From Fauxkklore’s review of our spring concert, Wandering Stars: Two Centuries of European Jewish Song.
Russell was a revelation. His rich bass is perfectly suited to the Yiddish art songs he performed, which included a piece by Sidor Belarsky, as well as Belarsky’s arrangements of other composer’s songs. Russell has made a specialty of Belarsky’s music and that’s really quite a musical bashert. (Before someone asks, that’s a Yiddish word that means “destiny” and is usually used in relationship to marriage.) I particularly liked his performance of Israel Alter’s “Akhris Hayomim.”….
The highlight of the concert was Anthony Russell’s final set, again of pieces primarily arranged by Sidor Belarsky, but by various scomposers. Shmuel Polonsky’s “Mayn yungt” and Zelig Bardichever’s “Bessarabi” were straightforward songs of longing and memory. “Viglid” by Leyb Yampolsky followed and is literally a lullaby, but the lyrics reflect the inability to provide the good life a parent wants for a child. Russell’s resonant voice was simultaneously soothing and sad. He closed the set even more powerfully with the combination of two traditional songs – the African American piece “My Soul is Anchored in the Lord” and the Jewish prayer “Va’ani Tefilati,” which is one of the most beautiful parts of the High Holiday liturgy. This was jaw-droppingly beautiful. In short, Russell (who is an African-American Jew by choice, by the way) conveyed such sheer spiritual power that I can’t imagine any audience member was unmoved. Yasher koach!