Don Byron’s tribute to Borscht Belt musician and comedian Mickey Katz brought him plenty of attention 20 years ago. Now, the clarinetist looks back on his role in the klezmer music revival.
It is hard to imagine the world without Adrienne Cooper. She enriched life for decades with thrilling song, wise words, and trenchant humor.
Clarinetist Chilik Frank plays exquisite arrangements of Hasidic melodies and dance songs. Binyomin Ginzberg says it’s some of the most moving Jewish music he has ever heard.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s grandmom had trunks in her basement. A lot of our grandmothers had stuff stacked away. But our grandmoms were not Bessie Thomashefsky. “When I used to go visit my grandmother at her apartment in Hollywood, she had trunks in her basement and that was a special treat,” said Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony and artistic director of Miami Beach’s New World Symphony, which he founded. In her basement, his grandmother “would open up these trunks, and inside them there were various costumes and scripts and photos and all these things that had been part of her life.”
Composer Elizabeth Swados has dramatized tragedy before, but never the fear that rises from the gut when flames are sweeping nearby and escape is far away. In creating the music for the most terrifying moments in an original oratorio for the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, Swados turned to raw instinct.
Like all other mornings, on March 25, 1911, Rose Bernstein had planned to arrive at 245 Greene Street, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, and begin working. Instead, a sibling fell ill, so she stayed home — thus avoiding the tragic fate of other colleagues who died or were injured in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire later that day.
Heard any good Yiddish folksongs lately? Chances are good that the answer is “no.” Not because there aren’t any good Yiddish folksongs to be heard; for generations, the Yiddish-speaking Jews of Eastern Europe sang innumerable songs about love and loss, death and marriage. They sang to their children to soothe them to sleep, and they sang at work to relieve the drudgery of menial labor.
Most academic symposia don’t offer a steady supply of cold beer and hot pirogi. Fewer still offer the chance to see Michael Alpert, frontman for the progressive klezmer band Brave Old World, dancing on a chair. The first-ever Yiddish Dance Symposium had both.
About 13,000 people crowded the main square in the cobblestone-paved former Jewish quarter of Krakow last week for the finale of this year’s Jewish Culture Festival. The event — which is funded by the Polish government, the city of Krakow, the Friends of the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival in New York and the San Francisco-based Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture — boasted a dizzying array of activities, including daily tours of seven synagogues and cemeteries; Yiddish- and Hebrew-language classes; films, lectures and exhibits; workshops in Jewish cooking, calligraphy and Hasidic dance; meetings with Jewish authors, and traditional Sabbath prayer services.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I’m personally indebted to Yale Strom.