Pour yourselves a glass of sweet tea and get out your dancing shoes because The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra from Georgia, USA, has arrived in Israel!
Gathering at the Hotel Gilgal in Tel Aviv on July 13th, one hundred and fifty survivors of the Holocaust from Lod and Netanya were the first to hear The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra during their eight-day tour through the Holy Land. The event, organized by Helping Hand Coalition and Lori Lowenhar, was a memorable night of jubilation and laughter.
Following their first trip to Israel back in 2019, the band leaders, Clay Johnson — lead vocals and trombone player — and Jeremy Davis — vocals and tenor sax player — were thrilled to be back! Speaking to them before they went on stage, Clay exclaimed that performing for the survivors was “one of the most profound things we could ever do. We have a spiritual connection with Israel and everyone here — especially those coming back. If we can use the music to be a blessing to Israel, we’re going to do that however we can.”
Hosting the event, Andre and Luke Gasiorowski greeted attendees, noting the many familiar faces in the audience, before introducing the band.
Filling the room with soul-filled music, Clay Johnson led the way with his smooth-as-honey voice, singing songs like Don’t Rain on my Parade and Feelin’ Good. Igniting the room in wonder, the musicians’ joy was contagious as they played their instruments with passion and zeal.
Sharing their story in-between songs, Clay and Jeremy explained that they had been friends since they were five years old, after Clay’s mother forced them to spend time together — mothers always know best. Clay said, “We were so different. I was the smart one…” “And, I guess, I was the good-looking one,” Jeremy quipped. The survivors laughed at the joke, thoroughly enjoying the humor and life the duo brought to the stage.
Giving a special nod to their location, The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra surprised the audience by performing a few Hebrew songs — Shalom Alechiem, Hava Nagila, and Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold). Belting the lyrics alongside Clay, the survivors’ faces lit up in appreciation as the band incorporated their culture into the set.
Taking center stage, Jeremy exclaimed, “We love it here in Israel. The people have been so nice and warm to us. It’s a special place, and we’re going to keep coming back every year if that’s okay.” The crowd clapped in agreement, jeering the show to go on!
Slowing things down, the band performed a rendition of Moon River by Johnny Mercer. Recognizing the famous tune, the survivors swayed in their chairs, undoubtedly wishing there was more space to waltz with their friends and loved ones while the band serenaded the room with the beautiful song.
In a sweet moment that touched everyone’s hearts, Clay welcomed his daughter, Ryah, to the stage. Together, they sang a duet about the love between a father and his daughter.
As a grand finale, The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra performed Put a Little Love in Your Heart and came into the audience with their instruments. Heightening the energy in the room, the survivors stood to clap and dance along as the musicians paraded around the venue.
Giving the band a standing ovation, the survivors cheered as their leaders expressed their gratitude and elation.
Rachel Shapiro, leader of the Lod group, exclaimed, “Dear friends, I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you for what we just experienced. They were songs we knew from our childhood. Thank you also for the three songs in Hebrew. You created an amazing atmosphere that made us want to dance and remember the joyful parties of our youth!”
Mila Fleitman, leader of the Netanya group, added, “I want to thank all of the musicians. Your magic music filled the atmosphere of this room, and I know that each of us was swallowing each piece of music to take home.”
On their way out, the survivors thanked the band and Helping Hand Coalition for the spectacular evening. As they exited the hotel, they were given water and sandwiches — catered by Orly — to replenish their energy on the bus ride home.
Helping Hand Coalition extends its GREAT appreciation to The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra for their phenomenal performance! Thank you, also, to the Gilgal Hotel for generously providing the venue, Lori Lowenhar for co-organizing, Orly for catering, and every person involved in making this an event that left everyone grinnin’ like a possum eating a sweet ‘tater!
Y’all come back now, hear?