When Yitzy Bald was taking accordion lessons as a kid, Ms. Lawner, his music teacher, asked his mother, “What – does he think he’s a composer?”
The budding musician would take the notes, scales, and lessons his teacher would give him during their Friday afternoon lessons and modify and improve them before his next lesson. He started composing when he was just nine years old.
Yitzy Bald loves music and loves working with kids. He’s an eighth-grade rebbe in Brooklyn and a family man with eight kids. But it’s his out-of-the-box, creative drive that’s gotten him to where he is today.
As a young kid, he would sit and literally shake near a record player listening to records of Pirchei, Ohr Chodosh, JEP, London School, and New York School of Jewish Song. He had an old-fashioned organ and would play along with the songs.
Then he started creating his own. He connected with Shmuel Brazil of Regesh fame and presented him with an original composition. Brazil liked what he heard.
Bald continued composing and, at only 16 years old, completed a song that became his first popular hit. Sitting on his bed at home, he wrote “Pischu Li,” an upbeat song that he introduced to his camp friends that summer. They loved it!
Aaron Zutler, an Orthodox producer and musician, was friends with singer Shloime Dachs. They got it to choir maestro Yerachmiel Begun who called Bald and told him he was 20 years ahead of his time. Word got out about Bald’s unique composing and musical abilities and he was called on to produce Sruly Williger’s debut album, which also included some of Bald’s compositions.
Then in 1987, the young YB (Yitzy Bald) sold five songs to the older YB (Yerachmiel Begun). In 1989, the former left to Israel, and left behind “Pischu Li” with the latter. In 1990, Begun included it in his Miami Experience production, accepting Bald’s recommendation to have Shloime Dachs sing the song in concert.
While in yeshiva in Jerusalem, Bald spent a sick day in his room fiddling with a keyboard. Out came “Yerav,” another Bald blockbuster, which was featured on an album called Shevach 2, together with eight additional Bald compositions, and years later on Dachs’ 1996 release, One Day at a Time.
Post-yeshiva, and back in the U.S., Bald continued to work in Jewish music as a “one-mand band” and composer for Mendy Wald, Tzlil V’zemer, Dedi, Shlomo Simcha, Dovid Gabay, Yeedle, MBD, and Avraham Fried. His specialty was upbeat, wedding dance songs.
In the early 1990s, he was on staff at Camp Agudah. One of his responsibilities was arranging and overseeing the adult harmony group in the camp’s annual Cantata play. Then he started writing original songs for the cantatas. Since they were presented during the Three Weeks, they tended to be emotional and a cappella. Then it hit him in 1997, “Why don’t I just lead the whole choir?” He had always wanted to run a choir and knew he had a knack for it, but was hesitant to start one.
After he got married, he decided it was time to set the plans for his choir in motion. In 2008, he held auditions and selected kids to record an album under the name “The Yitzy Bald Boys Choir.” In 2011, he released the album and changed the name to the New York Boys Choir and hired a choreographer for live shows.
The choir’s first album featured four songs that are now included, in a cappella form, on the new CANTATA – A Hartzig Acapella. Years in the making, it features 13 songs that were performed during the camp’s cantatas.
One song, “Chesed,” was composed during the rebuilding of Camp Agudah that was partially destroyed by a large fire. It became one of his father’s all-time favorite songs, and one that he plays at many concerts. Another highlight is “Chaloimos,” a song written using the words his late mother would say when putting him to bed: “chalomot nei’mim” (sweet dreams).
“Songs are my heart and soul,” Bald told me. “There are songs I want to give over to the world. I love bringing over the fast songs, but these [on CANTATA – A Hartzig Acapella] are from the heart.”
Since he is very busy as a full-time rebbe, he summoned help from his colleagues in the Jewish music field who, he knew, could arrange well and who are “in sync” with him. He considers CANTATA – A Hartzig Acapella to be “literally the epitome of my work – each song is a gem with an important message.”
CANTATA – A Hartzig Acapella is available on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, MostlyMusic, and in select stores.