they have put up? Tani Martin? At 13, his voice is deepening and he couldn’t hit his high notes either. And those two were pretty much the only seasoned performers up there. Yitzi Gewirtz and Akiva Elbogen who both had solos on the CD were not on stage last night, which means they probably aren’t with the choir anymore. It’s not that there weren’t talented boys up there, but when you need someone to pinch hit at the last minute, a newbie just isn’t going to work.

  2. concergoer says:

    I was there last night and it was pitiful to watch YM Gerstner try reaching the high notes or posibbly even the low ones:( A big possible contributing factor is the fact that they flew him in from israel after yom tov! big mistake kid must of been jetlag, tired, confused and all. well hopefully they learned!!!

  3. simcha says:

    I was at this concert as well and was greatly disturbed by the way the children were singing out of their range. Aside from that I was shocked by the live mixing which was handled by real pro’s and still was much more out of whack than any other concert I’ve ever been too.
    Next topic, Yosef Chaim Shwekey…. While he has a great voice and put out a really well rounded album he has no sense of vocal projection for the live environment. He started relatively strong but almost immediately lost his entire third register. One of the things that I see as value in a performer is their ability to sing live almost or just as well as they do on their album…
    To be honest, I am really let down that this is the first time I’ve read a review on the JMR that really was like the typical run of the mill Jewish article. Lashon Horah is a very sensitive issue , and that is understood but in a situation as such it is better not to write anything.

    P.S. If anyone is interested, I have done extensive research into the anatomy and science of the pedagogy and voice of male singers with a stress on the larynx / vocal folds of children. Contact the JMR for my email address as I can answer any specific questions.

  4. bukin86 says:



    loved the concert!!!

  5. tck says:

    YM had just stepped off a plane from Eretz Yisroel where he was for the first days of Sukkos. Give the kid a break. His voice is strong regardleSS!

  6. Kol Isha says:

    Simcha: I think with enough live appearances Yosef Chaim will become comfortable on stage and will most certainly improve.

  7. simcha says:

    Kol Isha- To that I am really looking forward to! Love his album…

  8. Voice of Reason says:

    bukin86 and tck: I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that neither of you was at that concert, watching the poor kid try to get through his solos. My heart went out to him. They should never have put him on, for HIS sake. Hello? You shlep a kid back from Eretz Yisroel and then expect him to be able to sing? I wonder if they are going to have him singing at all NINE, yes, count them, NINE YBC performances this week. Even the superstars in the secular world have been known to cancel an appearance when their voice just isn’t there.

    If there is anyone out there who should have given Yaakov Mordechai a break, it was the person who made the decision to let him try to hit notes that he couldn’t possibly reach.

  9. Kol Isha says:

    Simcha: While he may have been a little tentative last night, I am thinking his album is a good barometer of what we can expect from Yosef Chaim. And I think we can expect a lot!

  10. Sara says:

    Voice of Reason- I was not at the concert (although just to correct you, I know that TCK was from thecooljew review) but from what it sounds like I definitely agree about the overworking of YM Gerstner. It is clear from both how many performances he has as well as how many times, both in concert and on the albums he is given solo’s, that he is being prepped to become the next big name in Jewish music. While there is nothing wrong with pushing young ones with talent to reach their full potential, we see this phenomenon too often in sports and acting of overworking children and it can come at an expense to their physical and mental well being. Mini Gerstner is very talented and it’s great to see him at his best but if he did just come back from Israel it was a mistake to schedule a concert that he is expected to perform right after he comes back from a 12 hour flight. It’s not the end of the world if he sits out on a concert, even a big event one like Succos Chol Hamoed. Overall, great review Kol Isha. The concert sounds like it was great.

  11. Kol Isha says:

    Sara: You are correct. There is pushing young ones to excel and then there is pushing too far. I don’t know if his hoarseness was due to the 12 hour flight or not. I just know the facts. Pushing a kid’s voice past it’s limits can be detrimental. FOREVER. If they want to groom YMG to be “the next big name in Jewish music” as you suggest, they might want to make sure they don’t kill his voice now. Because damage done at this age is very often PERMANENT. No joke.

    And I was very wrong. Both bukin86 and tck were at the concert. My bad.

  12. tck says:

    Thank you Kol Isha. We both WERE at the concert- 2nd row center- and watching the soloists from so close you can see how hard they work!

    Voice of reason- dont assume things when you dont know the truth. We were at the concert, and entitled to our own opinions on him sounding as good as he could be under the circumstances. You are right in that he is working extremely hard and his voice wasnt at its full potential. But he normally CAN reach the notes and I tihnk he did an awesome job stopping himself at parts that could have gone completley wrong if he continued to reach the note.

    And whats with all the chit chat on YM Gerstner. He wasnt the only soloist unable to reach the note. I believe Tani Martin- blonde boy stopped himself at a really high part because it was too much. He still did excellent job! Why so much on YM G? because hes a gerstner? because he has a main act?

    Thank you Sara, my review is on cooljew.

  13. david hamsa says:

    Wow!! How negative have we become? We need some serious help if we r sitting and critisizing with out knowing any facts!!! As if knowing them makes us immune to the ultimate judgement we’ll face after 120
    Fact: ymg and most kids his age in choirs r sweet good kids you need to keep good grades and all of that stuff most kids their age r very competitive my I had a teacher who had leagues where he made 5 teams of 5 and it was competitve I loved that competition we all loved it except for like 3 kids but he let them do their thing…it is very possible that ymg being a 10 or 11 year old kid is very competitive and was told backstage to relax warm up and let the ppl backthere or eli or whomever know, whether he was a go or no go. I’m assuming a kid they fly in from israel for a show has a vocal coach as I’m sure most of these kids do. All I’m saying is its obvious that you r assuming the facts and you should be dan l’kav zchus ymg as well as all of our brothers! Be happy see the good! The bal shemtov says “what we see in other ppl’s character is a reflection of our character….” Let’s stop judging and being synics let’s unite againgst negative! I was @ the concert and I agree he was hoarse but he owned that stage like he was on a mission kudos to the 10 or 11 year old that went to the plate l’havdil like gibson for the dodgers…@ the end of the day these shows r great for the kids and parents it can be a lot of kosher fun! Sometimes we get a sick perfect concert (been to quite a few by many artists) and sometimes we get a less than perfect show but we still see the tremendous effort and @ the end of the day if ur truly bothered by anything that goes on in a concert hall Don’t Go! Send the kids with uncle sam he’s 17 he just got his lic. and is eager to drive. As a holy looking jew who walked into my shul on simchat torah one yr said, after drinking a fifth of vodka…..Moshiach Now!! And he meant it!

  14. Voice of Reason says:

    TCK: I think you are missing my point. Anyone who goes to a concert knows that you are not going to here studio perfect sound. It’s live you have one shot to get it right. Mistakes happen. You go to a concert to see the performers live, feel the energy and caught up in the excitement. I don’t have a problem with the idea that YMG or Tani Martin didn’t give the best performances they ever gave on Monday night. Hello? They are kids, they are having a good time and they did the best they could under the circumstances.

    My issue is with them doing things that are harmful to their voices. Both YMG and Tani Martin may one day want to sing when they are older. Wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t damage their vocal chords by trying to hit notes they clearly couldn’t reach? Talk to any speech pathologist. THAT is how you kill your chords.

    And I don’t think either boy stopped themselves when they couldn’t hit the notes – they tried for it and didn’t make it.

    The ADULTS involved should not have let them try for those notes.

    David: Am not trying to be critical, though you’re right, I probably am. I am sure these are good sweet boys, who just want to have a good time and share their talents with us. But it is the adults who bear the ultimate responsibility here. Would a coach let a pitcher pitch if he even thinks the pitcher will destroy his arm doing it? Of course not. Ultimately, it is the welfare of the kids that is most important. I know so many people who blew out their voices by singing out of their range when they were kids. And that’s it. You do irreraparable damage. FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER.

    And Vocal coaches? You think these boys have vocal coaches? Anyone else out there laughing as hard as I am?

  15. yalps says:

    wow ya i probably laughed harder than you “voice of reason”.these kids do NOT have vocal coaches. while i do happen to know that ONE of the soloist DOES get voice lessons, since he was a camper in my bunk last summer, i also know that the VAST majority of these kids absolutely do NOT get professionally coached. maybe they should be, but it just doesnt happen.

  16. tck says:


  17. simcha says:

    OK… Even the one or two who are receiving vocal coaching, chances are they are grossly under taught, and or not being taught by the proper people. There are only a handful of people who can properly guide a children in a path for a voice as an adult. (I was fortunate enough to study with one as a child…) Aside from the Vienna Boys Choir there are a couple trainers in the states. There is almost NO relation in the upkeep of the voice of a child, to that of an adult…
    V’hamyvin Yavin

  18. Kol Isha says:

    TCK: Lost your comment…please post it again? Thanx?

  19. ybcfan2 says:

    I was at the concert sitting close up and saw every vain popping out of Tani’s head as he tried to reach those hight notes. Listen, he did the best he could under the circumstances. He’s still awesome and pleasant to listen to. YMG seemed to be putting on faces at some parts where he wanted to show emotion…thought that he was told to because the Kogan twins also did some of that too. It didn’t appear to me that he was straining himself that bad…it looked like Tani had to do more.

    It was mentioned on JM in the AM a few times and in some of the other video advertismenets before Sukkos that YMG would be flying in right after Yom Tov so it was no surprise to me that he couldn’t reach certain notes. In hindsight, they probably should have made the concert on Tuesday night instead of Monday night and they wouldn’t have had as big of an issue. By the time I saw the ads it was too late to suggest that to Eli and Yossi.

    In any case, it was still a great concert and i can tell you that you probably won’t be seeing much of Tani Martin anymore as far as YBC is concerned. His voice has been changing since the recording of the latest CD several months ago and my guess is that this is probably his last concert. I don’t think he’ll last until Chanukah – unless Eli tailors a ‘greatest hits’ medly for him where he can sing well without trying to kill himself.

    Whoever said it above, yes you are right. They definitely need to star cultivating the younger boys to move up and they need to do it quickly. Some of the veterans have left just before or just after the recordings for YBC 4 and The Event and more will be leaving soon (see above) so they really need to pick it up with getting other boys into the soloist / star soloist groove.

    Besides that one case of a singoing/voice coach, the boys DO NOT get any kind of official training.

    It seemed to me like something was a bit off with the mikes at time…or maybe it was the boys tiring out after having been in Brooklyn College all day and perfoming twice at Uncle Mosihy/Bello shows, or maybe it was the mixed in tracks being slightly off at times. Regardless it was still extremely enjoyable.

    Shea R was OK…he doesn’t have great stage presence. Neither does YC Shwekey. They were both just ‘alright’ in my book. However, I might add, they were WAY more enjoyable than Menucha who they had up there last Sukkos/Pesach. Menucha is OK to listen to, but painful to watch on stage for some reason. Then came David Stein who was really on his game and was very enjoyable. Gabay stole the show of the warmup crew and he has MASSIVE stage presence. He really knows his place, he moves around well, he’s very smooth, pleasant to watch and to listen to, and he interacts with the musicians and the crowd very nicely. If I would have left after Gabay I could have said Dayeinu, it was enough.

    But then we had awesome music and songs from YBC which were very entertaining as usual. Looking forward to the next concert which should include some new songs and new coreography…not so much of the same old same old.Yossi Newmany said on JM in the AM that there would be “YBC T-shirt slingshots” on stage which never materialized but otherwise I think we all got what we came for.

    By the way, yes those two twins are the Kogan twins and they are great to watch and listen to. I beleive I saw a 3rd brother in the back row as well. The amazing dancer is Tani’s younger brother. He’s the one who used to throw off the hat and bekesheh and do the dancing and headstand at the end of “Booraich”.

    Lastly, the boy named Azriel also has a great voice and range but I think the incessant cheering for Azriel when he wasn’t even at the mike was a bit much.

  20. Kol Isha says:

    Something else to consider: Unless an adult is going for vocal training and is working on improving their range, it is reasonable to assume that an adult knows what his/her range is. With a kid, especially as they get older, their range keeps on changing. So a note that a kid was able to hit a month ago, he may not be able to hit now. I’m guessing that was more of a factor for Tani Martin than with YMG.

    Either way, they are both talented kids. I don’t think anyone here is contesting that.

  21. bekka says:

    Yes, that AMAZING dancer is Avi Martin (soloist Tani’s younger brother). Their youngest brother joined the choir this year. If you were at the concert, Tani tossed each of his brothers into a small backwards flips, very cool to watch and even more entertaining when you know the three are brothers. I enjoyed the concert tons!!

  22. Nachi says:

    I thought the concert was great, Tani Martin’s voice appears to be changing (after all he is 13), but when his solos were in his range (as most were) he was clear, on key and wonderful to listen too. Eli and Yossi should keep his solos coming, just keep them in his range. IMHO, he is the strongest soloist they have got. Can’t wait for channukah.

  23. unknown says:

    i think that the martin boys are so cutest boys on stage. Tani martin has an incredible voice despite the fact that his voice is obviously changing when the solos were in his range it sounded beautiful. Avi martin is an incredible dancer along with shaya martin who has recently joined. Tani, Avi< and shaya started off hillel by flipping on stage, and a while ago avi martin was also the chosson in booraich and did acrobatics.

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