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Baroque and Roll!

Let’s go ... music lovers all set to board the bus to Eilat Chamber Music Festival. Photos this page: Adina Rinat

There we were standing at a bus stop so early in the morning that the sun was barely up, each one wheeling a suitcase and trying to look chipper and friendly despite the hour.

As seems to happen in our new 'maturity', when something is on the calendar that starts so early, almost everyone had bounced out of bed an hour before the alarm wondering how in our younger years even an alarm could barely roust us for early morning commitments.

Nonetheless the grand party began right there and then with good natured 'bus parents', Glenis and Lawrence Bertfield, our gracious hosts, greeting everyone while everything, seemed to be totally under control and perfectly planned.

It was more fun than going to overnight camp because you didn't need to write letters home or have mandatory rest hours!

And then the fun began. It was wonderful both to see people we had seen at other ESRA events in a different context, and people we had never met – often turning out to be related by marriage or former nationality to people we would never have linked with them.

On the drive to Eilat we saw gorgeous scenery as we slid down through the many ecosystems and demographically varied communities. Of course, as with any Jewish crowd, there were 'pit stops' for eating, schmoozing with people sitting elsewhere on the bus and conversation about the conditions of the 'loos'. 

The sound of music ... enjoying one of the informal gigs at the festival

We arrived in Eilat at the Laguna Isrotel in time to put our cases into our rooms and surrender ourselves to the first of many humbling encounters with the full board restaurant. Lunch and dinner are the same size – beautifully prepared buffets, aesthetically presented and able to suit each person's needs and wants.

Then off we went just across the road to the opening concert. It was held in a large ballroom with risers and a stage, having transformed it into a concert venue. That afternoon it became apparent that this was an annual reunion of the larger audience and the musicians, from many past years of listening and performing.

We were enveloped by a long-standing club of music lovers and musicians of varying ages who were so very happy to be together to share the weekend.

The program ranged from Baroque to contemporary world and Israeli music. There were guest artists who gave recitals or solos on the Argentinian bandoneon (a type of concertina), mandolin, piano and marimba.

There were informal 'gigs' at the upscale mall across from the hotel, in which classically-trained artists cut loose with jazz and folk renditions while we sipped wine espresso, ate gelato or just danced with the musicians.

After the 7pm concert there were additional performances: one was a delightful evening of Frank Sinatra songs, sung and danced with delight and panache until the early hours.

Before and after the noon, 4 pm and 9 pm concerts there was a tempting spread in the concert lobby of pastries, wines, breads and cheeses – just in case we had room to snack after the hotel menus. Well, I guess this was like a classical music cruise ship festival, without the rolling sea to curb the appetite! 

A chat in Eilat ... (from left) Meira Applebaum, Fonda Dubb and Glenis Bertfield

In the morning there was lots of time for walks up the Eilat residential community hillside or exploring the beach trails and viewing the development since our last visit to this little piece of heaven.

But most of us reveled in easily making many new meaningful friendships around our shared love and experience of the music, and of course, the miracle of it all taking place in our beloved Israel.

Most everyone we talked with will rejoin the troupe next year and begin to melt into the warm family-like 1,000 patron strong supporters of the festival. Each will come forewarned and forearmed to tackle the buffet with less thoroughness and to make so many more new friends.

The bus trip home to central Israel was indeed a friendly, ice cream-indulged, and delightful conclusion to this wonderful carefree vacation put on by ESRA and so flawlessly facilitated by the Bertfields who kindly responded to every single concern and need of our group.

Thank you, ESRA. Thank you, Glenis and Lawrence. Thank you, musicians. Thank you Israel. 

 

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Friday, 30 September 2022

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