Posts Tagged: Kulturfest Results 4
If there was one musical moment that has stood out so far that encapsulates Kulturfest — the international festival of Yiddish music being played out in venues around Manhattan — it may have been when Polina Shepherd ‘ from Tatarstan by way of the UK — launched into a version of “Avinu Malkeynu.” The audience took the opportunity of a familiar melody to attempt a sing-along. That lasted about two phrases and then died out. Shepherd’s performance, like all the best ones we’ve heard this week, was not about kitsch, sentimentality, or nostalgia. This wasn’t singing around the campfire. Delivering the prayer inimitably, with ornamentation reflecting her immersion in the chant of the muezzin as much as in the cantorial tradition, it was about transcendence via art. It was a cry from her own heart, an act of creation, and a transformation of time and space into pure beauty that in sum equaled the mystical moment.
It would have taken the fanciful imagination of a writer like Haruki Murakami or Salman Rushdie to have invented a scrappy quartet of Japanese musicians who play a punk-rock infused brand of Ching Dong — a style of Japanese street music roughly analogous to New Orleans parade band music — until one day the leader finds and listens to an LP of the Klezmer Conservatory Band’s 1980 album, “Yiddishe Renaissance,” and decides this is the music he was always meant to play.
Kulturfest brands itself as the “first international festival of Jewish performing arts,” and on the festival’s first day, Sunday, it lived up to its billing with a grand opening concert featuring dozens of artists representing at least five continents and a panoply of musical styles.
The National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene has announced that it will be creating a new, bi-annual international festival of Jewish performing arts, the New York Times reports. “Kulturfest,” which will also be named after Yiddish preservationist and anthologist Chana Mlotek, will begin in 2015, to coincide with the Folksbiene’s 100th anniversary. It will be officially presented at the organization’s upcoming June 12 gala, at which Mlotek will be honored along with Neil Sedaka and H. Jay Wisnicki.