COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — NBC4 Meteorologist Ben Gelber is receiving attention once again from the central Ohio community, but this time it is not about the weather forecast.

A detailed profile of Gelber’s ensemble Friday Night Live Music was shared in Columbus Jewish News. The article highlights the longtime forecaster’s passion for traditional Shabbat music and traces the origin of his ensemble.

The idea began more than a dozen years ago, with a violinist playing commemorative music at Captial University in Bexley, during the annual remembrance observance of Kristallnacht at Trinity Lutheran Seminary.

“I was reminded of the beauty inherent in the service music, in those older melodies that I remembered,” Gelber told the outlet.

The thought of “reawakening” those same memories for others surfaced in Gelber’s mind at the time, when he began sketching out a program comprising historical and klezmer (folk) melodies on the piano.

“I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with the idea,” Gelber said. “I began putting some music together, thinking about what it would sound like with more instrumentation, and started looking for other musicians in town.”

In a 2013 Columbus Dispatch article Gelber explained that his mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis brought new urgency to forming his musical group.

“I decided to redouble my efforts,” he told the Dispatch. “I wanted it to come to fruition soon enough for her to see it.”

The group of local musicians began to come together in 2009, and its premier performance took place at Ohio State’s Jewish campus organization, OSU Hillel, in May.

“We did our first concert of about a dozen melodies, focusing on traditional services music and folk songs,” he told Columbus Jewish News. “It went reasonably well.”

His mother, Judy, was able to enjoy Friday Night Live Music online before her death in 2010.

A family connection is also behind the musicians’ performances at assisted living and senior centers. When Gelber’s father, Norman, began experiencing dementia, the younger Gelber learned about music’s positive effects on memory care.

According to a recent event program, the goal of the group is to “share and explore the intrinsic beauty that imbues Jewish melodies traditionally heard during Friday night and Saturday morning Shabbat services, holiday services, weddings, and folk celebrations all over the world.”

The ensemble has also performed at a wide variety of venues, always tailoring the playlist to the audience. Event locations include Ohio State University, Capital University, Ohio Wesleyan University, Bexley Public Library, Upper Arlington Public Library, McConnell Arts Center of Worthington, Hilliard Civic & Cultural Arts Center and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus.

Additionally, the group has a digital album and CD, “Boychikz II Mensch,” and livestreamed a concert that reached audiences around the country during the pandemic, when live performances were not possible.

Friday Night Live Music’s next community concert is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. at Creekside at the Village, in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Community concerts have no admission costs and are open to the public.

Learn more on the group’s Facebook page, Friday Night Live Music – Ben Gelber.

Current member of Friday Night Live Music:

  • Ben Gelber, piano
  • Marsha, Huber, vocals
  • Debbie Costa, vocals
  • John Stefano, vocals
  • Michelle Cohen, vocals
  • Al Belasco, guitar
  • Amy Lang, oboe
  • Beth Owen, flute
  • Bob Pfeifer, clarinet
  • Carol Fleming, accordion
  • David Litsky, clarinet
  • Elaine Schnipke, percussion
  • Jackie LaMuth, bass guitar
  • Karen Pfeifer, oboe
  • Kathleen Smith, violin
  • Keith Smith, clarinet
  • Shayla Werner, harp