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Dec 1, 2012




The exquisite colours of Sophie Berkal-Sarbit's voice are the icing on the cake of one of the most magical versions of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" that has ever been recorded. Bill King's masterful piano work and completely inspired production couches this young, fresh voice in a web of beauty that transports one to a higher level.

- Elaine Overholt – Big Voice Studio (Chicago, Hairspray, Mamma Mia, The Producers) Oprah Winfrey Network

"Sophie's Hallelujah is heavenly. Her voice is sweet and true with a haunting nostalgia that carries you far away."

- Gloria Martin - Entertainment Editor, 680 NEWS/Rogers National Radio Network

Sophie Berkal - Sarbit's tender vocals brings a new emotional purity to Leonard Cohen's classic lyrics. Her version of Hallelujah is simply beautiful.

- Dave Charles JAZZ.FM91

In splendid voice as always on "Hallelujah", Sophie Berkal-Sarbit mines new glory from the Cohen classic - just as she has infused the Canadian music scene with the excitement and enthusiasm of the next generation of jazz stars.

- Mark Rheaume CBC Radio

"All I can say about Sophie Berkal and the mesmerizing version of this song is 'Hallelujah' ! for offering the best rendition ever recorded."

- Sandy Graham, C.O.O. Cashbox Canada

"The oft-covered Leonard Cohen classic "Hallelujah" is given a vibrant and refreshing interpretation by fast-rising young jazz songstress Sophie Berkal-Sarbit. Sparse piano and Sophie's pure and haunting vocals are perfectly complemented with soaring strings. A winner."

- Freelance music journalist Kerry Doole (Exclaim!, Words + Music)

" This very moving. Sophie breathes fresh life into the lyrics. I'm sure Cohen would enthusiastically approve".

- Geoff Chapman (Whole Note Magazine)

"I don't care how many times you have heard Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" or how many versions you've heard; you may even be tired of hearing it; but you haven't heard "Hallelujah" by Sophie Berkal-Sarbit. As you are listening to her singing it, you won't even remember the other versions."

- Larry LeBlanc, Senior Editor, CelebrityAccess


When you take a chance renewing a classic song that has had so many definitive approaches you place yourself in the crosshairs of the music world.

"When Sophie told me she wanted to record one of the planet’s most beloved songs, "Hallelujah," I caught my breath – rolled my eyes and thought to myself ‘Why?’ Revered versions by John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright and k.d.Lang come to mind – not to mention the most recent Canadian Tenors,’ says producer/pianist Bill King.

"I think I can bring something different to this," says Sophie. King’s response –"O.K." let’s just see what happens in the studio. This should be totally improvised. Things should happen organically –if it doesn’t we’ll do ourselves a solid by stepping away and leaving the world short one more unnecessary misfire."

There are times when everything feels just right. A brand spanking new C. Bechstein D280 9′ Concert Grand piano at Number 9 Studios – an intimate studio and broad smile spread across 21 year old Berkal-Sarbit’s face.

It’s always about establishing a mood – a moment of decision filled with tension, intimacy and contrasts.

After a first improvised run through the arrangement composed itself. It’s the marriage of the two - piano and voice –a quiet solitude. Carefully considered notes borrowed from the upper regions of the piano placed at intervals falling like isolated rain drops gently lay the framework for what was to come - a full symphonic orchestration within the range of the glimmering Bechstein.

Berkal-Sarbit embraces the languid tempo – one that takes a poetic stance. Rather than abruptly shift verse to verse the piano intercedes reserving the time in between to contemplate the spiritually bittersweet lyrics.

The church like harmonies sound closure, much like the parting measures of a Beethoven sonata. Then total silence.

No third takes or let’s change this or that – the piece is complete.

Studio head George Rodina got wind of the session engineered by Bernie Cisternas ‘and suggested sending ‘Hallelujah’ to Los Angeles where a couple of string section arrangers might be interested in contributing. As luck would have it violinist Christian House heard what everyone heard and volunteered added sweetening.

"My approach was to come up with something with few distractions for the viewer," says video director, Chris Gentile. "Sophie’s voice elegantly surrounds the piano and had to be just right visually. The more I listened to "Hallelujah", things began to come clear. This had to be a black and white video, classic in filming style, with an edit style of dissolves and soft fades. No colors or background textures just simple and clean. There was no need for a place or set, just perfect classic portrait lighting. This was all I needed to tell the story."

Produced by Bill King and George Rondina

Arrangement: Bill King

Strings: Christian Howes Strings

Video production was produced through Christopher Gentile Productions.

Directing and story design created Christopher Gentile

 Camera DOP David Suddaby

Camera Arri Alexa provided by Robert Burt Productions

Studio 17 Noble Street Studios Studio One

Posting PPD Post Producers Digital Toronto

Strings: Donald Quan, Charmaine Louis and Mark Korven

Christopher Gentile is a long time Commercial Video Director in Toronto .and owns

and operates Christopher Gentile Productions/Photography

Recorded at Number 9 Studios

Engineer - Bernie Cisternas



The exquisite colours of Sophie Berkal-Sarbit's voice are the icing on the cake of one of the most magical versions of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" that has ever been recorded. Bill King's masterful piano work and completely inspired production couches this young, fresh voice in a web of beauty that transports one to a higher level.

- Elaine Overho

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.