On Sunday, January 15, I attended the 1:30 show of the Maccabeats and Naturally 7, who joined forces to present this Martin Luther King Day Celebration concert at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills, Maryland. I became aware of these two a cappella groups when the great artist James Taylor shared their video performance of his song, “Shed a Little Light,” on Facebook last year. It was such an inspiring performance—a Jewish group and a Black group, both based in New York, singing Taylor’s ode to Martin Luther King in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
So, when I heard about this concert, I wanted to attend, but I wasn’t sure I’d have the opportunity. Just days before the concert, a friend invited me to attend with her. And off we went!
The Maccabeats [http://www.maccabeats.com], who performed first, touted their appearance as the last stop of their 2016 Hanukkah Tour. They are one of several Jewish groups I’ve listened to on Facebook, singing songs of their faith with modern music and sensibilities, and even elements of humor, in ways that people of other faiths, like myself, can relate to, enjoy, and learn from.
Their opening and closing songs were traditional prayers of welcome and farewell. In between, they entertained the crowd with some of their signature tunes, among them, a Hanukkah song and one called “Latke Recipe,” a humorous take on preparing latkes for the Passover season. Another song, set to Leonard Cohen’s “Allelujah,” harkened back to the group’s roots as a Yeshiva University student singing group. In fact, there were two older ladies in the audience wearing “Yeshiva University Maccabeats” tee shirts; and many long-time fans held up their phones and waved their arms (in lieu of candles), as they sang a variety folk songs, as well as mashups of tunes by other artists, including one by Justin Bieber! It was a fun and interactive program of music.
But, as much as I enjoyed The Maccabeats, I can honestly say that Naturally 7 stole the show!
Naturally 7 [http://www.naturallyseven.com] takes a cappella singing to a whole new level—their style, which they call “vocal play,” showcases their ability to replicate the sounds of musical instruments ranging from trumpet to electric guitar to (I swear!) the sound of a Hammond organ! They even surpassed the style of Bobby McFerrin, whose one-man vocal play was astonishing, back in the day.
They performed songs from a wide range of genres and styles, including classical, jazz, and R&B influences, and by a wide range of artists, including Simon and Garfunkel. But the absolute show stopper was “Fix You,” a Coldplay song, that sent young girls into swoons—and after the show, to the front of the lines to buy their CD! Some members of the group seemed genuinely surprised by the number—and enthusiasm—of the standing ovations they received, song after song. But they needn’t have been.
However, the best was saved for last, as the Maccabeats rejoined Naturally 7 on stage for the first live performance of “Shed a Little Light.”
As the audience filed out of the auditorium, a whole lot of Light could be seen on every face.
Check out both groups on Facebook and on their websites. Trust me; we need all the Light we can get!