Visitors to the 20th-anniversary celebration of the klezmer band Ensemble M’chaiya (which means “a real joy” in Yiddish) can expect one thing, according to band co-founder Terran Doehrer: “A good time.”
“We’re going to live up to our name,” said Doehrer, a 50-year-old guitarist. There will be singing, dancing, music and general raucousness. For the past 20 years Ensemble M’chaiya has been bringing klezmer — as well as Israeli, Sephardic, French and Turkish tunes — to Chicacgo.
Two decades ago, when Doehrer and the band’s other founder, Don Jacobs, who plays clarinet, were first thinking of creating a klezmer band, “klezmer had basically — for all intents and purposes — disappeared from the Chicagoland area,” Doehrer said.
Doehrer had been playing Bulgarian jazz in the Balkan Rhythm Band when he heard his first klezmer album. He was intrigued. A few months later he heard his first live klezmer band when a West Coast group called Klezmorim passed through Chicago. Klezmorim “came to town; it was a real cool gig…. It was right down our line,” he recounted. “That was the spark that took it out of theory and made it into reality.”
At the time, Ensemble M’chaiya was the only professional klezmer band in Chicago. Today there are more than a dozen professional bands, Doehrer said.
Ensemble M’chaiya plays weddings and bar mitzvahs and tours across the country, as well as in Europe.
“Klezmer music was never cartoon music,” Doehrer said, solemnly respectful of the music he plays. “It was contemporary dance music.” Doehrer wants everyone who attends the 20th-anniversary celebration to “get inside the mentality” that klezmer “is a living, vital thing.”
The HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo Drive, Chicago; Nov. 23, 7 p.m.; $10, $8 advance. (312-362-9707 or www.hothouse.net)