By Jack Barnes
Getmybuzzup: Tell us a little about yourself?
Gerard: I was born in Casablanca of Judeo-Spanish heritage on my mother’s side and Judeo-Arabic on my father’s. My family was also deeply influenced by French culture (Morocco was a French protectorate from 1911 to 1956) and by Argentinean culture, my great-grandfather having immigrated to Buenos Aires in the early 1920s. So my personal history has provided the springboard for my eclectic repertoire and for collaborations with musicians from all over the world. Though I am mostly known as a Sephardic artist I sing in over 15 languages and perform in many styles: Latin American and Spanish song, Middle Eastern, Flamenco, French popular song and, of course, my Judeo-Spanish and Judeo-Arabic repertoire, among many others.
As a teenager in New York city I was also into the American folk music culture as represented by artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. After a stint in the family textile business I studied operatic performance at the Manhattan School of Music where I received my Bachelors and Masters Degrees and then sang more than 30 roles with opera companies throughout the United States. So as you see my musical journey has been quite varied and unforeseen. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube to give you a glimpse into my diverse repertoire. I am not easy to pigeon-hole and the marketing of my work has sometimes posed a great challenge. https://www.youtube.com/user/GerardEdery
Getmybuzzup: How long have you been in the music industry?
Gerard: I had music and performance in my blood from the age of 4. I would gather the whole family around the our large dining room table which I would proceed to use as a stage for my singing and dancing performances. It seems the performances have never stopped since then.
As an adult what has inspired me most has been delving into the music of my glorious heritage! More specifically, in 1992, the year of the quincentennial commemorations of the expulsion of the Sephardim from Spain, I began performing this repertoire at festivals, community centres, museums and synagogues. Sephardic Music is truly World Music as it encompasses so many musical styles, languages and cultural influences. Perhaps no other culture has been able to synthesize such diverse influences with such amazing results. The Sephardim during the Golden Age in Spain were cosmopolitan, deeply involved in all the social, political and artistic endeavors of their time and place. They enriched the local cultures and were enriched by them. I have gone deeper and deeper into this repertoire and have become passionate about making it accessible to contemporary audiences.
Getmybuzzup: At what age did you start playing the guitar?
Gerard: I began playing at the age of 9. My father who had a tin ear was trying to learn the guitar and one day brought me with him to listen in on his lesson. His teacher’s partner had a free hour so I had my first lesson and I was hooked from then on. My father quit a few months later but I’m still going strong.
Getmybuzzup: How would you describe your sound?
Gerard: My style has become a fusion of so many musical traditions that I express through the lens of my own training as a vocalist and guitarist. When I interpret music from an earlier time I try to stay true to the spirit of the pieces but I also bring a contemporary flavour to make them more accessible to modern audiences. As mentioned earlier, I was exposed to so many languages and musical styles growing up that the eclectic quality of my repertoire came naturally. Here are a few quotes to illustrate this in other people’s words.
“The program was a feast of sounds and musical textures filled with unabashed passion and infectious rhythms. Gerard Edery handled diverse languages and stylistic details impeccably making captivating, dramatic music in the process. He made listeners completely forget the age of the music.” Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee
“The combination of languages, medieval musical forms and exotic instruments has produced a feast of unusual sounds and moods.” – Early Music Colorado, Denver
“Gerard Edery, a master of Sephardic song…” -New York Times
“A music steeped in cultural heritage and rich in tonal, harmonic and lyrical qualities.” -Billboard
“Master singer, guitarist and musical folklorist Gerard Edery draws from a globetrotting range of musical styles…plaintive baritone and awe-inspiring guitar virtuosity.” The Austinist
“Gerard Edery’s influential work is unsurpassed in the Sephardic music genre…folk melodies that come from the soul and strike the heart with utter tenderness and solace. Gerard should be applauded.” -Inside World Music
Getmybuzzup: Who are some your inspirations in the music industry?
Gerard: As a bass-baritone opera singer I was enamoured of Cesare Siepi, the great Italian bass, George London, a stunning and powerful bass-baritone with a huge voice, Feodor Chaliapin, the charismatic and refined Russian bass and so many others, like Ettore Bastianini, Sherill Milnes and of an earlier time, Pol Plancon the lyrical French bass. When I turned to folk, popular and traditional music my biggest influences were Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and the great Argentine singer and guitarist Atahualpa Yupanqui.
If I were to choose the two who most influenced me they would have to be Atahualpa Yupanqui for his amazing songs and guitar arrangements which draw upon traditional Argentinian folk music and Jacques Brel, again for his brilliant songs but also for his unbelievably passionate performances. He gave to his audiences absolutely all of himself all of the time.
I would also have to add to the list my voice teacher, the great Armen Boyajian who taught many Metropolitan Opera stars. My flamenco guitar teacher Dennis Koster, my best classical guitar teacher Jerry Willard and the great jazz guitarist Joe Monk. I also learned a great deal about ancient Middle Eastern music from the legendary oud player, Munir Bashir.
Getmybuzzup: What is the concept behind your double album Best of Gerard Edery?
Gerard: The album is a compilation of some of my favorite cuts from 8 or 9 of my previously released recordings. You’ll hear many styles, many languages and many world-class artists accompanying me.
Getmybuzzup: Any plans on touring to promote your album?
Gerard: The promotion has been ongoing since its release with many interviews, radio play and concerts. The album is available on Amazon and iTunes.
Getmybuzzup: What’s your all-time favorite song?
Gerard: That’s always a difficult question to answer. My favorite song is always the one I’m working on or performing. I guess that goes for listening too. I will be releasing Best Of Gerard Edery Volume 2 very shortly.
Getmybuzzup: Who have been some of your favorite artists or bands that you’ve been able to work with?
Gerard: For the past 30 years I have given hundreds of performances all over the world as a solo artist and with world musicians of the highest caliber including Glen Velez, Ara Dinkjian, Amir Vahab, Alberto Mizrahi, Jamie Haddad, Aruna Sairam, Hamza El Din, Munir Bashir and George Mgrdichian. Each performance has been special in its own way and it continues to be an amazing and thoroughly fulfilling journey.
Getmybuzzup: What is your main goal as far as musician?
Gerard: Music makes me want to live my life more fully. It pushes me to look for what’s hidden and sacred. The looking is not always easy but sometimes a song bursts forth and takes me by pleasant surprise. So for me art is a very personal exploration that just never stops. There is no endpoint but only process. Just like a painter with an infinite variety of colours and combination of forms, so too with music. For the painter and for the musician the new canvas or song allows for endless beginnings and new journeys.
Getmybuzzup: What’s the biggest highlight of your career thus far?
Gerard: I have performed in many prestigious world venues including Zankel Hall (Carnegie Hall), Lincoln Center and The United Nations in New York City; in Geneva at Victoria Hall; The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia; Royce Hall in Los Angeles; The Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.; Fez International Festival of Sacred Music in Morocco and the Festival Cervantino in Mexico among many others. Performing in all of these venues and many more has been an honour and a privilege.
Getmybuzzup: What can we expect from you in the future?
Gerard: I have been living in Warsaw for the last year and a half and will be appearing at many festivals and in concert series throughout Poland and Europe during the coming year including a concert at the Royal Palace in Warsaw on April 7th, at the British Museum in London on March 25th as part of the 7th annual Interfaith Festival. I have been invited to return for the third time to perform at the Fes International Festival of Sacred Music for two concerts on June 28th and 29th. I will also be returning to the US in April for concerts in NYC and Austin, Texas. All concerts will be posted on my website and through social media. I am also working on a new recording of meditative music drawn from old Sanskrit, Hebrew and Aramaic chants and prayers as well as a new recording of new Sephardic songs and tangos with some extraordinary Polish musicians.
Getmybuzzup: Where can the fans go to check out for your music?
The “Best of Gerard Edery” features one of the world’s most renowned musical polyculturalists’ music. He uncovers the synergistic and haunting dimensions of a broad repertoire of traditional music imaginatively arranged for contemporary audiences.
By weaving folk songs, chants, and prayers from across centuries and across Europe and the Middle East, he shows that the human need for a spiritual dimension defies all boundaries of time and place. This ecumenical program uncovers the surprising synergies between Eastern-European (Jewish and Christian) and Middle Eastern (Jewish and Arabic) musical faiths. Join him for a unifying experience as his voice blend in devotional and secular songs from the far-reaching Sephardic Diaspora and Eastern Europe.
Download or purchase Best of Gerard Edery on:
GERARD EDERY (Vocals/Guitar) has at his command a remarkable range of ethnic folk styles and traditions. He regularly uncovers and preserves songs, stories and melodies from Europe and the Middle East, and energizes these repertoires by interpreting them for contemporary audiences. One of the world’s foremost experts in the wide-ranging music of the Sephardic Diaspora, he is a recipient of the Sephardic Musical Heritage Award and a Meet the Composer grant for his original songs. A performer in great demand throughout the US, Canada and Europe, he has performed at prestigious venues and festivals throughout the world. In addition to his busy concert schedule, he has released 17 CDs on the Sefarad Records label as well as a much-acclaimed Sephardic Songbook. www.gerardedery.com
“An ecumenical celebration that honors both Christianity and Judaism!” The editors, MANN ABOUT TOWN
“‘Two Faiths, One Voice’ just might be the most culturally eclectic item in Edery’s already diverse catalog.” Alexander Gelfand, THE FORWARD
“A very exciting recording… remarkable material!” Irene Backalenick, ALL ABOUT JEWISH THEATRE, JEWISH POST & OPINION
“The music was haunting, always in a minor key, and indeed it was difficult to determine whether the melodies came from Jewish or Christian sources. Both Edery and Krupoves are compelling performers and accomplished musicians.” Irene Backalenick, ALL ABOUT JEWISH THEATRE, JEWISH POST & OPINION
“With the great Lithuanian ethnomusicologist, Yiddishist and singer Maria Krupoves, Edery embarked on a global series of concerts. (…) If audience reaction is any indicator, the musical collaborators have succeeded in this endeavor, with huge ovations after every song.” George Robinson, JEWISH WEEK
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