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Collecting Sephardic Music - article from Pakn Trager now on KlezmerShack

Participants on the Jewish-Music mailing list have long known Joel Bresler, whose exhaustive attempts to catalog and collect Sephardic music (and general mensh-dom) make him a wonderful resource. Now, Catherine Madsen has written about his work for the National Yiddish Book Center's magazine, Pakn Trager. Since the NYBC does not put the entire magazine online, Madsen and Bresler allowed me to make this article of extreme interest to KlezmerShack readership available here:

In Search of Sephardic Music, by Catherine Madsen, from Pakn Treger, Summer 2005/ 5765 (Number 48)


What is missing for me, personally, in this most interesting article, is the role of classical music in the dissemination of Sephardic music to a wider public. Judging by this article, it predates most popular efforts. In the 1960s, the great soprano Victoria De Los Angeles included beautiful settings of Sephardic songs on more than one of her recordings. There were also recordings by Nico Castel and I believe Martha Schlamme in our house as well. I certain others found the same source of inspiration as well. As a harpist, I soon found Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's settings of three songs for medium voice and harp, among his finest work, published in Israel. It was many years before I got to perform them, but they are as good as Ravel so it was worth the wait. After years of hoping, I found copies of a few songs published in classical settings by none other than Rabbi Leon Algazi. These I have not been able to perform as yet. Additionally, there was the Kinnor Trio, founded by a singer, Arleen Barrett, I believe, now a cantor, which included Sephardic songs in their repertoire. I have recently composed several concert harp solos based on Sephardic songs, and continue to work on more. They can be adapted as accompaniments to voice in the future, but for now remain solos. I have set such songs as Arvolera, Yo M'enamori d'un Aire, Durme; and now have a wonderful collection by Saltiel, published by Schott, to use as a source. I have long been held back by the lack of source material at hand. A former schoolmate of mine, Gerard Edery, who is a very active performer of Sephardic music, gave me the guidance in working with this music, that 'it should get you in the kishkas. Then you've got it right.'

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