Letters to Bach is a musical project created by Noa and Gil Dor, dedicated to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The name implies a correspondence with the great composer over the years, as it points to the novelty of this album: the original lyrics, written by Noa, cleverly ...
Israel’s leading international recording and performing artist Noa (also known by her birth-name Achinoam Nini) and her long-time artistic partner and collaborator, the renowned guitarist, composer, and educator Gil Dor performed their first concert together in 1990. Now celebrating a 30-year journey that has allowed them to perform in front of millions of fans in 51 countries, the duo is bringing that celebration to dedicated audiences around the world with international tour dates from as far as Israel, Russia, and Latvia to multiple countries across Europe, and culminating with five U.S. tour dates in March slated for Boston, MA; Seattle, WA; Irvine, CA; New York, NY; and Kennett Square, PA.
The tour will feature songs from Noa’s latest album Letters to Bach, which was executively produced by the legendary Quincy Jones and represents a creative correspondence that transcends space and time between Noa’s vocal/lyrical stylings and the music of iconic German composer Johann Sebastian Bach. The album is comprised of twelve pieces of instrumental music composed by Bach, for which Noa has written lyrics (in both English and Hebrew) that touch intimately and thoughtfully on subjects ranging from technology and religion to global warming, feminism, euthanasia, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the trials of relationships in the age of social media.
What is special about the album, first of all, is perhaps the fact that it's Bach, to begin with. Not being a classical singer, Noa says this was not an obvious or a natural album for her to make. Yet, she discovered that she could develop a very personal and unique relationship with the composer through his compositions.
“I found in Bach’s ageless compositions an incredible platform for conveying very, very contemporary ideas,” reflects Noa. “The lyrics I wrote for them are not sung in a classically trained fashion, but rather something that could be described as musical theater-oriented with elements of jazz, scat, or even rapper-ish with spoken-word. All these things can be found in the way that these pieces are performed.”
Noa’s long-standing musical collaborator, Gil Dor masterfully arranges the pieces for acoustic and classical guitar, managing to seamlessly synergize with Noa’s majestic voice and percussion playing, while also managing to remain absolutely true to Bach’s original polyphony and form. It is a synergy that has taken decades to refine.
While her family is originally from Yemen, Noa was born in Tel- Aviv and lived in NYC from the age of two until she chose to return to Israel on her own at the age of seventeen. She then served a mandatory two years in the Israeli Army by contributing her talents to a military entertainment unit before going on to study music at the Rimon School. It was here that she met her long-time partner and collaborator Gil Dor.
Noa notes that her strongest influences come from the singer-songwriters of the 60s, like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen. Throughout the meandering journey of her career, she has combined these musical sensibilities with her Yemenite roots and Gil Dor’s strong background in jazz, classical, and rock to create the duo’s unique sound that has manifested in hundreds of songs written and performed together. Noa has achieved worldwide recognition for her unparalleled vocal style but also regularly plays percussion, guitar, and piano.
It is also important to say that alongside Noa’s artistic activity, she has always been involved in activism for peace, especially around Palestinian and Israeli issues. She’s had many opportunities to collaborate with Palestinian artists and Arab artists around the world, and in 2009, Noa represented Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, singing “There must be another way” with Israeli /Palestinian artist Mira Awad in front of an audience of several million in Arabic, English, and Hebrew.
Another outstanding highlight has been Noa's connection to the Vatican. She's visited and performed at the Vatican so many times over the years that many have called her the ‘Vatican house-singer’. As a result, the singer has developed very close and even personal relationships with at least two of the three popes that she has performed for, including Pope John Paul II and more recently Pope Francis.
Noa reflects on the three-decades-long journey of her career and all the places it has taken her, “Letters to Bach is our thirtieth-anniversary album and is really a gift to ourselves. We never would have imagined it would get the kind of reactions that it's been getting, but it's been receiving really amazing reviews all over the world and, and people have been reacting to it in an incredible way. Even though it's like the furthest thing from commercial, people are fascinated by it and really respond when we play the songs live.”
While The Letters to Bach project is highlighted as the heart of their live performances, Noa and Gil will also bring to the stage a sampling of their diverse and inspiring original repertoire from over the years. “On Tour, we do integrate Letters to Bach into the program as the spotlight but it’s not all Bach,” explains Noa. “We include a selection of our greatest hits with songs we've done over the years in both English and Hebrew. There's also almost always a song in Yemenite that I dedicate to my family, and then there's the whole Bach section at the heart of it, and somehow it all makes sense!”
Together, Noa and Gil have earned a reputation over the decades for putting on live performances that often rival the engineered perfection of the best studio recordings. Critics have marveled that, considering the complexity and the speed of the melodies, it is hard to believe that Noa’s live voice in concert often sounds exactly as, or batter than, on the recordings. Said one floored reviewer from Under The Radar Magazine, “The concert seemed to suggest that Bach himself composed for Noa and her voice, to begin with.”
2020 Letters to Back U.S. tour dates: