A Rabbi’s Anniversary Brings Tenor Trio to the Aria

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Josh Page brings his tenor trio to town to celebrate his uncle's 25 years at the helm of Old York Road Temple-Beth Am in Elkins Park.

To celebrate his 25 years at Old York Road Temple-Beth Am in Elkins Park, Rabbi Robert S. Leib’s family, friends and congregants arranged for some of the festivities attendant to many a silver anniversary celebration, including cocktails, conversation and music.
 
The musical entertainment for the milestone will be a little more high-profile than might be expected: the “popera” group Forte will perform in honor of Leib at the Keswick Theatre on Dec. 7. 
 
The Reform rabbi’s nephew, Josh Page, is one-third of the tenor trio, which made it all the way to the finals of last year’s edition of the television show, America’s Got Talent. Their strong showing landed them a recording contract that resulted in their self-titled debut album, a residency in Las Vegas and concert dates across the country.
 
Page, 24, jumped at the chance to take part in the festivities honoring Leib. The Rockland County, N.Y., native, who went to Professional Performing Arts School in New York City — better known as the Fame high school — says that without his uncle, he might never have gotten his shot at musical success.
 
Page says that Leib knew what a huge fan he was of Josh Groban, and told his dog groomer, who happened to have connections to the singer. In 2011, she invited Page to join her at a Groban concert at Ma­dison Square Garden.
 
It was clearly his lucky day. As he often does at concerts, Groban called upon an audience member who had written a note to him — and Page’s seat number was selected. “There must have been 20,000 people there!” Page recalls. When he heard his seat announced, “it was the most surreal moment of my entire life.”
 
In a moment that has since been viewed millions of times on YouTube, Groban invited Page to sing a duet with him. Page nailed the song, David Foster’s “The Prayer,” so expertly that he was inspired to put together his own group. In 2013, he formed Forte with fellow tenors Fernando Varela and Sean Panikkar. In true millennial fashion, the three found each other through online forums.
 
For Page, even the song he sang that launched his career can be traced back to his relationship with his uncle. 
 
“The first time I ever performed ‘The Prayer’ was at his synagogue,” Page says.
 
The easy confidence with which the then-unknown Page shared a microphone with an international recording star and which he now exudes as a headliner is something he developed by singing at Old York Road Temple-Beth Am since childhood, whenever his parents would bring him down to visit the family. 
 
“I always knew I had a voice; I knew I had the potential to do opera and all styles of music, and I wanted to focus on what made me different,” he explains. “I started getting onstage when I was a kid because it was what I was most afraid of — and I wanted to face it. ”
 
Page says the upcoming anniversary concert is a way to show his gratitude for the support and encouragement his uncle has provided to him and to countless others over the years. 
 
“My uncle is so incredibly supportive and engaging — you can feel his selflessness. I’ve known him all my life, and he has always been giving.”
 
For his part, Leib, who has progressed from associate rabbi to senior rabbi during his time at Old York Road Temple-Beth Am, brushes off any notion of helping his nephew, focusing instead on lauding his talent. 
 
“Josh, if he plays his cards right, has the potential to be the next Josh Groban,” the 55-year-old rabbi enthuses.
 
Leib appears uncomfortable with all of the attention focused on his anniversary, which has been difficult to avoid. In addition to this concert, he was feted at a concert earlier this year put on by many of the cantors from the Old York Road Kehillah, and he recently returned from leading a group of 44 congregants on a two-week tour of his native South Africa, where he bore witness to another anniversary.
 
“It has been 20 years since freedom and democracy have come to the country,” he says with a tone of wonderment. “What I am witnessing now is something I could never take for granted: Twenty years ago, it was inconceivable that blacks and whites would be eating together in the same hotel restaurant, and that different racial groups would be coming together, living together, playing together.”
 
While he allows that he is looking forward to the concert and the reception that follows, he begins immediately protesting when asked if he has given any thought to a 30th anniversary celebration. 
 
“No way — not at all!” he says, laughing. “I take it one Shabbos at a time. I don’t know what the future holds. It’s difficult being a Jew, and much more so as a professional Jew; I never take this for granted.” 
 
IF YOU GO
Forte in Concert
Dec. 7 at 3 p.m.
The Keswick Theatre
291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside
axs.com/events; 215-572-7650
 
 

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