Interview with Yossi Newman and Eli Gerstner
Conducted by Tzvi Turner and Binyamin Bresky
December 14, 2003
88.7 FM WJCU
The Yeshiva Boys Choir
2003 EG Production
Jewish Community Radio: Rabbi Yossi Newman is a teacher in Cleveland and you have a choir of about forty boys, right?
Yossi Newman: Fifty four.
Jewish Community Radio: And they came out with a full length, professionally produced album thatís going to be sold in stores across the country called The Yeshiva Boys Choir. So how did you get all these kids together?
Yossi Newman: Well I worked with the Hebrew Academy boys choir as well as the Mosdos boys choir and I was able to meet all these wonderful boys through it whom I would like to thank very much. The boys worked very hard on the solos. You can tell how much work they put into it and I want to personally thank them very much on the air.
Jewish Community Radio: Eli Gerstner composed the music?
Yossi Newman: We actually did it in a very interesting way. Eli did most of the music in New York with the Neshoma Orchestra. The guitarist did overdubs in Eretz Yisroel, and then he would send me the music through a DVD. Weíd load it into the computer and the kids would sing into the computer. And then weíd send it back to New York for Eli to mix.
Jewish Community Radio: Thatís called a global mix. Whatís your musical background? Youíre trained musician?
Yossi Newman: I started playing keyboard at the end of eighth grade. I received a keyboard as a bar mitzvah present. And I figured why not give it a try. And after that, you know, the rest is history.
Jewish Community Radio: What else do you teach at the school?
Yossi Newman: Iím the third grade rabbi in the Hebrew academy, third grade Hebrew, and I also give some keyboard lessons at night.
Jewish Community Radio: It really feels good to see something coming out of beautiful snowy Cleveland. Is this the first time a choir like this is coming out of a city other then New York? I mean, besides the Miami Boys Choir that relocated to New York...
Yossi Newman: Eli asked me, and you know, I told him, I have at least fifty great voices here in Cleveland. Heís like, I canít believe it. I said, give it a listen. I sent him a demo and thatís one of the ways it got started.
Jewish Community Radio: How old are they?
Yossi Newman: Between eight and thirteen.
Jewish Community Radio: Okay well letís listen to some more of this album. I have track 1 cued up, is that good?
Yossi Newman: You know I'm a big fan of saving the best for last. Let's go to a slow song. I know that there are a lot of parents who want to hear something slow. Let's go to song number 7, V'Hu K'Choson. This is a song I made up. Hopefully it will be played at weddings, imirezt Hashem. That would be great. And once again, I want to thank the soloists who worked so hard througout this song. You'll be listening to students from Hebrew Academy and Mosdos as well as, actually, Eli Gersner's brother who is five years old. He's the one that does the high part. You'll hear a high solo. It's very nicely done. He hits a key that's almost impossible to hit. He hit an A.
Jewish Community Radio: An A, wow. I don't think even I could do that, at least not at this age. Okay, here's the Yeshiva Boys Choir on Jewish Community Radio.
Jewish Community Radio: Okay let's go to the phone lines. 88.7, you're on the air.
Phone call: Good morning Tzvi, good morning Ben, good morning Rabbi Yossi Newman.
Jewish Community Radio: Who is this?
Phone call: This is Rabbi Asher Newman. I want to talk about the Yehsiva Boys Choir. Two things: I know these boys very well also. Itís unbelievable to hear, as this tape developed, to listen to it and it just sounds better than anything Iíve ever heard. I know Iím a little biased but thatís just my opinion. And the second thing is that in other choirs, thereís tension. Thereís a lot of pressure. But with Rabbi Newman directing this choir, you should see, the boys are closer just because of the way he deals with them, his patience, and itís just great to see. The fact that he did this and running the day camp also, itís just a great tribute to him and something that Cleveland has a lot to be proud of.
Jewish Community Radio: As a principal, do you think it brought out the best in the kids? What do you think it did scholastically?
Phone call: No question. There are some boys that you can just see it -- the way they performed -- the way they think about themselves, the way they felt before and the way they do now. Itís just a certain pride and self esteem they have that has definitely served them well and will, imiretz Hashem, continue to do so.
Jewish Community Radio: Eli Gerstner is on the phone now. Now you are the producer from New York and you have many albums that have been big hits, correct?
Eli Gerstner: HitsÖ whateverÖ (laughing)
Jewish Community Radio: Now howíd you get this Cleveland yeshiva choir and come out with an album?
Eli Gerstner: In general when you see talents, you know what you have to do over here, and find the talent and try and make it happen. And Rabbi Newman has the talent, thatís for sure.
Yossi Newman: Thanks El.
Eli Gerstner: So weíre making it happen, baruch Hashem
Jewish Community Radio: How did you two first meet each other?
Eli Gerstner: Oh weíve been buddyís for years. I mean, we started off in camp together just being part of the same band -- before this other business -- when it was just fun and games. I guess itís still fun and games.
Yossi Newman: It always will be. Music will always be fun and gamers
Eli Gerstner: Oh yeah. You know itís funny, we still stay on the phone to who-knows-what-time, just talking about music all night, you know?
Yossi Newman: Yeah. Donít tell my boss that
Jewish Community Radio: Is this a new thing? Choirs?
Eli Gerstner: Well, you know, I did a few groups already. A little group called The Chevra. I donít know if you guys heard of it.
Jewish Community Radio: What are you talking about? Of course! We play it on the show all the time. We got Menucha right here.
Eli Gerstner: And you got Menucha, and, you know, a couple of my solo things. So it was the next logical step. If we did four, we got to do fifty-four. It was really a big undertaking. And I just love the end result.
Jewish Community Radio: I want to ask you two guys -- the lyrics -- did you write the lyrics and what are they about?
Eli Gerstner: We have the best lyricist out there.
Yossi Newman: Dovid HaMelech
Eli Gerstner: Dovid HaMelech. King David. By far. Weíre figuring out now where to send the royalties.
Jewish Community Radio: So theyíre based on Psalms?
Eli Gerstner: Yeah, we got them from a few different places. Mostly from Tehilim. As a composer, you have to find something thatís really going to inspire you to write an inspiring melody and thereís just an unlimited amount of beautiful, beautiful lyrics.
Jewish Community Radio: So most of the songs are composed by you and Yossi Newman?
Eli Gerstner: It was really a joint effort all around. Even the songs that I wrote, Yossi came down to New York and we picked them out. It was really a labor of love and Iím very proud of it.
Copyright 2004 Jewish Community Radio