Sarona at a Distance of Days
As we approached Sarona, the sky
weighed ominously black, the refet smelled overwhelmingly healthy and its inhabitants swished us a welcome with their fly-ridden
tails. The trip to the Circasian Village was cancelled due to weather conditions and the end of Ramadan. Harold and the T-shirts
were late. Had we made some awful mistake in reserving this weekend? Hadn’t it been sunnier and so much more tempting
the last time? We sheltered in the car and made a date with the hopeful for lunch.
Around noon, we took a new look at
the day from the perspective of the Abu Whatsisname restaurant by the gas station. Uplifted by the plentiful, tasty and colourful
spread of salads, shishlik, chunky chips, limonana and, in my case, a full-fleshed mousht (“St. Peter’s Fish”),
conversation began to flow, hugs were exchanged between folksy friends and the weekend began to show renewed potential.
It was, however, not until we gathered
in the moadon for Larry’s and Joanna’s workshops that the real magic kicked in. First we were taken on trips of
musical enlightenment through the stories of Don McLean and Bob Dylan respectively - singers who we thought we knew so well!
In each case, we discover lesser known and fascinating worlds behind the man and his musical inspiration. Our education was
just beginning. In Shai’s challenging session, some brave volunteers exposed their talent to the harshest judgment –
that of their musical peers. Together we graduated from mere sensual appreciation of the music to a more mature sensitivity
towards both music and performer; we learned about how to succeed as a musical team-player: about concepts of give and take
within an ensemble; when to take center stage and when to be humble. Within the space of a few short hours, our expert guides
elevated us from the role of passive listener and foot-tapper right into the hub of musical understanding that combines both
sensual and intellectual appreciation. We were transformed into an audience of professionals with well-tuned critical faculties.
And as the music grew, so did the
references to Larry Gamliel and the consciousness of his presence on that stage and among us all. We sang songs for him, we
sang our best for him, we addressed comments directly to him and I swear no one would have been surprised had his voice echoed
there in reply. The strength of his spirit in that room was so powerful, it was almost as if he were leading each of the sessions
himself, projecting his soul into them. As the evening progressed, our participation together in the continuation of a tradition
that Larry began was creating a firm bond between us. The peaks of joy and pain that we shared were all expressed through
the medium most dear to him, the music itself. He was with us, a part of us; his smiles, his good humour, as well as his rare
versatility and his uncompromising professionalism. These elements combined to challenge us, goading us to demand more of
ourselves. As different performers in turn dedicated a song or a harmony to Larry’s memory, the emotion spread even
to those who had never known him or held him dear.
The evening concert and general singing
that followed it stretched well into the early hours of Shabbat morning. That was when the achingly pertinent words and beautiful
tones of Amazing Grace began to float across the hall. As I linked arms with Marcie on one side and with Joanna on
the other, I felt our voices rise in incredibly pure and untainted harmony. It was as though all inhibition or physical constraint
had been lifted from our bodies as the music poured straight from our hearts. Such a clarity of voice that musical theory
had failed to draw from me, Larry’s presence had enabled.
There’s much more that might
be said, but the final word of praise has to be dedicated to Harold for his excellent planning down to the tiniest detail,
followed by his incredible investment of personal energy both in the music and in creating the warmth of atmosphere that makes
people talk about the folk community as an extended family.