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!!
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
We had hoped to include an excerpt from Anita Norich's new book, Discovering Exile: Yiddish and Jewish American Culture During the Holocaust. But Anita's book was published late in November and my copy didn't arrive until this week. I've since been reading it and it is, as you would expect, as thoroughly bracing as the class she gives every year at KlezKamp. If I'd had it in time I would have excerpted a section near the beginning of the book where she discusses two symposia of American Jewish intellectuals that took place, one in Yiddish in 1943 and the other in English in 1944. While neither symposium discussed the war then underway, the Yiddish one displayed a "creative paralysis in response to contemporary events," Anita writes. The English-language writers were more American in their response: "These intellectuals all shared the vocabulary of angst and alienation and a concern for the position of the creative being in American culture." Each sympsium evoked impassioned responses, in both languages: indeed, the two gatherings of intellectuals seemed to talk to each other. But in the end, the "urgency of the moment of destruction...was proportionately greater for Yiddish writers," Anita concludes. The book is available at Kamp, and there's going to be a book launch later in the week, where Anita will sign a copy for you.
Another item that didn't make it into the Zhurnal, this one because of space considerations, was my collection of feminist-camp Yiddish sheet music. I'm probably deeply odd, but I find these things fabulous.
Here we have "Mamenyu." It seems to me that the mere mention of a mother in a Yiddish song or play was a signal to pull out the hankies. While “Mamenyu” claims to be an elegy to the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the text hardly mentions them. Most of the song is a standard “orphan” ballad bemoaning the hard life and poverty of a child who has lost his mother. Finally in the last stanza four lines evoke the tragedy: “A fire broke out mid-day, and hundreds of workers were burned. Those who ran from the fire jumped to their deaths.” The lyrics then move on to a mother’s lament over a dead daughter, again using standard phrases (“shrouds instead of a wedding dress”) rather than making specific reference to the tragedy. Aside from the four lines relating to the fire, the lyrics seem to have been recycled from similar material, and with good reason. The sheet music for “Mamenyu” appeared within hours of the tragedy it supposedly commemorates. I came across it when I was researching artistic responses to the Triangle Fire. But while there are many sincere Yiddish-language poems and novels, this song remains a curiosity.
Finally we've got "Beser Iz Tsu Blaybn a Moyd," (It's Better to Stay an Old Maid). It sounds like it comes from a musical comedy, but if so the sheet music does not indicate it. With words by J. Reingold and music by Rumshinsky, it may have been a song from a show that bombed. My theory is that, rather than mention the unsuccessful show, they simply repackaged the sheet music as “a humorous song” in the hopes of salvaging something from the turkey. The plot: a young woman gets married and finds she's expected to be wife, mistress, maid and nanny, all in one. Too bad you can't turn back time, she laments: if you know what's good for you, stay an old maid! That is just lip-smacking stuff.
I hope you enjoy the Zhurnal. Winnifred and I are deeply sad not to be there with you this year; we're unable to get away from commitments on the West Coast, but we'll be following this blog with great interest.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Apart from having to deal with last minute logistic issues such as those Henry and Sabina mentioned, I also discovered that my clarinet had a crack in it, which meant spending an unscheduled half-day at my clarinet guy's place choosing a new one. The good news is that I was able to get one of Buffet's relatively new "Green Line" clarinets -- made of 95% wood dust bound together with some sort of carbon filament. The result is a very nice sounding clarinet that has many of the acoustic qualities of wood, since it IS wood, but none of the torque and warping issues associated with having a wood grain. This is a huge boon for those of us who live in drastically dry winter climates. I think I'll take my poor cracked instrument with me to Hawaii, where the lovely humidity will allow the crack to close and I'll have something good to play on over the winter.
I guess that's what you'd call a silver lining.
Anyway, apart from that, there were also a couple of dead hard drives and missing class handouts to contend with, but I'll be leaving for Hudson Valley in an hour or so, and all is well.
See you all on Sunday!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Never have Emily Litella’s words been more true; it’s always something. It's the middle of the homestretch towards the finish line of KlezKamp and we can’t get into our office! As Henry mentioned in his entry today, there was a major flood in the basement of the Workmen’s
Until yesterday, when we first heard that Lauren Brody broke her arm in a fall, followed by news that it was a health hazard to breath the air in the office, we had been having a fairly uneventful, if unpredictable, run up to KlezKamp. The registration pattern was different this year. Many more people registered later, causing us to worry that the numbers would be down this year. Fortunately, the last minute rush did indeed come and we will have about the same number of KlezKampers as last year-- over 400 people coming together to share their love of our Yiddish folk culture in all is permutations.
KlezKampers can look forward to an amazing array of classes, evening programs, dancing, forshpayzn (programs before dinner), in house Radio KlezKamp, and a chance to make and meet friends. Many families are attending, including a number of grandparents choosing to spend the week with their grandchildren while the parents have a week off. We will have one four-generation group this year—great–grandmother, grandmother, mother and child. We have KlezKampers who are only a few months old and we have KlezKampers in their nineties. One of the best parts of my job is that I get to speak with so many of them on the phone before we even meet in person.
Another thing KlezKampers can look forward to is the amazing KlezKamp zhurnal (journal), edited with great skill by Faith Jones. Faith put together a wonderful array of articles and photo essays focusing on our theme of Mame Loshn: Women in Yiddish Culture. There is even a crostic puzzle on the theme, created especially for KlezKamp for the second year in a row, by Rick Winston. The zhurnal will be posted on our website after KlezKamp so that those of you who are not able to attend can still enjoy it.
We’ll do our best to chronicle KlezKamp for you here on the blog.
Wish us luck that we’ll be able to get into our office tomorrow!!
Yet, amid the kind of enthused, excited "finals week" ambience which characterizes our KlezKamp preparations, we've had some challenges: On Monday, our good friend (and KlezKamp accordion instructor) Lauren Brody, fell down a flight of stairs and broke her arm in three places. As of now, we're still without her replacement (as if she were replaceable...!) We wish her a full and speedy recovery.
More critically, only weeks ago we learned that our year round home (the Workmen's Circle building in midtown Manhattan) has been sold and that, as soon as this spring, we're going to be out on the street with nowhere to go! (Does anyone know of affordable office space in NYC???) And if that weren't enough, as if in some kind of weird foreshadowing of our imminent enforced departure, yesterday the building suffered a flood of bite sized-Biblical proportions: diluvial effluvia of raw sewage spilled into the basement -- where our office is -- and filled two elevator shafts to heights of six feet! As of this moment, we are locked out of our offices with no clue as to when we will be allowed back in.
Such is the magical pixie dust environment in which we create KlezKamp.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Let me start by setting the scene: I am sitting at my desk in the basement of the Cincinnati JCC (not a fancy place), some random musical is playing from playbillradio, and I sit here dreaming of Klezkamp.
Yes, I am the pathethic person dreaming of a hotel filled with Jewish and non-Jewish, Yiddish loving, artistic types that flock to the cold every year. Each year I dream of being the cool one at KK...the one everyone wants to sit with...that people all know (and secretly wish to be)...the life of the party. The reality is...I take a week off from my job every year to work at KK...and I love every minute of it.
I wont get any work done this week. I know I fly up to NY on Saturday and the rest of the week is just trying to make time pass. I know I am only a week away from the Dance Band playing "shark in the mikvah"...one of music's great tunes. I know I am only a week away from a hotel lobby filled with music, conversation, and people sitting checking their email (just to stay in touch with the real world). I know I am only a week away from the best music I hear all year. Ahh...I can smell that kosher food already. See you all Sunday! Amber
Yet somehow, when we sit down and I look around the table at the faces of our family and friends, the candles lit and the flowers providing a brilliant flash of springtime to what is often a dreary winter day, I'm always ready. Peysakh always happens.
And so it will be on Sunday, as I stand at the Epes Center greeting old friends and welcoming new participants or running the staff meeting that afternoon. Despite how it feels today, I'll be ready. And KlezKamp will happen.
Monday, December 17, 2007
The weatherman informs me that I might want to close the windows tonight as it may get down to a chilly 55 degrees after midnight, brrrrrrr. While the majority of my neighbors are all rushing around buying each other crap for Christmas that any of them could readily do without, I find myself headed out to the shed to locate my trunk of "New York" clothes.
Regular Kampers may have noticed that I show up nearly every year in the same outfit, so I guess it's only fair to explain to you that the hat, gloves, coat, scarf, long britches, and long handle underwear that you will see me in year after year has all only ever been used for one week at a time, over the course of maybe 12 years now. This ritual of breaking open the old Army surplue locker and pulling out this cold weather ensemble portends yet another great week of fruendschaft un Yiddishkeit, the sort of which your Okie born KK Staffer appreciates greatly.
So as they say around these parts, "if the good Lord's willing, and the creeks don't rise (or the flights canceled due to snow,) we'll be seeing you all real soon."