Friday, December 31, 2010
As I was sadly saying goodbye to the klezkamp community, Joanne Borts shared with me the handout she used in her class, "Better With A Band". In this glossary, she gives non-musicians terms for basic "musician speak". She provides terms like, Major and Minor keys, Coda, Bridge, Tempo as well as Jewish music terms like Doina, Hora, Serba and even the mode names like Freygish, Mishebeyrakh and Mogon Ovos. What a great idea! As those of us who make our livelihood on the bandstand, an educated singer and dance leader makes our job easier.
But the best thing is the last section called "BWAB Secrets.....Shhh.." where she advises:
"Don't hook up with the drummer....it can turn out badly...."
Now she tells us.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
When's the last time you heard that?
BTW: all the cool kids speak Yiddish.
Clarinetist and producer Alex Kontorovich made the treacherous drive up from the city to lead a good chunk of the Klezkamp staff in a tribute concert (turned dance party) to the late clarinetist German Goldenshteyn. The occasion was the release of the latest Living Traditions CD "The Tradition Lives: Yiddish-Moldavian Music of German Goldenshteyn" by the Goldenshteyn Memorial Orchestra. Recorded at Klezkamp just last year, the release sees the reunion of all the players from German's first and only recording "German Goldenshteyn: A Living Tradition," (available on iTunes and CD Baby) playing material chosen by German and Alex for his second release, but sadly was unable to record after his untimely demise not long after the release of his first CD.
But it was with hearts filled with joy that the band hit the Hudson Valley stage last night, playing down German's repertoire as if that's the only music they had ever played. With no rehearsal and only a glass of vodka for preparation Kontorovich lead a band featuring Dan Blacksberg, Cookie Segelstein, Susan Hoffman-Lankin, Henry Sapoznik, Lauren Brody and yours truly through a solid 90 minutes of Moldavian tunes played in the Jewish style that German first introduced to us. (Accordionist Joshua Horowitz and drummer Aaron Alexander could not attend for family and weather issues, though they were with us in spirit.)
Links to purchase this CD, as well as the new Pete Sokolow CD, will be posted soon!
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
The first nights fun was watching the documentary "A Jumping Night in the Garden of Eden" with it's director in attendance. It was amazing to see all our heroes live in person (Dave Tarras, Leon Schwartz) and many of our staff (Henry, Frank, Lauren, and others) in their youth. The intervening 25 years were presented in sharp contrast to the current state of Yiddish Cultural affairs. Tonight is the staff concert where I'm pretty sure I will be playing a few tunes with Elaine and Susan Hoffman-Watts and the Youngers of Zion w/ Cookie and Hank which is always a selfish highlight for me.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Sunday morning at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa. The skeleton crew showed up last night and we're getting KlezKamp on its feet. It's the calm before the storm: literally. Weather predictions are anything from snow showers to blizzards today. 40 years in the desert did little to prepare us for this kind of weather.
Monday, December 28, 2009
"Henry’s residency and the KlezKamp Roadshow generated tremendous excitement for the work that those of you involved with KlezKamp have been doing for the last 25 years. It seemed that there was an audience waiting to happen in Madison, not just in the university milieu, but more importantly, in the communities beyond the university walls. The momentum provided by that residency led to more conversations with Sherry, Carol, Henry and my colleagues at UW about how we might form a permanent partnership that would honor and perpetuate the work of Living Traditions and of the KlezKamp community as well.
The idea was met with great enthusiasm from colleagues across numerous disciplines on campus, including theater, music, art, dance, language and most importantly, the University library. The library has agreed to house the Mayrent collection and to make it universally accessible as well as to preserve and maintain the original discs in perpetuity.
That was a pivotal commitment and in the last few months, we put together a larger proposal for an institute of Yiddish culture on the UW campus. That proposal worked its way through the various university committees and two weeks ago we were informed that it had passed unanimously.
So, tonight, I am honored to announce the creation of the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture to be permanently located on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The initial funding for the institute is made possible by a generous gift from Sherry Mayrent and Carol Master. The Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture will be a unique facility devoted to fostering an understanding of the world of Yiddish through its arts. The institute will be directed by Henry Sapoznik.
The work is not done yet though, and the university along with the Center for Jewish Studies has undertaken a campaign to raise the additional funds necessary to insure the longevity of the institute as well as to achieve all of the goals that we have set out for it.
I want to say one more thing about this: Though I have not been associated with KlezKamp for very long in the scheme of things, what I realize is that KlezKamp is a community effort that has inspired tremendous loyalty and ownership in the future of a very fragile culture. The Mayrent Institute honors the contributions of countless people over the last 25 years and is a measure of the commitment and hard work by the staff of Living Traditions as well as the efforts of every teacher and participant of every KlezKamp. We are truly blessed by this.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I screwed up and delivered my Zhurnal story a week too late to make publication, so here it is at least on line:
Man, it was cold, colder than I could ever remember with snow everywhere. Sure it got cold on the Oklahoma plains where I was born and raised, but I had been living in Texas for a long while now and tonight I stood shivering in my cowboy boots there in the foyer of the Paramount. Just as unfamiliar to my experience was the great bus-load of little old folks and precocious little kids streaming into the old resort, all a ruckus with big hugs and joyful reunions, chattering away in this strange Germanic tongue. Up to that point, the only Yiddish I had heard was my Godfather Morris Katz calling his milk cows into the barn for the night back in Stillwater. Frankly, I had never around this many Jews before, not even at High Holy Days. My head was swimming.
“Oh good, you made it!” said the guy who invited me as he bounded towards me in the lobby. I had never met Henry Sapoznik in person but we had corresponded for years and for just as long he had been cajoling me to come up to “Kamp.” Though technically a stranger (heck I didn’t know a soul there really,) he hugged me like an old friend. “You’re just in time! The dancing is starting. We need a bassist.” He led me down into the Tanzhall and bade me onstage. I took of my coat, inquired about a key from the amiable clarinetist, and proceeded to clam my way through a thrilling set of dance tunes with Merlin Shepherd and Loren Brody.
Back home in Texas I play for dancing quite a bit, it’s one of the reasons I live there in fact. But here for the first time in my life I was actually playing Yiddish music, MY people’s music, for room full of Jewish dancers dancing Yiddish dances. Not a concert, with lifeless music set in amber, distant and removed. Tonight, here at this place music had sprouted legs, was drinking a bit too much and was tearing up the dancefloor. I don’t know if I can properly express how huge a thing that is, how music literally comes alive when it’s simply just a part of a greater function, in a living context. 13 trips back to the Catskills over Xmas week later, I am still in awe of that first of what was to be many, many “Klez Kamp Moments.” If only for this one gift, dayenu.
Truth is I’ve got quite a lot of stories I could tell you; of the musical relationships that formed here, of the people I now call my family, how these experiences have in many ways made me who and what I am not only as a musician, but as a person and as a Jew. Of the deeply moving naches of watching the same little pischers who were running around wild when I first came here mature in the adults that we now look to continue our work. I could tell you about the time I was down with no one to turn to and how this community, the Yiddish Culture family that Klez Kamp gave birth to 25 years ago and nurtures to this day, lifted me up with love and support.
I don’t know if I can properly express how huge a thing that is.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
It's just as exciting now as it was 22 years ago when I walked in for the first time.
On the verge of celebrating our 25th annual winter KlezKamp, starting tomorrow at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in lovely Kerhonson, NY, we have brought our blog into the modern era by linking to our Facebook page. Please join us, either in person or in cyberspace, as we keep you up to date with our celebration of our first quarter century. And for a forshpayz (a taste) of what's to come, check out last year's blog entries for some fine music and photography, as well as on the spot impressions of the program.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
The wonderful thing about this surprisingly sweet little piece is that it very accurately captures a crystalline moment when we were collectively creating and honing our shared common Yiddish culture as we were inventing the context of KlezKamp. The enthusiasm and vitality displayed here -- fresh as all things back then always seemed to be -- is what made creating, learning and playing together the great experience it was. Oh, yeah: and we were nerdy, too!
Among those you'll see here are: Adrienne Cooper,her mom Buni Cooper, Joel Rubin, Gerry Tenney, Alan Bern, Margot Leverett, Wendy Marcus and her daughter Sophie Shifra (in the very touching scene where Wendy signs for her) Michael Alpert, Harvey Varga, Sarah Felder, Alan Senauke, Dan Peck (shlepping boxes in the background of one interview) and some young skinny kid who looks like Groucho Marx in a Brooklyn Dodgers cap.
Thanks to KlezKamp KlezKids Co-Director Sarah Gordon (who is also in it) for unearthing this video cuneiform and reminding us that, though we've changed on the outside, we're still as youthfully passionate and devoted to Yiddish music and culture as ever. HooHA!
Friday, January 4, 2008
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Thanks Bob and Aaron!
If you have an album of KlezKamp 2007 photos you would like to share, please send the link to email@example.com and we will post them here and on the KK website.
Friday, December 28, 2007
It seems like only hours ago that we made our quiet arrival on Saturday the 22nd in advance of an uncharacteristically thick London-like fog which enveloped scenic Kerhonkson. Our tiny crew which set up KK (Dan Peck, Sherry Mayrent, Sabina Brukner. Carol Master, Laura Wernick and Amber Feldman, among others) were soon joined by the eager masses of people from around the world who came to share the lush bounty of Yiddish culture with us. It was non-stop from then on.
Highlights for me this year were: My sessions on khazntes, Yente Telebende and Yiddishe Mames and my enthusiastic class of over 60; Part 2 of the late night bluegrass jam session with Andy Statman on mandolin and Mark Rubin on guitar and myself on banjo included warp speed bluegrass instrumentals -- one of which Andy is being nominated for a Grammy this year -- and a bevy of terrific Jesus-themed songs for which the ultra Orthodox Statman knew all the words; the rip roaring popularity of "Liquid Apple Pie" an accurately named mason jar filled confection imported all the way from Rockingham County, North Carolina; playing for Steve Weintraub's "Go Figure" dance class with Cookie Segelstein, Mark Rubin, Josh "P.J." Horowitz and Mike Cohen; Michael Winnograd's 3:00 AM tsunami of musicians who flooded the hotel lobby in advance of Steve Weintraub and hordes of followers dancing backwards in an eye popping flashback to the old KlezKamp days at the Paramount Hotel; performing and recording with the great Elaine Hoffman-Watts orchestra and the release concert of the new Living Traditions CD by Ray Musiker; my mother singing in the late night cabaret; Bob Berkman's kickass Klezmerola concert/lecture and the amazing contraption he brought to play his Yiddish piano rolls. There are many, many more memories but I have to leave SOMETHING to the imagination...
Now begins the real work: finding a new year round home as the Workmen's Circle has sold the building in which we have our offices and have evicted us with less than a month's notice....
Despite that, we are excitedly planning KK24. See you then!
Jake Shulman-Ment is among the premier young performers of klezmer violin. He has performed and recorded with many of the stars of the international klezmer scene, as well as with his own groups. Proficient in a variety of styles, Jake has travelled extensively in Hungary, Romania, and Greece documenting, recording, and performing traditional folk, Gypsy, and Jewish music.
Elaine Hoffman Watts on traps, Mike Cohen, clarinet, Ken Maltz, alto sax, Adrian Banner, piano, Susan Watts, trumpet, Dan Blacksburg, trombone, Henry Sapoznik, tenor banjo, Mark Rubin, tuba and conductor-arranger Aaron Alexander.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The evening began with the ensemble that recorded the Ray Musiker CD: Ray (of course), Ken Maltz, Mike Cohen, Aaron Alexander, Jim Guttmann, Henry Sapoznik and Pete Sokolow, who was the musical director for the project and provided informative introductions to each tune. They performed six selections, and I found the arrangements totally delightful. The playing was wonderful, as were the tunes, many of which had been written by Ray himself. This half of the show closed with the beautiful arrangement of Papirosn by Sam Musiker that I had last heard played on the KlezKamp stage by Ray, Howie Leess and Paul Pincus.
After a brief talk by Henry on the need for community support of this important series, the ensemble that is in the process of recording Elaine and her family's unique musical heritage came on stage. I have always loved both Elaine and her drumming, and she was in excellent form tonight. I was especially moved when she pointed out it was kind of amazing that KlezKamp had on staff this year not one, but two winners of the prestigious National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and that both were women.
This band consisted of Elaine, her daughter Susan Watts, Mike Cohen, Ken Maltz, Dan Blacksberg, Adrian Banner and Mark Rubin, and they performed some amazing tunes from the Hoffman family archives, including a freylekhs that Elaine's father had written for her. The concert closed with a beautiful waltz that made me cry, and I remembered that it had also made me cry the first time I heard it, back at the Paramount in a class in which Hankus Netsky was interviewing Elaine and a fellow Philadelphia musician, Joseph Buloff. It was a moving end to a very moving evening.
It occurred to me while I listened how incredible and unique this project is: When the current CD is completed, we will have three recordings representing three completely different klezmer styles and repertoires, each equally authentic and each equally beautiful and engaging. As Henry said this evening, we may not have the money we need to support all the projects we want to accomplish, but we beyond wealthy in human resources. I feel really lucky to be a part of this organization and to play a role in making these projects happen.
I had just finished with the Slow Jam in the lobby just before dinner yesterday, when I heard Carol (my other half) calling to me excitedly. "Can you play Pua Mana for us so we can dance?" she asked. She had found a fellow ukulele player and they had discovered that they both know the hula to this beloved Hawaiian song (in my non-KK life, we are part-time residents of the aloha state and in fact will be returning there next week). So, for the first time at KlezKamp, traditional hula was performed.
Not Yiddish, but very KlezKamp.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Who could have possibly known?
I mean, there's yiddish music in every corner and yiddish language at every table. There's no dead tree propped up in every corner, and no snow men anywhere. Like Andy Statman said last night, the sound of no jingle bells anywhere is the sound of home.
At this moment, I'm playing hooky from Jill Gellerman's Hassidic dance class to write these few lines, and already I feel guilty for pulling away from the the immediate "nowness" that this event creates. It's been only 24 hours and I in the zone: I feel like this is how I've always lived and I cannot forsee a life any other way. (Strange to think like that when in a pitiful few short days I'll be dodging drunks driving home from New Years Eve parties.)
My first impressions this year is the vast number of first timers here, and of the high level of cultural literacy that they bring with them. It's a gas to see folks line up the dots and find the context to the music, art and dance that they have devoted themselves to. Even a jaded staffer like myself has to step back and marvel at these moments. It's heartening to know that these folks will take this contextual depth with them, and hopefully inform the communities that they come from, with any luck raising the bar that we here will have to rise to.
But enough palaver, back to the dance band stage!!