Chizuk Amuno partners with Florida shul for joint concert

Cantors Randy Herman and Magda Fishman at the Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla. (Courtesy of Cantor Magda Fishman)

Love will be in the air during Chizuk Amuno Congregation’s Feb. 14 virtual concert, “‘Jews, Blues, and Love Songs’: Two Great Communities, United in Love.”

The event will be a joint performance from both Chizuk Amuno Cantor Randy Herman and Cantor Magda Fishman of B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Fla.

Herman and Fishman have been performing together for a decade, Herman said, first meeting when they were both students at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

In 2018, before Fishman worked at B’nai Torah, Herman said, they traveled together to Boca Raton to give a Feb. 14 concert called “Jews, Blues and Love Songs.” After Fishman was hired by B’nai Torah, she contacted Herman with the idea of doing a type of reunion concert together. The two ultimately decided to make it a collaboration between their respective synagogues.

“We started talking about it,” Fishman said, “and we decided that since the Zoom world, and the world, became smaller now, we can actually unite the two communities to celebrate together and to be together in this concert with their two cantors.”

Herman, a resident of Pikesville, said that the concert will be a mixture of live performances and prerecorded songs done in collaboration with a rhythm section. Songs on the set list will run the gamut from Stevie Wonder and Barbara Streisand to Neil Diamond and Bob Marley, along with some original songs.

One song will be sung by a virtual choir composed of members of both synagogues, Herman said, which will be edited together by Greg Hartman, a Grammy-winning sound engineer.

“To connect the two communities just increases the love, increases the sense of community,” Herman said. “It more deeply connects the Jewish world.”

The two cantors are able to work well together despite their differing musical backgrounds, Herman explained. Whereas he comes from a pop/rock background, Fishman emerged from more of a musical theatre/cabaret style.

“Magda is an extremely well-known performer in the Jewish world,” Herman said. She is “pretty much considered by anyone who’s ever seen her to be one of the very, very best Jewish performers in the world today. And I’ve often said it takes a lot of confidence to perform with Magda, because she just brings the house down. Every house, every time.”

“He’s phenomenal,” Fishman said about Herman, happy to return the compliment. “He’s an incredible pianist, incredible singer, incredible musician. He’s full of life and light. … He’s rocking.”

While the concert is not officially connected to any specific non-Jewish holidays, Herman did acknowledge that the event happens to be taking place on a particular date commonly associated with romantic themes.

Asked what she hopes the audience will take away from the event, Fishman said that “I hope that when this ends they feel lots of love and something special happens. … I hope that it opens their hearts to love even more.”

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