Mikhail Fridman sings Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ in effort to make record books / Russian Jewish Congress
(JTA) — If time really is money, then the song that producer Igor Sandler recorded on Tuesday at his Moscow studio not only will be the longest tune ever released, but may be among the costliest to make.
That’s because the people singing in Sandler’s bid to enter the Guinness Book of World Records database include Russian Jewish billionaires whose time is a pretty expensive commodity.
Still, they convened on Tuesday at the request of the Russian Jewish Congress to record a three-hour-long cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which organizers plan to submit to the editors of the record book under the category: “Longest Officially Released Song.”
Among the vocalists were numerous occupants of the top slots on Forbes’ list of Russian billionaires, including Mikhail Fridman, co-owner of the Alfa Group — the biggest financial and industrial investment group in Russia. Forbes ranked him Russia’s second-richest man last year, when his fortune was estimated at $16.5 billion. Since then, that figure has climbed to $18.5 billion.
Also singing was Boris Mints, the owner of investment company O1 Properties as well as wealthy Jewish businessmen like German Zakharyan; Yuri Kokush and RJC President Yuri Kanner — himself no pauper.
Titled “Musical Marathon 5775,” the project is expected to generate a final product in time for Rosh Hashanah. It will feature the voices of more than 150 Russian Jewish celebrities, such as actress Klara Novikova, composer Alexander Zhurbin, actor Leonid Kanevsky and political scientist Igor Bunin. In total, RJC and Igor Sandler Productions plan to integrate the voices of 5,775 singers in the tune — enough, the organization says, to break the world record for number of vocalists on a single track.
Spotted: A mannequin dressed as a Holocaust victim on display at L.A. Jock in West Hollywood, California. Oy.
But there’s more to the striped uniform and yellow star than meets the eye.
The display is meant as a symbol of protest ahead of a rally tomorrow against Russian president Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay policies, according to Racked.com.
“Putin’s Russia is Hitler’s Germany,” the store manager told Racked.
Nir Zilberman, the store’s Israeli owner who decided to put up the mannequin, is reportedly the descendant of survivors; his great grandparents were killed in the Holocaust.
“This isn’t supposed to be offensive, this is part of our history, and it sends a very clear message to stop the hate,” Zilberman was quoted saying.
The Russian government has been the target of harsh criticism in recent years for its anti-gay policies, with some arguing that the Sochi Olympics, held this month in Russia, should be boycotted. Hate crimes directed against gays have surged in recent years.
Some, however, found the mannequin display offensive, Racked reported.
“[It’s] more shocking and in poor taste” a reader told racked. “I’m just puzzled why a visual merchandiser would go that route.”
The piano was tuned, the vodka was flowing and world renowned pianist Evgeny Kissin posed for photos with noshers and nibblers at the pre-concert reception of the YIVO Institute for Yiddish Research’s 12th Annual Heritage Gala at the Center for Jewish History on May 7. “Just as there is love at first sight, there is friendship at first sight,” said Elie Wiesel as he recalled his first meeting with Russian-born Kissin, the evening’s honoree. Recalling the cultural oppression of what he once dubbed, “The Jews of Silence,” a smiling Wiesel told the festive crowd that there is currently “ a million-strong Russian diaspora in America…in Israel. How can you not believe in miracles?”
Touting Kissin as “one of the greatest pianists in the world today who loves Yiddish,” Wiesel urged:“Listen to his poetry… What it meant to be a Jew in Soviet Russia!”
Following a dazzling performance of M. Milner’s “Farn Opsheyd” (Before Separation), Kissin, elegant in a tuxedo, stood in front of a background projection of a roster of Yiddish poets and their poems in English translation. In beautifully measured and articulated Yiddish, Kissin recited — from memory — ten love poems, ”each dedicated to a language—Yiddish.” The translated titles included Moyshe Kulbak’s “I Saw Yiddish Words,” Moyshe Nadir’s “Mother-tongue,” Itzik Fefer’s “Yidish,” Avrom Sutzkever “Yidish,” Binem Heler’s “In the Wonderful Language” and Evgeny Kissin’s own creation “Bobe-loshn” (Grandmother’s Tongue) and Forvert editor Boris Sandler’s “Moshl-kaposhl-shprakh” (Moshl-Kaposh Language).”
Addressing the assemblage, YIVO executive director Jonathan Brent, recognized a roster of local political personalities as well as guests from Israel, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Poland, Russia and guests from ”as far away as New Jersey and Brighton Beach.” He described YIVO’s breadth and multi-faceted range, informing that its heritage “is in many languages: Yiddish, Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Rumanian, English — from Hassidism to Bundism, from psychoanalysis to phenomenology, from nigunim (melodies) to jazz. A single document can be in three or four languages, this is the texture and context of our world.”
“We honor Evgeny Kissin this evening because he embodies so much of this great heritage, so many dimensions of this invisible world, and [he] is living proof of its vitality and creative strength.”
The evening’s sponsors, noted Brent, were “The Russian Tearoom and Stolichnaya [vodka].”
French film star Gerard Depardieu failed to show up in court to face drink driving charges on Tuesday because he was preparing to play disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a film, his lawyer said.
The no-show means the case will turn into a full trial - guaranteeing yet another day in the spotlight for the garrulous actor currently caught up in a scandal over his tax status.
It could also lead to the rotund, 64-year-old star of “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Asterix and Obelix” getting a tougher sentence if convicted - in theory up to two years in prison.
“Despite wanting to be there and meet the judges and in no way to escape justice, Gerard Depardieu absolutely could not be present,” his lawyer Eric de Caumont told a throng of reporters outside the Paris courtroom.
He said his client was in Montenegro preparing to play Strauss-Kahn, who was seen as the next Socialist president of France before a U.S. sex scandal bought down his career last year.
Depardieu is accused of crashing his scooter in Paris with more than three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. No one else was injured in the accident.
Former French screen goddess Brigitte Bardot on Friday threatened to follow Gerard Depardieu in asking for a Russian passport, in protest not at tax hikes, but at the treatment of two circus elephants.
The animals, named Baby and Nepal and owned by a touring circus, are thought to be carrying tuberculosis and were ordered to be put down by a court in Lyon, southern France, on Friday as a precautionary measure.
Bardot’s threat comes a day after fellow actor Depardieu caused a storm in France by becoming a Russian citizen in protest at high tax rates proposed by the Socialist government, which he accuses of penalising success.
“If those in power are cowardly and impudent enough to kill the elephants… then I have decided I will ask for Russian nationality to get out of this country which has become nothing more than an animal cemetery,” Bardot said in a statement.
Owners Cirque Pinder also said on Friday they would appeal to save the elephants, which first tested positive for tuberculosis in 2010 but have since been kept in a zoo in Lyon away from the general public.
They’ve largely disappeared as residents, but Russia’s Jews now have their own museum.
Billed as the first Jewish museum in the country, the Moscow center opened recently following several years of planning. Exhibits are divided between two general themes, focusing on either Jewish practice or on Jewish history in Russia.