Several years ago, I started performing a solo klezmer cornet piece at some of my seminars. I find that when participants listen to a live musical presentation of klezmer music, a tone is set for the entire program that opens their hearts to a key theme at all my talks - that we discover a mysterious, sacred shift in consciousness when we strive to face adversity by, at once, honoring the past while humbly welcoming change. This theme is at the heart of klezmer.
Klezmer music is an old, soulful form of Jewish folk music that emerged hundreds of years ago in Eastern European "shtetles" (villages) and ghettos where millions of Jews lived before the holocaust. Traditionally, klezmer music was played by klezmorim, traveling musicians who performed at weddings and other festive occasions. Its rich, diverse sound reflects the Diaspora we associate with the Jewish people. For instance, while it is a secular music, it is informed by ancient Jewish liturgical melodies, as well as Middle Eastern modes associated with Turkish, Greek and Arabic music. There are also strong musical references to folk songs and dances of Eastern Europe, particularly Rumanian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, and Roma or Gypsy music.
After the holocaust, klezmer was nearly forgotten. Only a few klezmorim that survived the war and settled in America still performed, and, to this day, its sound has never been woven as tightly into the tapestry of Jewish life as it once had been. But klezmer has never been forgotten and, as always, continues to embrace change. For instance, it was referenced in the music of Gershwin, Benny Goodman and other jazz musicians of the thirties and forties, and today, as klezmer experiences its newest rebirth in the U.S. and Europe, we can hear how the improvisational sounds of jazz sweetly mingle with ancient liturgical chants and joyful circle dances.
About The Selections
The first selection includes my interpretation of an ancient "nigun" transcribed by ethnomusicologist, Moshe Beregovski, in his book, Old Jewish Folk Music, a vast collection of songs gathered during his field work in Rumania during the nineteen twenties and thirties. A "nigun" is Yiddish for song, and typically refers to a prayerful, improvisational vocal incantation. Following the nigun is a traditional klezmer festive dance called "Sherele."
The second selection includes a traditional klezmer slow dance, "Oriental Hora," followed by another of Beregovski's "nigun" transcriptions.
About the Musicians
The New Yasi Klezmer Band
Rob Zucker, cornet and vocal
Mary Barron, fiddle and vocal
Marcos Levy, piano