Keret and Gefen’s children’s book comes to life with musical interpretation
Conductor Tom Cohen, writer Etgar Keret and artist Shira Gefen (Keret’s wife) are friends who have long searched for a performance they could create together.
They will finally have their chance with “Waiting for Nissim”, a magical children’s book (by Gefen and Keret) animated for the Israel festival on June 17th with music, dance and words.
“It was clear that we would do something together,” said Cohen, who will lead the Jerusalem Orchestra East West for the performance. “We had to find something special.
The performance is a cooperative project of the Israel Festival, the West East Jerusalem Orchestra and the Israel Opera. It will also be performed at the Israel Opera on July 8.
The three became friends when Keret and Gefen temporarily moved to Brussels, where Cohen lives with his wife of Lebanese descent, and conducts and conducts the MED or Mediterranean orchestra in Brussels.
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A lover of Andalusian music, Cohen also founded and conducts an Andalusian brass band orchestra in Montreal, and is the conductor and co-director of an orchestra that operates in France and includes Algerian musicians.
“We became friends and we go for a walk together eating ice cream and pizza,” Cohen said.
He’s jaded about it now, but it was in high school that Cohen first discovered Keret’s handwriting and devoured everything he wrote. He credits Keret with “showing us a world out there” and getting him to read books. (He even has a signed copy of one of Keret’s books and likes to tease Keret about what he wrote.)
The three met years later and after becoming quick friends they wanted to work on something together.
Unexpectedly, that something was Gefen and Keret’s children’s book, “Waiting for Nissim”, which Cohen’s mother bought for her son, her grandson, not knowing that her son was friends with the authors. .
The children’s book tells the story of a child named Lev (who is also the name of Gefen and Keret’s son) who patiently waits for his friend Nissim after school, in a story of friendship and patience.
“This book is so simple and short, so specific and minimalist in terms of words, but there is so much subtext on friendship, life, patience, belief, all of those things,” Cohen said. “Because so much is going on behind the scenes, there is a lot of room for the music. “
Cohen enlisted choreographer Miri Lazar to create the staging of the play which includes her music, with Geffen and Keret bringing the two characters, Lev and Nissim, to life.
“We didn’t want a room, I wanted to protect minimalism and give it room, for what we imagined and allow the audience to imagine too,” he said.
The piece will feature multiple dancers on stage, performing to Cohen’s music consisting of a light classical motif in which the characters meet, Cohen said.
“It was important to protect the atmosphere of the book, of this kid who waits and waits for his friend in a typical Israeli neighborhood,” Cohen said. “I wanted to write music that plays on the border of the top and the bottom, catchy, but that goes straight to your heart. It will resonate with you and be familiar with your very DNA.