Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Living Traditions CD Series Concert

Tonight's evening program was an opportunity to introduce this year's KlezKampers to the Living Traditions CD series documenting some of the treasured elders of our community. These recordings are each made during the four days of a KlezKamp and feature stellar ensembles of our staff musicians. The first one, recorded atKlezKamp 21 and released last year, documented the playing and repertoire of the late German Goldenstein, who died unexpectedly shortly after it was completed. Fortunately, the subjects of both last year's effort, Ray Musiker, and Elaine Hoffman Watts (who is being recorded this year) were on hand to received some well-deserved koved from the crowd in the Manhattan Theater.

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.

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