Chevra," flies off the shelves at Judaica
stores faster than you can say the words "best-selling album."
That's because the music on "The Chevra" is so moving,
so dynamic, so irresistible, that the rest of us will finally realize
what Eli has known all along - the future of Jewish music rests
in the hands of the group album.
Now that may sound strange coming from someone who has built his
musical career on two outstanding solo albums. But then, maybe you
don't know Eli. Ever since he can remember, Eli's been taking on
the greater challenge and reaching for the stars. Let the other
guys rest on their laurels and produce album after album of the
same old thing. Eli's forever determined and resolved to try something
new. Eli speaks about "The Chevra" with an unmistakable
calm in his eyes. "This is much more exciting than my own albums
were," he says. "I've been living and breathing this album
for over a year, and I'm really thrilled with the results."
Coming form the ultimate perfectionist, that in itself is truly
The idea of producing a group album came to Eli at his own chasunah.
A group of his friends sang the traditional "Boruch Habo" under
the chupah. It made a tremendous difference. The wedding guests
were exceptionally moved and inspired by the beautiful harmonies.
That very special moment became more meaningful than ever before.
And then it occurred to Eli that a group of talented voices blending
together in exquisite harmony creates a richer and more beautiful
sound than a solo performer can ever hope to achieve.
It wasn't difficult for Eli to find candidates to join his Chevra.
As a prominent producer on the Jewish music scene, he is often introduced
to talented and ambitious singers who are considering breaking into
the business. Dozens of superb vocalists auditioned to be part of
the Chevra. And while many of those had excellent articulation,
Eli's ultimate goal was to create the perfect blend - a quartet
of voices that merge exquisitely, in delicious, impeccable harmony.
Says Eli, "As a group, these guys have to be able to break
into perfect harmony. And as individuals, they have to be real 'mentchen'-
down to earth and superb ba'alei midos."
Eli couldn't have chosen a finer Chevra. They are the most well-mannered,
capable and responsible young men you could imagine. Sure, they
can kid around and goof of just like any other chevra. But there's
an unmistakable sense of camaraderie in this group. And also a deep
and abiding sense of respect for each other's talents.
Wisely, Eli refused to call any of the 10 songs on "The Chevra"
the title track. How could he? Which one would he possibly choose?
There are no filler songs on "The Chevra," no fluff, none
of the predictable music that makes you reach for the fast-forward
button. Every one of the selections recorded herein as a gem. Think
of this album as a giant collection of 10 title tracks.
As a singer, Eli has risen quickly through the ranks. But don't
dismiss Eli Gerstner as just another pretty voice. He's also a highly
talented composer who's especially tuned in to the popular culture.
Eli has his finger on the pulse of today's generation. He has a
keen sense of our musical tastes and disposition. He recognizes
our likes and dislikes. That's not something he learned in music
school or read about in a book. That's just something that he was
If you don't understand what this means, then listen to "Yehai"
the first song on "The Chevra." The song defies description.
It's leibedik, but it's not the typical chasunah song. It's a horah,
but it's a far cry from the horahs we're all familiar with. It's
mesmerizing and mellow, exceptional and exciting. It doesn't fit
into any neat patterns, yet there's no question that it's a song
that you want to hear over and over again.
"The Chevra's" vocalists are young, and the music will
undoubtedly appeal to Jewish youth all across the spectrum. Camps
have already introduced these songs to their campers this past summer,
thereby creating a tremendous sensation. But it would be a bit mistake
to classify "The Chevra" as a juvenile venture or a kiddie
album. And you would be shortchanging yourself if you decided to
hand this recording over to your kids. Of the select group who were
privy to hear a preview recording of this album, the response among
all of them - young and old - has been unmitigated enthusiasm. Sure,
they each have their own favorite songs. One may prefer "Mee
Bon" for its wistful, sentimental yearnings while another may
like "Zochreinu" for its inspirational message (both of
these songs were arranged by Yisroel Lamm). But they all recognize
the inherent beauty in the music and the distinctive richness in
Allow us to introduce you to "The Chevra":
Avi Katz is a former talmid of Yeshiva of Brooklyn and Mesivta
Me'or Hatalmud. He met Eli through mutual friends, and the two quickly
found that they share a passion for music. Eli was certain that
he wanted Avi to join this venture from the very beginning. According
to Eli, "Avi's high harmonies are superb. He can hit high notes
that nobody else in the world can."
Donny Baitner is a resident of Staten Island. He attended a Yeshiva
in Flatbush and then went on to learn in Eretz Yisroel. Eli discovered
Donny by chance. He was listening to a CD of a choir in which Donny
was singing and was struck by the soloist's beautiful voice. That's
when he decided to contact Donny and ask him to join "The Chevra."
"For me, this started out as just a recording experience,"
says Donny. "But by now, it's developed into a true friendship."
Dovid Nachman is a resident of Flatbush who is currently learning
in a Yeshiva in New Jersey. A talented drummer and composer, Dovid
had co-written some of the selections on "The Chevra".
Among other things, he sings low harmony on the album, a part that
takes exceptional skill and expertise. When he's not learning or
singing or composing, Dovid has another favorite hobby: he helps
deliver packages for Tomchei Shabbos.
Chesed activities seem to be a high priority for members of "The
Chevra," although Heaven knows where they find the time. David
Pearlman, the fourth member of the group, is an active member of
Washington Heights Hatzolah. Eli met David several years ago while
arranging a choir for a different production, and he said to himself,
"Here's a guy that I'd like to use in an album someday."
Since then, David went to learn in Eretz Yisroel and Eli thought
that was the end of that. But as it turned out, David returned just
as Eli was preparing to begin recording "The Chevra,"
and he was immediately recruited to join.
Not that David was an enthusiastic member. At least not at first.
"I really wasn't interested," says David. "I was
afraid to make the commitment." But Eli's powers of persuasion
are legendary, and he had no trouble convincing David. "All
I did was press play on the stereo, and I let David listen to some
of the songs. He was so impressed that he signed up immediately."
Says David, "I saw this as an opportunity to work on something
unique. Something of a quality that far surpassed my expectations.
I just couldn't say no to that."
So with the Chevra intact, recording began. It wasn't easy. Eli
is a consummate perfectionist, a stickler for details. Using his
own home-based studio, EG Studios, to record, he has the leisure
to spend hours upon hours upgrading, enhancing and embellishing
the album. The guys will tell you they know exactly what Boro Park
looks like at 3:00 in the morning, because that's about the time
that Eli would finally let them go home. They'll tell you that they
must have consumed 16,000 teas at Eli's house, that they've worked
14-hour days, that they've spent Shabbosim in Boro Park because
they barely had time to get home, that Eli's wife Chani is a saint
for being the prefect hostess and putting up with them, and that
they've become regular customers at Amnon's well after the rest
of the neighborhood has gone to sleep. But what they won't tell
you is that they have any regrets.
"The album is perfect," says Avi. "And it's a great
feeling to be associated with it."
"We're gonna be to Jewish music what the Yankees are to baseball,"
"When people ask me which song is best," says Dovid,"
I honestly can't tell them because they're all so good."
"Eli's a finicky guy and he's very picky about his music,"
says David. And then he adds, "Thank G-d!"
So The Chevra is all pumped up and enthusiastic about this venture.
Which is a good thing, because they cannot imagine what's in store
for them in the future. "These four guys," says Eli, do
not begin to realize what an effect this will have on the Jewish
Eli's been through the process so he knows what's coming. He knows
all about he rewarding aspects of the music business the chizuk
and the kiruv that are inevitably generated when people relate to
Jewish music in a personal way. He also knows that the Chevra's
talents are going to be in great demand, and he's already prepping
the group to sing at chasunahs, simchas and concerts. "We're
already working with a dance choreographer," says Eli, "So
that we'll be ready to create a real sensation at our upcoming live
"The Chevra" is creating a sensation already, judging
by the brisk sales of their album. Music lovers would be wise to
opt for the CD, because it contains a bonus track - an 11th song
that is an a cappella medley of some of the album's songs. "It
proves just how beautiful these voices and harmonies are, even when
they're not accompanied by music," Eli explains. As if we needed
"The Chevra" is being distributed by Sameach Music, and
is available at all major Judaica outlets.