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August 6, 2007

Group finds its true voice

Pioneer Press (IL):

Skokie resident Steve Singer founded Listen Up! 15 years ago. The group has performed in various configurations over the years, but it's the current all-Jewish lineup that suits him best.

"After the group's first catastrophic gig at a nursing home years ago, we had a few different incarnations," he said. "We hosted a number of guest vocalists over the years -- even my wife, Rebecca. Essentially we begged, borrowed and stole people from the community until we found the right mix." Now they've teamed up with, Malibu Pizza and Pasta, a kosher pizza parlor, performing in the surfy-cool venue live weekly, an unconventional entertainment for the Skokie restaurant's patrons.

"Since I opened the restaurant in February, I've offered entertainment to the left of what's expected," said Ken Hechtman, Buffalo Grove resident and owner of Malibu Pizza and Pasta and adjacent, also kosher, Ken's Diner. "They fill the room with sound and that surprises people."

Versatile Singer is the group's musical director, arranger, vocal percussionist, stand-up comic and, occasionally, tenor or baritone. "I really don't have any formal music training," said Singer, who attended Occidental College in Los Angeles for psychobiology and received his doctorate in pharmacology from Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine. "I started playing the drums in high school and did musical theater in college."

His defining moment was when he first saw the video for Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time." "It was the bug that bit me," he consented.

Singer's fellow Skokie resident Kevin Kirshenbaum is Listen Up's lead tenor, Northbrook's A.Y. Karsh is lead baritone) and West Rogers Park resident Yaakov Weiner sings bass.

Known for its eclectic, energetic mix of Jewish and secular tunes performed sans musical accompaniment, the group sings everywhere from large concerts to intimate dinner parties, bat and bar mitzvahs. The group has a few recordings under its belt, including "Jewphoria," which can be found on the band's Web site.

Currently, the ensemble is in the studio with Skokie's Stuart Rosenberg, a musician and bandleader whose background ranges from Yiddish theater to public radio like WBEZ and WFMT in Chicago. That album to include favorite Jewish tunes like "Lo Alecha" and "Yachad." "But when we perform, you'll hear popular American music like Three Dog Night and The Beatles, too," Singer said.

Posted by acapnews at August 6, 2007 10:23 PM


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