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.