T:-)M's Night Shift

Klezmorim Going Downtown - Accompanied by Walkin' T:-)M

Carl Spitzweg ,Der arme Poet',
www.spitzweg.de "I remember my bar mitzvah. My parents had hired one of the top New York City klezmer clarinetists to play at the reception. So there he was on the bandstand blowing some of the best bulgars in the business and all I wanted to do was to crawl into the nearest, deepest hole. Can't this guy playing anything modern? I actually just wanted to be a normal kid. He was playing klezmer music and I wanted rock'n'roll. But something's changed. In the last decade, klezmer music, this traditional instrumental music of the Jews of Eastern Europe, has attracted a robust interest in the American Jewish community. From Sheepshead Bay to Seattle new klezmer musicians are appearing and older ones reappearing. Growing audiences across the country are made up of older folks who are reminded of their younger days, and younger folks for whom these will someday have been the old days. The music was patiently waiting for us to hear it again." (Henry Sapoznik)

Banjoist Henry Sapoznik drifted into Guthrie and Dylan and finally settled with traditional Appalachian string band music. Then old-time fiddler Tommy Jarrell asked: Don't your people got none of your own music? Sapzonik was baffled and started to look for it. In 1979 he founded " Kapelye" which became the first American klezmer band to tour Europe in 1984.

But already at the beginning of Genesis, music is noted: Yuval was the father of all who handle the lyre and the pipe. The Psalm says: Let us praise the Lord with drums and dancing. Miriam danced after the defeat of the Egyptians at the Red Sea and David served King Saul as a harp player. After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem 79AD, secular songs and all instrumental music was prohibited as a sign of national mourning until the Temple was restored. The rabbis taught: Music in a house must bring the house to destruction, if men sing and women respond, the result is licentiousness, but if women sing and men respond, the end is like a flame in hatcheled flax. (There obviously were some more reasons than just national grief.) In the diaspora music was kept at a minimum. How can I sing the song of the Lord in a strange land? On a rare occasion, the synagogue of Amsterdam had been inaugurated with choir and orchestra in 1675. The organ was introduced in Seesen in 1810.

However, regardless of the rabbinic prohibitions against secular music, Jewish minstrels sang, played and danced, and were held in high esteem. In 12th-century Germany even lived a Jewish minnesinger, though controversially debated, Suesskind von Trimberg. The oldest Yiddish epic poem was published in 1544, the 1,800 stanzas long "Shmuel Buch" (Book of Samuel), a secular poem based on the Bible story, employing current German epithets and phraseology, molded in the Nibelungen rhyme, and sung to a contemporary German tune.

www.press.uillinois.eduYiddish poet, singer and folklorist Ruth Rubin (1906-2000), improperly labelled crusader for the vanishing legacy of the Yiddish world (I don't think Jews have much sympathy for "crusaders"), devoted her entire life to Yiddish folk song. Rubin's 1970s Voices of a People is still the only general introduction to Yiddish folksong.

"The Jews have always been a singing people. On their wanderings from one land to another, they bore with them, along with other cultural treasures, a talent for music. Eastern European Yiddish folk song is the youngest offspring of Jewish folk music and one of the richest stores of popular music in modern times. In the songs, we catch the manner of speech and phrase, the wit and humor, the dreams and aspirations, the nonsense, jollity, the pathos and struggle of an entire people."
Ruth Rubin reveals an almost lost treasure: lyrics of some hundred songs and 54 tunes, leading literally from the cradle to the grave: lullabies, children's rhymes, courting and wedding songs, (mainly religious) folklore, entertainment, satire, work chants, songs of historical events, hardship, misery, oppression, war, pogroms, love, emigration and newly-found disappointment, Zionist and Socialistic propaganda.

The 17th century song "Megiles vints" relates the hardship of the Jews of Frankfurt during the uprising led by Vincenz Fettmilch 1614. Jewish properties were burned and looted and the Jews forced to leave the city. The poem was set to a German tune and had 103 stanzas. Almost hundred of songs reveal the Nazi brutality against a defenceless civilian population: songs from the ghettos and concentration camps, songs of faith, hope, hatred, pain. A haunting lament chronicles the eye-witness account of a young woman who was married on Tuesday and on the following Sabbath, early in the morning, the hitsl [lit. scoundrel = Hitler soldier's] were leading us to our death and the river ran red with our blood.

"Me hot nit geshoynt nit kayn alt, nit kayn yung,
Bam foter aroysgerisn hot men di tsung,
Di muter derdushet in hoyf afn mist
Un opgehakt dort ba di shvester di brist.
Mayn man hot men shpiln genoyt af der fleyt,
Me hot im bagrobn, oy, lebedikerheyt,
Der malech-hamoves hot choyzek gemacht,
A mise-meshune hot er undz gebracht."
(They spared no one, old nor young, they tore out my father's tongue, they smothered my mother in a pile of garbage and chopped off my sisters' breasts. They forced my husband to play on the flute, and then he was buried, oh, alive. The Angel of Death did mock at us, bringing a horrible death to us.)

Certainly, one of the oldest and most widespread types of song in any culture is the love song. King Solomon's "Cantica canticorum" may have been a secular love song, before interpreted allegorically as a dialogue between God and Israel. (In the same way "Don't worry fellows about what will become of us; when you come to the inn, you will find plenty of vodka to drink" translates as "Don't worry Jewish brothers, God will take care of all your material needs"; believe it or not.) However, in the days before Moses Mendelssohn's (grandfather of the composer) "Haskalah" (enlightenment) movement made deep inroads into the patriarchal communities of Eastern Europe, mating was based on economic considerations and children were often married at the tender age of twelve. For boys and girls to dream (or sing) of love was considered alien.

"Oy mir orime meydelech,
Vos toyg undzer sach nadn,
Az men putst undz oys a ferd far a man!
Undzere eltern tu-en shiduchim,
Zey tu-en undz gornit fregn,
Darum farbrengen mir zeyer shlecht dem lebn."
(Oh we unhappy maidens, of what use is our rich dowry, when we're given a circus horse for a husband! Our parents arrange the match, they never consult us, and we live our life unhappily.)

One scholar even wrote: The word love does not exist in the Yiddish dictionary. It was left to the lower social classes that the passion of love was preserved in song, with all its aspects: deep affection, true and false love, unfulfilled and unrequited love, depression and loneliness, suicides and murder.

"Mayn harts, mayn harts tsit tsu dir,
Azoyvi magnet tsu shtol;
Ich volt tsu dir amol gekumen,
Iz der veg tsu shmol."
(My heart is drawn to you, as a magnet is to steel; I would come to you, but the road is too narrow.)

The Reb Yisroel Baal Shem-Tov (1700-60) was the founder of the appealing Hasidic movement: Serve the Lord with joy - come before Him with singing. He felt that a lively and joyous manner was more acceptable to God than asceticism; melancholy and morbidity were sinful. The hasidim shows his faith primarily through joy, and music is the natural affiliation of joy. As the melody brings out the beauty in poetry, the dance brings it to a climax. Singing and dancing was incorporated into religious observance and liturgy. Their opponents criticized they were always singing, dancing, clapping their hands, emitting wild cries during prayers. (Some of the best drinking songs are credited to hasidim.)

But many hasidic leaders felt that melodies used for sacred purpose must be protected to be become available to the public and used for secular purposes or from being adopted and adapted by non-Jews. So little hasidic music found its way into print and hundreds of "nigunim" [melodies] were lost forever. Velvel Pasternak recalls his coming into the publishing and recording business:

www.jewishmusic.com"In early 1967, I received a rather frantic call from the mother of a bride in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Not having access to a band that could play traditional Jewish music in Sheybogan, she scouted nearby Chicago, the city with the largest Jewish population in the mid-west, in the hopes of finding a suitable instrumental ensemble. When she asked various bandleaders if they knew Jewish music, she was informed that they could play `Hava Nagila' and `Dayenu'. `Mr. Pasternak', she said, `can these young men dance all night to only two songs?' The soon-to-be-bride offered to purchase a book of traditional Jewish melodies. I could almost feel the depth of her dejection through the telephone headset when I informed her that no such collection existed. `How much will you charge to write out music for me?' she asked. Her list of fifteen songs arrived several days later and I began transcribing the melodies in pencil, adding guitar chords for accompaniment. Several months later, I received a call from a woman in Florida, `We were at a wedding in Sheybogan and we have the same problem in Florida' ..."
During the next year, Pasternak's music sheets made their way to bandleaders from Los Angeles to Toronto. Finally, "Songs of the Hasidim" was financed by pre-paid orders and he set up what is now Tara Publications. Named after his daughter Atara, but according to legend, the granddaughter of King David brought a torah to Ireland. (The Irish say Princess Tea brought King David's harp, the Ark of the Covenant and Jacob's pillar stone, which later became the Scottish and British coronation stone, to the Hill of Tara, gael. Tea Mur: Tea's Wall.)

Velvel Pasternak's Beyond Hava Nagila narrates, as joyous as hasidim praise the Lord, his autobiography, the history and essence of hasidic music, songs and background stories: The prayer "Kol Nidre" (All Vows), for example, is chanted on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). The theme is woven throughout Beethoven's C#minor string quartet (opus 131). Arnold Schoenberg, who re-converted to Judaism after being driven out of Germany by the Nazis, composed it for chorus, orchestra and speaker. The Hebrew song "Ani Ma-amin" (I believe) emerged from the Warsaw Ghetto (words by Maimonides). Thousands of Jews sang this melody as they marched to their deaths in the gas chambers. When the disco hit "Genghis Khan" entered in the European Song Festival competition in 1979, it appeared soon after with Yiddish lyrics which proclaim the coming of the Messiah.

"Rabbi Yisroel Taub's most famous `nigun' is the lengthy `Ezk'ro Hagodol' (the Great Ezk'ro). In 1913, Rabbi Israel fell ill and was forced to travel to Berlin for medical treatment. His doctors felt that his life could be saved only by the amputation of a leg. The Rebbe agreed to the operation but with the provision that no form of anestesia be used. During the removal of the leg, he composed this `nigun'. In the room next to you, the surgeon told him, I have a patient who is a cabinet minister. He constantly wails and moans, and I said to him, `You ought to be ashamed of yourself. I have an older rabbi next door, and whenever he is in pain he sings.' Rabbi Israel replied, I, too, moaned and wailed, but my pain turned into song."

The most popular Jewish music in economical terms is klezmer, the traditional, instrumental party music of Yiddish-speaking, Eastern European Jews. Its main role was to play at weddings.

"Klezmer was the sound track to an event - one that often lasted several days or even weeks - that included a broad range of activity and emotion, from the most reflective and introspective moments to the most active and extroverted."

Seth Rogovoy's The Essential Klezmer, including the history of old and new world klezmer, biographies of the major revivalists, and a discography with extensive notes, is the respective diary of the Jewish cultural revival and renaissance. www.algonquin.com

"The whining-yet-laughing, self-deprecating melodies of the clarinets were the musical equivalent of the great Jewish comics Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce, and Woody Allen. The brassy ensembles of trumpets, trombones, and tubas talking over each other were like a noisy crowd of long-lost aunts, uncles, and cousins at a Jewish family reunion. The soulful, achy violin lines atop the pulsing, jerky, forward-lurching rhythms spoke with sensual intensity an demotional rawness - the voice of the Jewish heart, bleeding but still beating."
Klezmer music is a fusion of the medieval Judeo-German music and the improvised melodies of East and Southeast Europe. Its trademark is a haunting lament and a lively dance, grievance followed by exultation. The tunes are often quite simple, but richly decorated by ornamentation, phrasing and articulation. The fiddle once was the leading instrument, later taken over by the clarinet. The human voice as heard through the violin or clarinet gives the music such warmth, what makes the music sing, laugh, and cry, sometimes all three simultaneously. Anti-Jewish decrees and anti-Semitic progroms provoked a steady wave of emigration. From 1880 until 1924, 2.5 million Eastern European Jews made their way to the United States. The music has
"been lost, forgotten, swept under the carpet, abandoned, left for dead, and literally vaporized into smoke, dust, and ashes, along with the bodies of the countless numbers of Jewish musicians piled into the crematoria of Auschwitz and other Nazi factories of death."
"Curiously, as the calendar turns from the twentieth to the twenty-first century, we are witness to an odd, almost mind-boggling phenomenon. Musicians of all colors, stripes, and nationalities are playing this lost, forgotten music once again. Jews in their twenties are flocking to Yiddish-language classes and buying klezmer CDs at the city's trendiest record stores. They are searching for usable alternatives to religious orthodoxy and Zionism as the center of Jewish identity."
In the 1970s the old 78 rpm records were discovered again. The Klezmorim, Kapelye, The Klezmatics, Brave Old World, tough, furious, happy-go-lucky, coincide with the "zeitgeist".
"In America, klezmer has enjoyed three vital periods. The first was a result of the mass immigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when immigrant klezmorim carved their own musical niches at a time when jazz was popular, variously resisting and integrating American influences into their playing styles. The revival period began with performers engaged in a roots-oriented exploration of traditional music. The revival fed into a third period, in which the more talented and adventurous musicians among the revivalists began adding their own musical backgrounds to that tradition, including most obviously rock, jazz, and classical influences."

We shouldn't forget to take a look on tutorials and tune sheets, an essential part of today's music teaching. The first popular anthology, 1924's "The International Dance Folio", was a series of Yiddish instrumental music in simplified form. But the older players would have already internalized this repertoire, while for the younger players the book gave no sense of phrasing, ornamentation or style. Clarinet and saxophon player Sid Beckerman remarks: www.jewishmusic.comThose who could play the music didn't need the books and those who needed the books couldn't play the music. Or saying it more rudely: Admitting that you learned to play from a book, was like admitting you learned how to have sex from a manual!

Henry Sapoznik's and Pete Sokolow's The Compleat Klezmer is a more successful example, giving hints for instruments, ornamentations (by all means - trill, gliss, bend, chirp, but don't overdo it!), and the different "bulgars" and "freylekhs" (round dances), "horas" and "zhoks" (3/8 dances), and "doinas" (improvisations), and providing the background of the musicians attributed to the respective tunes. Being it Harry Kandel's "Der Gasn Nigun", the most popular zhok section in doina suites, or Abe Schwarz's "Tantz, tantz, Yiddelekh" (Ma Yofus), the most popular, quintessential "Jewish melody" before the advent of "Hava Nagila".

"Der Heyser Bulgar": Clarinetist Naftule Brandwein, the favourite musician of Brooklyn's notorious "Murder, Inc.", was often playing with his back to the audience to hide his fingering techniques. He performed on-stage wearing an Uncle Sam costume made entirely of Christmas tree lights and was very nearly electrocuting himself with his own perspiration.

"Dovid, shpil es nokh a mol": Upon his arrival at Ellis Island, David Tarras's bags were all fumigated. His clothes survived, his clarinet didn't. But: Forget your past, your customs, and your ideals. Do not take a moment's rest. Run. Do. Tarras later stood in for Brandwein in Joseph Cherniavsky's "Yiddish-American Jazz Band" whose outfit played concerts dressed alternately as Cossacks and Hasids.

I was wondering when the mail service delivered a parcel which the US Postal Service had declared "Religious Material". (It turned out to be the Tara books.) So let us sing, and the Lord on high will understand us. God bless you, T:-)M.

Pasternak, Velvel, Beyond Hava Nagila - A Symphony of Hasidic Music in 3 Movements. Tara, Owing Mills, MD, 1999, ISBN 0-933676-78-6, Paperback, 172 pp, $29.95 (CD included).
Rogovoy, Seth, The Essential Klezmer - A Music Lover's Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music, from the Old World to the Jazz Age to the Downtown Avant-Garde. Algonquin, Chapel Hill, NC, 2000, ISBN 1-56512-244-5, Paperback, 281 pp, $15.95.
Rubin, Ruth, Voices of a People - The Story of Yiddish Folksong. University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 2000, ISBN 0-252-06918-8, Paperback, 558 pp, $23.95.
Sapoznik, Henry, & Peter Sokolow, The Compleat Klezmer. Tara, Owing Mills, MD, 1987, ISBN 0-933676-10-7, Paperback, 80 pp, $24.95 (CD included: "Excerpts from 78 recordings of klezmer masters", Tara TM703-2).

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