Retirees make their dreams come true at the TA singing contest

There’s a snippet from 2016’s Saturday Night Live where comedian Leslie Jones comments on the irony of expecting to find success at a certain age. As he shares his thoughts, he mentions that “Harrison Ford was a carpenter at 30. Vera Wang didn’t design her first dress until she was 40 years old. Even Captain Crunch joined the navy at 50. “

Jokes aside, Jones has a good point: Society seems to have a particular fascination with the accomplishments that come from the hand of youth. In an era where recognition of achievement is often presented in the form of lists such as Forbes 30 Under 30, the successes of older people are often overlooked.

For 19 years, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality has held a Star of the City singing competition as a highlight of its annual Retirement Week for local seniors. For 11 contestants, last week’s competition represented an opportunity to pursue their dreams even in retirement.

Contestant Yehudit Konforty is a great example of such a search. Although she is now retired from a long career as a creative director in the advertising industry, she shows no signs of slowing down. She owns a clinic where she works with patients as a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) trainer and says her training is enhanced by her skills as a medium. “I am quick to get to the essence of what keeps people stagnant. I believe that authenticity can heal people. “

Konforty’s authenticity was palpable as he competed for the title of City Star 2021. A divorce inspired his choice of the song, “Ne me quitte pas” by Jacques Brel. She opened the number by playing the piano alone and singing the song in its original French, all the while wowing the audience in a sparkly beaded gown. The band joined in and she switched to her own Hebrew translation after the first chorus. He considers the song, whose title translates to “Don’t leave me,” as a reminder of what can be accomplished even in the darkest of times.

“Sometimes pain is inevitable and we manifest it to grow. This show [Star of the City] It gives people legitimacy to pursue their passions, and I hope to bring the energy of ‘It doesn’t matter if I’m young or old, I’m still passionate.’ I am happy that my children can see that my heart is broken, but I am still happy. ”Yehudit took third place in this year’s competition.

Contestant Shlomo Cohen, a second-generation Tel Avivian, shares a similar enthusiasm for the continual search for what he loves. A graduate of the Ashkenazi Singing School, he spent his career as a language teacher at a high school in Tel Aviv.

For him, retirement has been an opportunity to return to the things he enjoys most: singing and drinking coffee. “In life, there is no Moed Bet (second session for an exam),” he explains, adding that he feels it is important to keep busy. “I’ve been around coffee (through a family business) since I was a kid and I love the smell of it.”

His love for coffee led him to open his own store, Café Cohen located in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. The store is a place where all the things you love most can come together: every Friday morning, host friends and family for coffee and singing. Cohen performed “Adon Olam”, to which the audience happily sang.

Another notable performance came from contestant Isaiah Covesh, who sang Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and didn’t leave a dry eye in the house. It is a song that reminds us of what is good in the world and represents hope for the future. It has meaning to many people, including me. My parents danced it at their wedding 30 years ago and walked me down the aisle last September.

The winner of the Star of the City 2021 contest was Boris Kuzmenko, a Tel Aviv resident born in 1952, who has been singing since he was a child. Kuzmenko immigrated to Israel in 1997 from Russia and worked for 20 years in a research laboratory at the Ichilov hospital. In homage to his roots, he performed “Moscow Nights” by Mikhail Metosovsky and Vasily Soloviev. “I didn’t expect to win,” he explains. “I chose my song because I love the melody; I loved it when I was in Russia. When I was on stage, I was excited. I saw the reaction from the audience; they started singing with me. I don’t think they knew the lyrics, but they knew the melody and it was a lot of fun. It was on cloud nine. “

Kuzmenko explains that she was fortunate to have the support of her family as she prepared for the competition and often rehearsed at her niece’s home. They seemed to share his excitement and jumped to their feet when it was announced that Kuzmenko had won.

A performance by The Reserve Band of the Young People of Tel Aviv (featuring 2019 City Star winner Marilyn Lyons) followed the competition. Together they exemplified the joy of pursuing one’s passions regardless of life stage. Singer-songwriter Danny Robas, himself a lithe 63-year-old, closed the show with his original songs.

Yehuda Hager acted as the event’s musical director and Shabi Mizrahi, director of the Department of Culture and director of the Department of Performances, oversaw the planning of the Retirement Week activities. It included a variety of events such as concerts, movies, experimental tours, and physical activities such as tai chi that are offered to seniors at discounted prices.

From start to finish, the entire night served as a reminder of the point Leslie Jones brings home at that moment from SNL: “You can achieve your dreams at any age.” The enthusiasm of each contestant highlighted that it is never too late to start.

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