Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Less than 2 weeks ago I spent 3 days in Chili by the Permans. Mrs. Chaya Perman, Shlucha in Santiago for 28 years, invited me to come sing for the women in her community. Although I don't have any pictures of my trip I want to describe the night of the concert and the hospitality of the Perman ladies (the mener were in CH for the kinnus). I landed morning time and went straight to the Perman's home where I was greeted by the smell of fresh, home made grilled cheese sandwiches. (Diet officially over.) From the moment I entered their home I was no longer in a strange country but in a familiar and comfortable haven. I told Chaya "I traveled for so many hours only to come back home!" The Perman home is filled with Judaica and Lubavitch chotchkes and pictures and the Perman sisters are typical Bnos Lubavitch, speaking Yiddish between each other (with a smattering of Spanish here and there understandably!) The atmosphere was heimish and inviting and I was so comfortable by them even though I had never met them before. I rested up on Sunday then met a delightful girl named Ariella who took me around the neighborhood a bit for some touring and shopping. Tuesday morning I had a grand tour of the Chabad house. I cant fully describe the beauty of the building so I'm going to post a picture of it. The building is a 4 sided 770 complete with a gorgeous preschool, 2 magnificent women's mikvehs and more than one full size industrial kitchens where they prepare the lavish and delicious food for their various events. Of course, most beautiful was the Shul itself, so grand and luxurious. It was all awesome in short.

The day of the show the Chabad house was a whirl of activity with a staff of cooks preparing the food and the sound people setting up video screens and speakers in both halls. The tables were set gorgeous with tons of food hot and ready to go out. About 150 women filled the Chabad house, chatting away in Spanish until dinner was served. I'm sorry I can't tell you more about the speeches but it was clear Rebbetzin Perman's words are soaked up based on the quiet in the room while she spoke. Later in the evening following a brief introduction about music, I was on. Slideshows played throughout the night, and through my broken Spanish (I actually told them "Tu Casa es Mi Casa"-Your house is my house!" I communicated as much as I could leaving the rest to the music. The women danced, sang, laughed and cried with me and I took in every moment I got to spend with these Jewish women, now my sisters for life. I'll post a little more on my thoughts later; Yaffita (her new spanish nickname) is crying.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Singing in Shula's Name

I received so much feedback today on "Shula's Song" that I've decided to post these two video clips. The first is the song with the lyrics, the second is the performance last night. It was hard to keep composed at the end when Mrs. Swedlov came on stage, forgive me for warbling through the last chorus. I wrote the song after I watched her speak the last day of Shiva for her grandaughter Alta Shula. Her thought and words inspired this song. May we share only Simchos together and sing only happy songs hence forward.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"The Special in the Child"

by Chana Harrel

I used to turn my eyes
At a body bent and broken
I didn’t know the words
So the words were left unspoken
And now I’m so ashamed
Cuz I know the pain that you’ve been through

I used to walk right by
Never taking time to bother
I didn’t know understand
Until I became a father
And now I’m not afraid Cuz my child is disabled too
And I’ve learned he is a blessing
Most will never get
And in this special child
I’ve found my greatest teacher yet

He’ll take you on a journey
Open up your eyes
You’ll find yourself in places
Where unknown beauty lies
He’ll let you know you’re human
That it’s ok if you cry

He’ll show you all the magic
That hides behind the door
He’ll prove to you, you’ll get there
That you don’t need wings to soar
Believe in your Creator
The One Who gave him that smile
And put the special... in the child

I used to wonder how
A mother kept on going
I didn’t understand
The strength she kept on showing
Little did I know
Just how proud she was of what he achieved
And just how much she believed
Until my son made me see...

He’ll take you on a journey
Open up your eyes
You’ll find yourself in places
Where unknown beauty lies
He’ll let you know you’re human
That it’s ok if you cry
He’ll show you all the magic
That hides behind the door
He’ll prove to you, you’ll get there
That you don’t need wings to soar
Believe in your Creator
The One Who gave him that smile
And put the special... in the child

He’ll give your life such meaning
He’ll teach you how to dream
He’ll break your inhibitions
And build your self esteem
He’ll love you without boundaries
He’ll make you reach for the sky
He’ll show you all the magic
That hides along the way
He’ll prove to you G-d listens
To His children when they pray
Believe in your Creator
The One Who gave him that smile
And put the special…. In the child

From the archives...

the sisterhood of song

JE Magazine 2008

Frum female artist Chanale opens hearts and industry doors

By Chaya Lurie

If she were not a recording artist, she’d probably be a teacher.

So posits Mrs. Chana Harrel, a.k.a. popular Jewish female vocalist/composer/producer/folk heroine Chanale. Over the phone, she opens a window to her spiritual world, a place where music is just one of mentorship’s many messengers. “I was always attracted to the spiritual growth of teens and pre-teens,” she elucidates. “If I wasn’t singing, I’d probably be directly involved with girls one-on-one. Music kills two birds with one stone.”

Since 2000’s Believer, her first of four CDs, Chanale has advanced to become a Torah- female answer to the Western pop idol. She shines before live audiences, smiling, entertaining and inspiring between and during songs delivered in a startlingly sweet soprano. Onstage, she is a beloved friend to her thousands of listeners, typified by the frum teen girl fans who can sing her lyrics from memory along with her, as happened recently at a Manhattan girls’ high school Shabbaton. Yet she stays true to her schoolgirl roots, modestly remaining behind her microphone without dancing or choreography. And offstage, where any secular similarities end, the real magic begins.

The recently-married Miami native formerly known as Chanale Fellig has painstakingly built an enduring relationship with every listener who reaches out to her—one phone call, e-mail, tear-filled talk or heartfelt hug at a time. When I ask, she tells me she is a singer who leads, but the phenomenon that has built around her paints a pronounced profile of a leader who sings. Most indicative of that is her career, which continues to be one of teaching, reinforcing, and living the Jewish woman’s deepest beliefs—with the concert hall as her classroom, her music as her whiteboard and her lovely voice as her pen.

In the process, Chanale has become something bigger than herself—and she knows it well.

Her official website, ChanaleSings.com, looks and feels like a kosher teen girls’ clubhouse. This writer felt at home there at once, though it brims with enough content to warrant visits on a regular basis. Daily advice and inspiration on creativity, self-esteem, and even weight loss share home-page space with links to a very active guest book and folksy write-ups on her three original albums. (A fourth album featuring handpicked protégés entitled Chanale and Friends has just been released.)

“Once I have them, they establish trust and know what kind of person I am, [then] they’re comfortable with connecting to me,” she confides. “I put the music out there and they talk to me. I want to be there for them. I have girls who write me such personal letters asking for advice. I’m like this person they know whom they can turn to.”

And turn to her they do, with the singer’s inbox receiving a dozen daily e-mails on average. But Chanale is not a singing advice columnist, though she once considered parlaying her popularity into a “Dear Abby” of sorts. How far, then, do her far-reaching relationships go?

“I am very careful, because I don’t want to be responsible for their decisions—parents get touchy, so I was discouraged to do it,” she explains, pointing out that she maximizes her unique position nevertheless. “I keep it light and positive: I don’t build them up and then drop them, I take them seriously. I do what I can to make girls feel good. I do think about them. I mean, if a girl writes me, I write back. I answer every e-mail. I know that they wait for their e-mails. I make sure that not one girl falls between the cracks.”

Besides her frum girl fans, Chanale has also built up a significant following among non-religious women with her many national Chabad appearances—for many, her CDs have become their only connection to Judaism. “One of my cousins was working in a summer day camp and met a non-frum older woman and told her her cousin was Chanale,” she recalls. “She was like, ‘Wow, your cousin is Chanale?! I listen to Aishes Chayil [from her 2nd album—Ed.] all the time; it’s in my car and it’s the only thing I listen to.’ ”

She is also a rigorous musical clinician with a demanding taste (she once returned a just-bought CD to the store for its poor-quality music), exacting professionalism, and equal facility at her home studio’s mixing board, piano keyboard and guitar fret board. She’s also become Jewish-music distributor Sameach’s top-selling female artist, she does a lot of studio work at home, and the top names in the industry respect her—Avraham Fried has tapped her seriousness and lyrical artistry for her ballad “Baby Shalhevet,” and others, including the iconic Michoel Streicher and new wonder Tzvi have sang her words.

It is this relentless earnestness, she explains, that keeps her career blooming where other female singers have risen and fallen in an oversaturated market where practicality too-often eclipses aspiration. “They don’t follow-up, so people forget. They don’t advertise. Mostly, they just don’t have the financial means to produce the quality of music—you know, to spend that time in the studio and invest financially a lot of time in their projects,” she pontificates. “It doesn’t pay. They’re stunted against their own will. I’ve been consistent. I’ve written a lot of songs. I work really hard, and I want to do this as long as I can.”

With the release of Chanale and Friends, Mrs. Harrel has done for promising female vocalists what her career has done for her: open doors of opportunity. The several young teens, all Chanale fans whom the singer encouraged to come out of their shells, populate the album with original selections recorded and engineered in their mentor’s home studio. “Some of them will [eventually] be doing their own CDs,” says Rafael Harrel, the singer’s husband and production assistant. He’s obviously biased, and for the best reasons, but he’s correct when he points out that Chanale “has started a phenomenon.”

I ask one last question: “What is Chanale’s message?” I can hear her smiling. “Three things: “One, if you’re talented, go for it—sing, write, perform. Girls need an outlet, and if it’s a tznius thing, I’m all for it. If you can get that satisfaction and still be frum, you should get a dose of it. Two—and I don’t think I’m a feminist, but—I believe that it’s up to the women to keep Yiddishkeit strong, to focus on being a strong frum woman; I want people to know there is true satisfaction to doing everything 100%. They’ll see that to be a woman and be frum is worth their time. And three,”—and here her passion comes through the very phone, suddenly giving me a pretty good idea of why people love Chanale—“Moshiach is going to come!”


Singer, Composer, Role model…

Chanale Fellig

Interviewed by Bracha Goykadosh

What inspired you to become a singer?

Music was always very much a part of my life. I started experimenting with home-recording equipment, and composing my own songs. That’s really when the idea of performing my music for a live audience was born.

What was the motivating force behind your success?

The reaction from the listeners!

What would you consider the turning point of your career?

My music career really launched after I sang publicly for the first time at an all-women's concert my cousin had organized in Florida. The turning point, however, was when Izzy from Sameach music gave me a call and offered to distribute my CDs nation-wide. That’s when I knew I had become popular.

Did you sing when you were younger? Were you considered a child prodigy?

Ever since I was little I always sang and appreciated beautiful music. As a pre-teen I wrote songs for school and camp, but I never gave it too much thought. I liked creative writing and read a lot. Writing songs just came naturally. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was a prodigy, though!

Do you have any interesting anecdotes that took place during your singing career?

I’ve had so many amazing experiences over the years. My favorite story is when I went for a Bas Mitzvah performance in Anchorage, Alaska, and woke up to a moose nibbling the trees on the Rabbi's front yard on Shabbos morning! The children's family didn't think much of it as in Anchorage moose walk freely in people's backyards. But boy was I surprised!

Another great story happened recently when I was living in Tel Aviv, Israel. I went to sing at a Chanukah party where I would sing only Hebrew songs to women who barely understood English. The audience had a great time and kept requesting I sing one more song. The last song I sang was “No Matter Where You Roam.” I thought that if each woman understood a few words of English than collectively they might understand the whole song! The next day I got a call from Mindy, the Rabbi’s wife. She said to me “Chanale, I don’t think you noticed the young woman who walked in while you were singing. She was sitting in the back of the room and crying the whole time you sang your last song. I approached her after the kumzits and she explained to me that she is a native Australian and had been sitting home alone when she remembered it was Chanuka and decided to call the operator, locate the nearest Shul and find out if there was a Chanuka party going on. When she came in, you were singing a song that touched her deeply. Thank you so much for coming to sing.”

Do you write all your own songs?

Pretty much. I write the majority of my songs, but there are a few that I co-wrote and a few that are re-makes of the originals. My favorites are the ones I wrote myself.

Do you ever get nervous when you perform in front of large audiences?

Totally not. My only concern is that the sound system should work well and there shouldn't be any technical problems chas v’shalom!

Do you ever listen to your own CDs for entertainment?

Interesting question. By the time I'm done recording my CDs I'm pretty tired of listening to my own songs. Once in a while I do pop my CD into my CD player and try to listen objectively so I can see what can be improved for the next cd.

What type of music do you enjoy?

I love music that is moving and soulful. I appreciate a good production, of course, but the quality of the content is more important to me than the radio-friendly pop music most people aim to produce.

Is there anyone who impacted your singing career?

There have been a lot of people who supported and encouraged me along the way. The list would be too long to include here.

How does it feel to be considered a Jewish “superstar?”

Most people don't recognize me or know who I am, but once in a while someone approaches me and is excited to meet me. I do get flattered by that. I worked hard to get where I am. Most people don’t realize how much sweat and tears go into producing an album and what courage it takes to get onstage in front of 1,000 women and perform. I understand why entertainers charge a lot of money. It’s a business that you have to invest heart, mind, and soul, and not everyone can do it.

Who is your role model?

My role models are people who respect one another and express hakaras hatov to one another. I always appreciate and look up to people with good Middos.

What are your hobbies besides singing?

I'm a pretty simple girl. I like cooking, reading a good book, decorating, and, of course, shopping!

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time I write of course. It seems there’s always an errand to run when you’re married, so I get a lot of things done during the day when Rafael is at work. I have five sisters kn’yh, and I try to spend time with them whenever I can. I’m a very productive person and try to make the most of my time every day. I love the internet too and get a lot of work done networking online.

Do you have any advice or a favorite motto that you would like to share?

My advice to all the girls out there is to follow your HEART and don’t let anyone sway you to do anything you don’t feel is right for YOU and for YOUR personal growth. We all deserve a chance to be who we want to be and to express ourselves the way we want. As long as it is in a tzniusdike way—remember that!

Reprinted from Shoshanim, a Magazine for Teenage Girls, Issue #19. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.shoshanim.net or call 1-800-601-4238.