Simon Starr tells us about his new show for kids – part of our July school holiday program!
Can you tell us a bit about The 16th Lamb and what drew you and your fellow musicians Jonathan Skovron and Ella Holcdorf to it?
When my brother was on Machon in 1987, he sent this album over to Australia for me to listen and I was instantly transfixed. Initially the music was what captured me, the amazing compositions, the playing, the beautiful sounds of mid 70s Israel going through its Jazz/Fusion period. Then when I went on Machon in 1989 I discovered what the songs were about, the nuances of Yonatan Geffen’s unique writing style. He, and many other children’s authors in Israel, had the Pixar thing going many years before it went mainstream in the West. Stories and sentences that were captivating for children and adults alike, that were funny for everyone, that didn’t shy away from deeper issues and questions that children have, speaking to them on their level without condescending. With every passing year, particularly during the period when I lived in Israel and my own children fell in love with the album, my appreciation for this landmark children’s cultural artefact has, if possible, only grown.
Skov and I have been playing together for many years, and one of the many pieces of music we have bonded over has been The 16th Lamb. I have known Ella for many years as well (she is also Skov’s sister in law) and the album just seems to be a ubiquitous part of our musical aesthetic; trying to create an experience for people that transcends demographics, that addresses things that go through children’s heads with a warm humour and accessible yet challenging music.
How did your show come about and what can audiences expect?
I co-created and performed in a children’s show in Israel called Yoel Amar which was a joyous experience. I had been looking for something to do like that since then, and conversations with Skov led naturally to that, as he is now at the stage of searching for some quality entertainment for his own children.
Audiences can expect first and foremost beautiful music, harmonies, sounds, and improvisation, all of which nourish young children’s awareness of culture and their place in it. Additionally, we explore some of the issues and questions from the songs using the same gentle, warm humour contained within the lyrics of the songs, elaborating on these things and putting them in to the personal contexts of the characters (Skov, Ella and I, playing for the most part, ourselves). It will be fun, interesting, musically pleasing, infused with the knowingness of Israeli children and the warmth and humour of Jewish storytelling.
Was it challenging adapting it for an English-speaking audience?
I loved the songs long before I knew what they meant, as I have with so many of my other favourite artist’s music. All of the dialogue will be in English, so it will be very accessible. We are playing with idea of a projector with supertitles, to translate for the parents/children/grandparents. But the challenge is in retaining an ethical character to our sense of story and the flow of dialogue within the songs. Not because we are unethical, more because we are having so much fun when we rehearse.
What do you hope kids will take away from the experience?
I hope that kids become more interested in the music, that they sing a melody or two from the album and it motivates them to play/sing/dance/create something inspired by the music, or to attempt to perform the music itself.
I hope they have a good laugh.
I hope they may go away with a few questions about the world around them, some potentially small light bulb moments where through us articulating some of these issues, they will realise that their thoughts are shared by others, and that dialogue is the way for us to socially evolve and really understand each other better. Which is the main message of our show – communication, self expression, compassion. No preaching, no pedagogy, just great songs, some shtick, and lots of fun.
Book your tickets to this event, Yonatan is a Giraffe, by clicking here.
Other school holiday programs include:
From Page to Stage – ‘Poetry, prose & monologues in performance’ – click to book.
A portrait painting workshop with artist Jeffrey Kelson – click to book.
Decorating with Bubba & PJ Library – click to book.