Alex the Moose, aka Alex Konyves, performs at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Family Day on Feb. 9. (photo by Kale Wilson Beaudry of klphotograph.com)
The show had ended. Alex the Moose, though, had not left the building. Known to his friends as Alex Konyves, the man beneath the antlers sat next to me basking in the afterglow of his Family Day concert at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on Feb. 9.
With sweat on his brow and a big smile, he and I sat looking towards the now vacant stage. No longer in moose attire, he was obviously pleased. “I was so excited for this show,” he beamed. “We were asked to do it a number of months ago, and put a great band together with Jesse Bentley on bass, Jeff Child on percussion, Emma Wong on vocals and myself on guitar and vocals. We had a blast. The kids here are really adorable, really sweet, really engaged.”
Alex the Moose, joined by a giraffe, a cheetah and a bunny, played for the children, but the parents and grandparents in the audience bobbed their heads and tapped their feet, too. Blending elements of funk, Latin, klezmer and rock and roll, the band opened with a bass solo from Jesse the Cheetah (Bentley) that would not be out of place at the Commodore Ballroom on a Saturday night.
“The trick is keeping it suitable for children, but also engaging for parents,” Konyves explained. “Some children’s music is not the most engaging for parents, and if they’re going to be playing at your house, on repeat, it’s nice to have music that’s engaging and fun, original and diverse.” Hence, the ensemble includes a range of instruments – the didgeridoo, two types of hand-drum, wind chimes, guitar, bass and voices. “We like to keep it eclectic,” said Konyves.
They opened with an original song – “Wake up in the Morning” – and aptly chose their current single, “The Pyjama Song,” as the finale. The group performed other originals, such as “The Bumblebee Song” and “The Iguana Song,” in which the group counts iguanas falling off a tree, in Spanish, as well as classics like “The Hokey Pokey,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
“The first time I played music for young children was at Camp Miriam when I was a madrich [counselor] there, and I had a young age group,” said Konyves, now 29. “At night, I’d put them to sleep by playing guitar and, three songs in, they’d all be fast asleep. It was really special.”
These days, Konyves, who is also the song leader at Temple Sholom, lists Raffi, Debbie Friedman and the Beatles as his musical influences. “Raffi talks a lot about child-honoring, where you really respect children in every regard. You don’t push product placements, you really allow them to make choices for themselves, and you give them your heart.”
Konyves also believes in making music accessible to children. “If you have any instruments in your house, put them out,” he advises parents. “Just like having books in your house, it should be the same with musical instruments.”
As our conversation wound down, an impromptu jam session broke out among the bandmates on stage. To the bellowing of the didgeridoo and the beat of the djembe, Konyves explained his love of playing for children: “Kids are very honest with you when you play. If they don’t like it, they’ll let you know.”
Based on the bouncing, jumping, laughing and smiling in the audience, they liked the Family Day show a lot.
Many of Alex the Moose and company’s songs are available for download at musicwithalex.bandcamp.com.
Benjamin Groberman is a born and raised Vancouverite. He is a freelance writer, and is pursuing a bachelor of education degree, with aspirations to teach in a Jewish high school. He is a resident of Vancouver’s Moishe House.