Violinist Pinchas Zukerman was in St. Paul, Minn., serving as emcee. Violinist Yitzhak Perlman was at New York's Lincoln Center, introducing young performers. Together they hosted an American-Israel Cultural Foundation videoconference on Nov. 15, enabling 50 people in San Jose to watch a live performance.
Ann Daniels of AICF's newly formed Northern California chapter stood before the screen at Compression Labs Inc. to greet Zukerman and Perlman. Then she ended by saying, "Hi, Mom!"
Much to the local audience's amazement, Daniels' mother, Pat Daniels, emerged from the curtain behind Perlman and waved. The elder Daniels wrote the script that Zukerman and Perlman were supposed to follow, but often strayed from, as well as a 12-minute documentary about AICF, which was narrated by 1995 Tony Award winner Frances Sternhagen.
Such moments created a lighter mood in a moving series of performances.
Zukerman said technology made it possible for him to participate in the event, telling concertgoers in New York; Reston, Va.; Denver; and San Jose, "We are together even though we are thousands of miles apart."
Six months ago, when it came time to plan AICF's 21st annual concert, Zukerman said the only way to play was through videoconferencing.
Having successfully used videoconferences to teach his New York students while he was on tour, he felt the technology could also work to bring a concert to many cities simultaneously.
The AICF concert featured performances by young Israeli artists who have received scholarships from the cultural organization. Both Zukerman and Perlman are former AICF scholarship recipients.
Meanwhile in San Jose, where the concert began at the unfashionable hour of 5 p.m., the evening started with a pre-concert wine-and-cheese reception. In attendance were Former New York Times journalist Henry Raymond, a long-time friend of Zukerman's; Santa Clara state Assemblyman John Vasconcellos and Shlomit Shulov Barkan, cultural attaché for the Pacific Northwest Region of the Consulate General of Israel.
Speaking to the San Jose audience before the concert, Barkan said AICF enables musicians to flourish, and their works have been remarkable.
"These are difficult days in Israel, peace is essential and these musicians can be a manifestation of that," she said.
The room was suddenly quiet. Everyone stared at the freeze frame on the screen. It was 5 p.m. and the concert was not beginning. CLI employees offered everyone more drinks and other refreshments.
Finally at 5:07 p.m., Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center appeared on the screen and the concert began with The Slide Quartet's performance of Hermolin's "Fanfare" and Haydn's "Achieved is the Glorious Work" from "The Creation."
After the applause, the screen went blank. Coming out of the darkness, Perlman quipped the first of many ad libs, saying, "Speaking of the Creation…"
Before Perlman could finish a talk in praise of "the generosity of AICF," he became a freeze frame in what was the first of several technical glitches throughout the two-hour concert.
Still, the evening was a musical success featuring soprano Rinat Shaham; the Miri Ben-Ari Jazz Quartet; pianist Orli Shaham and the Israel Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. Vera Stern, wife of Isaac Stern, helped present the King Solomon Awards, honoring the Helena Rubinstein Foundation for its 40 years of support for the arts in Israel.
The evening was capped with a grand finale. In St. Paul, 22-year-old soprano Arianna Zukerman, daughter of Zukerman, sang while her father played violin. In New York, Perlman played violin while 11-year-old daughter Ariella played the flute. It was the first time the fathers and daughters played together before an audience. Their performances were so moving, they brought tears to the eyes of many in the San Jose audience.
The San Jose videoconference was made possible by Compression Labs Inc., AT&T, ITC and Master Vision International.