Jack Cohen

Shuffle concert and sherbert

There are many different ways one can take one’s music. One new way is a “shuffle concert.” We had the experience of a shuffle concert at the final performance of the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra concert series, which unfortunately was really the last one, since the Herzliya municipality has decided to close it down. We said goodbye to Harvey Bordowitz, who was the life and soul of this musical adventure that lasted 31 years.

So what is a shuffle concert? Each member of the audience is given a number and the slogan is “you choose, they play.” There is an ensemble on stage and the emcee reads out a number and then the lucky person whose number is called gets to choose a piece of music from a list of ca. 40 pieces. To prevent everyone choosing the same kind of music the list is broken down into categories, such as Classical, Jazz, Broadway, Baroque, Pop, Romantic, etc. There are three entries in each category and once a piece has been chosen from a category, no other piece can be selected from the same category. This led to a lively and entertaining concert, put on by the 6 musicians of the Shuffle Ensemble, an American group with some Israeli members (for further information see

Examples of what was played were: Piazzola’s Libertango (an exciting piece); Bach, concerto for oboe and violin; Schumann, romance for oboe and piano; Mozart, trio for violin, cello and piano; Gershwin, Porgy & Bess; Chicago, “when you’re good to Mama” (an excellent “torch song”); Prokofieff, Sonata for cello and piano; Puccini, La Boheme; Sting, “the shape of my heart,” for a total of 12 pieces, plus a jazzy encore. Some people who like to hear long symphonies or who like to know in advance what they are going to hear, would not appreciate this type of concert, because the pieces are relatively short and the content is unpredictable. Yet, there was a good mix of genres and the excellent musical capabilities of the members of the ensemble made it a very enjoyable experience. The four female members of the ensemble were all attractive and wore brightly colored dresses, each a different color, and the soprano Mary McKenzie was great. The emcee who was Israeli, Eliran Avni, was also an outstanding pianist.

Ironically, even though the Herliya municipality is closing down their chamber orchestra, the Netanya municipality last year started a new concert series in Netanya’s concert hall in agreement with the Kibbutz chamber orchestra. So we have switched to that for next year. It will be even less distance to travel, so that makes it worthwhile, and I am told that their standard is also very high.

Last week we also went to a “Sherbert with Schubert” piano recital given by the gifted piantist Dr. Jacobowitz, who visits Israel every year from Texas and gives charity concerts for Laniado Hospital. This time he chose Schubert and played and discussed four Schubert sonatas. They are beautiful gems of music. In the interval we had unlimited amounts of sherbert, and of course, truth be told, I went for that.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.