Music Spotlight: Music artists cope with pause in age of Coronavirus

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


When it comes to concerts, shows, annual events and other entertainment and group activities, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown us into an era of “would have” – an era in which virtually everything involving more that three or four people being together has been cancelled.

On May 15, it would have been the 42nd annual staging of the Winterthur Point-to-Point – not this year.

At the end of April, the 126th Annual Penn Relays Carnival would have been staged at Franklin Field. This year, the huge track and field event has been cancelled for the first time ever.

The list goes on and on.

Last weekend would have marked the area debut of legendary Israeli singer Noa at Longwood Gardens. Instead, she is back home in Israel.

“I’m quarantined at home,” said Noa, during a phone interview last week from her home in Tel Aviv. “Things are not good here.”

The concert at Longwood would have featured Noa and her musical partner Gil Dor performing songs from her new album, “Letters to Bach.”

Israel’s leading international recording and performing artist Noa (also known by her birth-name Achinoam Nini) and her long-time artistic partner and collaborator, the renowned guitarist, composer, and educator Gil Dor performed their first concert together in 1990.

“Letters to Bach” was executively produced by the legendary Quincy Jones and represents a creative correspondence that transcends space and time between Noa’s vocal/lyrical stylings and the music of iconic German composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

The album is comprised of twelve pieces of instrumental music composed by Bach, for which Noa has written lyrics (in both English and Hebrew) that touch intimately and thoughtfully on subjects ranging from technology and religion to global warming, feminism, euthanasia, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the trials of relationships in the age of social media. 

“Early on in my career, I got noticed by Pat Metheny,” said Noa, during a prior interview from Tel Aviv several weeks ago. “He produced our first album and took it to David Geffen.”

Geffen an American business magnate, producer, film studio executive, and philanthropist. Geffen co-created Asylum Records in 1971 with Elliot Roberts, Geffen Records in 1980, DGC Records in 1990, and DreamWorks SKG in 1994.

“I was with Geffen for a number of albums,” said Noa. “I only became an independent a few albums ago and we’ve managed to survive.

“I am a creative artist and love it like that. I pray at the temple of the god of music not the god of money.”

Noa has built a strong following around the world – but not so much in North America.

“In the U.S., we’re much less well-known,” said Noa. “We have a strange relationship with the states. Our music is not easy to compartmentalize. It doesn’t fit into one genre. I am very definitely odd-shaped. But we have gotten the attention of American musicians like Pat Metheny, Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder.

“The Bach album was an idea I had several years ago. I started writing lyrics to all these Bach pieces. Gil did all the arrangements. The major instrument is guitar along with cello and choir.

“We stayed accurate to Bach and didn’t change a note. When Quincy Jones heard it for the first time, he flipped out. He said – this is unique and deserves a Grammy.”

Bach’s compositions and lyrics sung by a modern vocalist may seem like strange bedfellows.

According to Noa, “I found in Bach’s ageless compositions an incredible platform for conveying very, very contemporary ideas. The lyrics I wrote for them are not sung in a classically trained fashion, but rather something that could be described as musical theater-oriented with elements of jazz, scat, or even rapper-ish with spoken-word. All these things can be found in the way that these pieces are performed.”

But for now, Noa’s performances are all suspended.

“I started the tour in Boston on March 10,” said Noa last week. “Then, everything started shutting down and I had to return home.”

Back in Israel, Noa face two situations more pressing than her music – one medical and the other political.

“Things here are not good for two reasons – the coronavirus pandemic and the political situation,” said Noa, who is a long-time political activist.

“Our country is locked up and we’re undergoing a political crisis. We have a prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) ousted in the last election who refuses to hand over power. He’s a criminal and he needs to stand trial.

“The world is undergoing a huge crisis and Israel is in a very dangerous place. I don’t know if you can trust any of his decisions. He’s a drowning man.”

Unfortunately, Israel is not the only country in danger because of its political leaders.

Noa is staying optimistic about her music – and her North American tour.

“I’m very sorry not to be able to complete the tour,” said Noa. “I was very disappointed that I had to stop after one show and fly home. But the music will continue and hopefully we’ll reschedule.”

Video link for Noa —

Another artist scheduled to play in the area with shows scheduled for the New Hope Winery last weekend and this weekend also had two nasty situations to face at the beginning of the month.

Raul Malo

Raul Malo had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the serious tornado activity that ripped through Nashville on March 3.

Fortunately, Malo and his family remained safe.

“It touched down here in Nashville yesterday but we’re O.K.,” said Malo, during a phone interview from his home on March 4.

“East Nashville has been destroyed but it’s not nearly as bad in Nashville. It’s like – ‘Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?’

“Tons of businesses have been destroyed. A lot of musicians have lost stuff that was destroyed. The tornado just came on without much notice. Now, it’s the calm after the storm.”

Malo is the incomparable frontman of the GRAMMY® Award-winning band The Mavericks, and the sole writer of many of their songs. His free-wheeling, swaggering style seamlessly blends neotraditional country, rock ’n roll, and Latin rhythmic fervor, and prominently features his lush, soaring baritone.

His compositional craftsmanship includes penning progressive and timeless hits like “Here Comes the Rain,” “What A Crying Shame”, “Dance The Night Away”, “Back In Your Arms Again”, and “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down.”

Malo, who is Cuban-American, also has a strong solo career. Had it not been for COVID-19, he would have been in the middle of one of his solo tours right now.

“I’ve been doing solo tours since way back,” said Malo. “I like doing them for the reasons you think. You get away from your comfort zone. They’ve helped me become a better entertainer – how to read the crowd, how to read the room.

“It’s just me and my guitar so I’m definitely out of my comfort zone. It’s a necessary exercise. I love doing it.”

On March 18 after the cancellation of his tour, Malo posted this on his Facebook page: “I hope everyone is staying as safe as possible. Social distancing seems to be working. It sucks. But it is working. Cubans don’t social distance even when they’re mad at each other. We are all adjusting. I know that there are people dying and suffering, and in no way do I mean to make light of this. But I’m a firm believer that especially in darkness, we must find the light. There’s always room for a song. Here’s a little musical fun on a gloomy day…”

Each day, Malo is posting a freshly made video as part of his project “Quarantunes with Raul Malo.”

Here are links to the ones already posted:

Quarantunes 1 —

Quarantunes 2 —

Quarantunes 3 —

Quarantunes 4 —

Quarantunes 5 —

It has just been announced that Malo’s shows at New Hope Winery have been postponed to October 1-4.

Liz Longley

Also, check this out. It’s Nashville recording artist and Downingtown native Liz Longley performing in a new benefit video for Brandywine SPCA. Enjoy, donate and wash your hands.

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