20th Annual KlezKamp, December 26-31, 2004
as posted to the Jewish-Music mailing list
Every year, right after KlezKamp ends, there are the annual posts to the Jewish-Music mailing list by those who were unable to attend: "Nu, how was it?" In an attempt to give the widest possible sense of what KlezKamp is like, I have asked each of the authors permission to reprint their comments here. Alan Watsky accepted the challenge and started off the discussion. All photos are from Bob Blacksberg:
Just a random transmission from Watsky. My slightly hung over reflection on KK '04 that took place this last week at the Hudson Valley Resort in beautiful Kerhonkson, New Yawk.
I thought the venue rocked, good rooms, good food, good ventelation, a friendly staff. The main stage area was very well thought out and the acoustics were quite good. Great sight lines. A very nice place to put on a show. I would endorse a return, thought it was a great place.
Everyone seemed to be having a blast and once things got rolling the energy level was very high, lots of communication a real whirl wind of teaching and learning and just good fun in general.
I didn't have time to do an ensemble this year, just not possible, so I was in both of Josh Horowitz's classes, Line Spinning and Khala Bezetzin/Doina. Josh always knocks me out, the analysis of the Doinas and the Doina Cadences so comprehensive and clear. It will enable us to make doinas sweet enough to make a shepard weep.
I also took Paula Teitelbaum's Yiddish for Singers class, very helpful interesting and informative. Hope to be able to study more Yiddish this year and hopefully get over my tendency to use Germanic pronunciation, or just plain wrong pronunciation. The class made it easier to hear the language, so that with the transliterations and Yiddish side by side as it's presented in the Mlotek collections for instance, it's possible to do correct versions as long as you read Hebrew, which thankfully I do. I have been working through the "Pearls of Yiddish Song" collection. Like those work songs.
My other class was Make Them Dance, which had Steve Weintraub, Alicia Svigals and Jim Guttmann teaming up to teach dance steps and the correct performance style to get the dancers moving. I liked the format, the class would split up into groups, one set would be the band and the other the dancers. So the process was, while the "band" was learning the tunes, the dancers would learn the dance, after about 10 minutes the fun would begin as Steve danced the dancers and Jim and Alicia got the band going. I think it was very effective in giving the mucicians a taste of what a "real" gig is like, a little pressure, a little confusion. It became instantly obvious when the music wasn't working so the class would be coached by Jim and Alicia and gradually the players became more aware of what it takes to get people up on the dance floor and keep them there. Endurance, concentration, rhythmic focus and a great dance instructor. Steve's a blast, we're lucky to have him, he's creative and fun, he'll re-establish the Sher for sure! Jim Guttmann got the most out of everyone and if you want to know whats up on the bandstand, Jim can tell ya. Alicia was great at directing the students and when she's playing and leading the band, there's no doubt, just clarity and composure. Hopefully we can look forward to keeping Klezmer a "dancing" style.
My sincerity is puting a fence around my "Joycian Ramblings" but thats just the way it goes.
The Concerts were cool, I dug the sound this year, a very good room.
Susan Watts played up a storm as usual and her singing was really, really good, so cool, so much fun. Paula Teitelbaum sang a song that is associated with the singer Belarsky and knocked me out with her interpretation, something about Yiddish song really gets to me. Joanne Borts just killed doing the "Latin" number. Whats a stage show in the mountains with out one ? It slayed ! I liked Mark Rubin's Mariachi get up enough to try to help with the Schnor, but they don't take Canadian gelt, Feh! That was fun! Someone played a G minor chord and I wept, could it be the Vodka?, perhaps. Pete Sokolow was in great form as usual playing great piano for "everybody", how many tunes does this guy know? I just can't count that high. Gotta get Alex Kontorovich to work on that.
It's so cool to watch the social dynamics of an event like this and to see that the culture has been so affected by the efforts of Henry S. and all of the Living Traditions staffers. I think if it as peeling the layers of nostalgia from the culture. It feels so good to see the Jewish culture that was so wrongly interrupted by Pogram and Antisemitism thriving and vital in the present. Personally it just makes me feel great! Thanks for putting up with my mishagas.
I have to single out all of the people involved with the Klez Kids program for a special thanks. Although I don't have a child in the program. Its always it a great pleasure to see all the kids enjoying themselves. All the staff deserves lots of praise and encourgement, a great job!!
Hey no sniffles this year! The food was great ! Good ventilation.
Always fun to hear the narrative that people vent when confronted with a mirror (Yidish Culture). For "their" dreams are always so much more interesting, and revealing than mundane reality. People are so cute when they think they figured something out. Its a pleasure to spend time with so many intelligent folks. So much teaching and learning going on. What an fun stimulating event. Special thanks to Pete Rushefsky, for always reminding me to bombard the list with this rambling ode.
Shouts out to Harry Sweet for teaching me a little about country cross tuning, I'm gonna have to set up a fiddle just for that, wanna trade me that fiddle of yours? I have a nice Dodge 318 short block back in the shed. Think about it.
By the way, if any one has an interest in another facet of Jewish history, log on to, http://www.weisbord.org/FiveTwo.htm. You will find my cousin Samuel Watsky's obit (aka Sam Fisher). Makes it easier to understand the dearth of Watskys. My dad liked to tell stories about the days when Sam worked in the family business. They were just a year apart in age, so they hung out, heck ! could be why I like German Goldenshteyn's tunes so much, why that G minor chord makes me leak, Yep. Main difference 'tween me and Sam is that I like learning long Jewish prayers. Cheers to all, Al "bad boy" Watsky
I'm glad I waited for Allen's report before putting in my two cents. He is right on, all the way down the list. KK was terrific this year. I happened to be in three of Allen's four classes (both of Josh's, plus "Make them dance"), and I agree totally with his comments. In addition, I did Adrianne Greenbaum's flute class (squeezed into the "PM0" slot: 1:15 to 2:15), and Adrianne's ensemble, which was a great experience. She is a superb teacher and great fun to play with. I'll add a couple of other tidbits that I found interesting: One evening Frank London stopped by and joined a staff band for evening dancing. This started an endurance contest between the band on the stage, and Dancin' Steve and the dancers on the floor, to see who would stop first. I'd judge it about a draw, but the set lasted almost a full hour nonstop! It was also fun to hear the Klez Ma's chatting about their offspring (especially Zalman's mom embarrassing the daylights out of him with her prepared speech). And after breakfast on Friday, the extra program was Pete Sokolow just playing and singing some of his favorite Yiddish songs. When I had to leave, he had just done a rousing rendition of Tom Lehrer's "Boy Scout Marching Song!" Was this a first for KlezKamp?
A great week!
The best part for me was listening to so many great players and just trying to soak it all in. I can't wait for the next Kleztraphobix gig (which is Jan 18 at Satalla) to see where my ears have gone!
I think one of the great things for myself was playing for dancers that could actually dance and not shuffle in a circle with bad time. It makes me rethink how to approach this music.
This is also what I came home with. Total awe of our mentors. My jaw is still out of place because of Paul Pincus's performance. Here's this 87 year old man who played an AMAZING, intimate, beautiful rendition of "Ich hob dich zufil lieb." It was and still is a bit indescribable and worth the price of the entire concert. Then, there was German Goldenshteyn who played a long set, VERY beautifully. Just so smooth, no pyrotechnical falseness, just simple soulful tune-playing. It's a little different style than many of us are used to hearing in this country, I think. Both of these guys set the standard is all I can say. The third person's musicianship that I came to appreciate even more was Pete Sokolow. Given the right music, the right style for what he does, there's NO other left hand bass line that's as delicious as that. And he does stride piano as well as he does any other style. And to think (according to Sherry Mayrent) he started out at Kamp teaching sax and clarinet only.
I WAS attending Josh's Kale Bezetzen class when I got drafted to play for Felix Fibich's choreographed Yiddish dance class. Now there's a fit man if ever their was one! 87 as well. The dance he worked out was one of his best that I've seen. So, even tough I missed a great class of Josh, I was okay playing for this great man instead.
The entire week was honoring our klezmer and Yiddishkayt lineage and it was a humbling time for many of us teachers as well as the students. And, many of us wouldn't be doing what we're doing without this kamp starting the whole process of passing it on.
Must mention the food. I thought it was GREAT. Accomodations were as well. Okay, bring hangers for your clothes next time. But other than that, superb.Adrianne Greenbaum
My turn to chime in on my Klezkamp experience.
I also took Make them Dance with Alicia Svigals, Jim Guttman, and Dancin' Steve. I really enjoyed playing and being lead by Alicia and Jim. Jim had lots of wisdom to share with us and he has a good sense of humor. My dancing skills were sharpened even though I am choreographically challenged. I was the only student Steve couldn't teach the Miserlou too. And I got a real sense of what. it takes to play for dancers, i.e. rythym.
My intermediate clarinet class with Ken Maltz was great. Ken has an in depth knowledge of Klezmer style, years of experience, great technique, and the ability to teach. What more could we ask for? Oh and he is a real mensch. Anyone who heard his Doyna at the staff performance was blown away. The class had 7 participants, 3 of whom were conservatory enrolled or grads of conservatories. The level of student musicianship was up this year according to Klezkamp staff. This class was very helpful in improving one's klezmer style.
Intermediate Ear Band was taught by Pete Rushefsky. Another knowledgeable mensch. Can I take these people home? I had never had an ear class before. It was challenging but doable and fun. Pete gave me a solo and luckily I didn't blow it in front of the movers and shakers of the Klezmer world. Pete is a great teacher and has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for what he does.
The food was fine. I actually had hot water in my room this year. The hotel staff was attentive.
This was my second consecutive Klezkamp and for me it was a lot more fun, seeing familiar faces from last year. For the first time, I had the courage do to some jamming one night. Pete Rushefsky and Sherry Mayrent were jamming in the hotel lobby with some students. I joined in. The sound of my solo accompanied by two clarinets, 2 tsimbalists, and a voilin was incredible. I just closed by eyes and enjoyed the groove.
My fellow bandmember Elie Bienenstock, a keyboard player, vocalist, yiddish speaker, thoroughly enjoyed himself taking a Yiddish song class with Mlotek/Cooper and keyboard with Sokolow.
The staff performances were wonderful. The Doina set with Pete Sokolow, Ken Malz, Paul Pincus, Alex P., Michael Winograd, Cookie S., Jim Guttman, and I probably missed someone, was not to be missed.
Y'all come next year!
My turn. KK 2004 was wonderful. I was in German Goldenshteyn's ensemble which met at 9:15 am. I'm not an A.M. person by any stretch but his music holds a special place for me and I made it to every session. Alex Kontorovich did a fine job working with German. I also took Steve's Yiddish dance class. He demonstrated lots of humor and patience teaching us the sher, which can be a stressful experience.
Oh yeah, loved the food.
I've been a camp attendee on and off since 1997 and this was the first time I partook in work-study at the Epes Center selling T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, tapes, and CDs. It was very hectic, sometimes chaotic, but the "we are all in this together" attitude was prominent. I now have a better appreciation for the enormous hard work that goes into putting Klez Kamp together. My thanks to Henry, Sherry, Sabina, Dan, and everyone on the staff for making it happen.
Well, I _didn't_ take Make Them Dance, though I did last year when it was a very different class.
- Intro to Yiddish: Unlike Marc, I didn't find this class worthwhile. I found it disorganized and unreasonable in terms of how much we could communicate about our experiences using only the 5 words or so that we knew. I also found it extremely unrealistic to learn anything like a language in four days, including for me (and others) a completely new set of characters, when I couldn't become close to fluent in 4 1/2 years of French in school (using the same written language). Also, the fact that my grandma spoke fluent Yiddish but never used the characters discouraged me from that route. Sadly, I walked out of that class on the third day, which I never dreamed that I'd do. At least I got to watch German's master class in action after that, though. They were really tight for a student band.
- Merlin's Advanced Ear Band: We learned all the tunes by singing them, one each day. Even as a drummer I liked carrying the tune along with my voice. We didn't realize that we'd be performing like that, too, like a meditative gentle chusidl band that always sung before we played. As the days progressed, our tunes would accelerate considerably throughout the half hour or so, which was fine for the dancers. The third day we were all disappointed because, since we had the last dance band slot, there were few dancers and spirit left to enjoy it, so Merlin called it off. But some of us played anyway, so it was like an on-stage jam after everyone left. Our last performance was totally whacked out, because the dancers were ecstatic without us even trying, and when we actually forgot the tune we learned that day, they (thanks to Polina) even helped us along. This year, thankfully, all of the performances were recorded, so you can hear a clip of our ragtag band and all its intentional and unintentional surprises at www.tummlerproductions.com/ear_band_2.mp3 (beware, 12.6 mb file). My favorite part is around 11:12 - note explosions are fun!
- I had signed up for Beginner's Ensemble on accordion, but I didn't feel like I was getting what I really hoped to get out of learning accordion. Fortunately, I found the designated accordion teacher (Sanne) who was supposed to have students but didn't, so she was happy to give me and another beginner some lessons during that period. I was happy to have those lessons the next two days, though the third day she was mysteriously absent. But even then, I decided to pick up my bari sax and sit in on Josh Horowitz's Line-Spinning class. It was interesting, if not halfway impossible, to try to duplicate all his notes with 30+ others, but I enjoyed hearing people's improved doinas.
- Performance Ensemble: This was a small group of all horns and woodwinds, led by Susan Watts. We learned a few tunes mostly by ear, made interesting, bouncy arrangements, or were gentle and subtle for the doina and 14-year-old Raymond's "Yiddishe Mama". I was sloppy in the final performance, though, which was a shame. However, we also played the token klezmer band for Jenny Romaine's teenage theater workshop, which involved Betty Boop looking for real klezmer. We got to watch this really wacky cartoon over Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher," which also showed that Betty Boop was, in fact, Jewish. It was fun to play a really bad klezmer band and then an upbeat, spirited klezmer band. Thanks, Susan.
As the other people said, the performances were indeed very impressive, but I was more interested in playing than performing, so in truth, when I wasn't waiting to go onstage myself, I was more likely to be hanging out elsewhere looking for people to jam with than be playing the role of one-way recipient of the music. During my days there, I basically played as much as I could until everyone else had gone to sleep, and then I still wasn't tired. Yes, the food was good, and the room - well, I didn't go there much, but it was playing whatever the hell we wanted with each other and that final ear band show that were my favorite things. I don't know if I'll return next year - it depends if I can afford it. We should have more jam parties at people's houses, at least. It's all about building _local_ community, anyway.
That's my two cents,
In this case, you had been invited to join additional lessons I was giving a friend in my spare time. The last day, we simply didn't meet, due to too much other work.
The actual accordion class was scheduled at PM 2 and of course took place during the whole KlezKamp.
Hope you learned lots anyway!
... I concur with Alan Watsky et a—this was a great Klezkamp—the food and accomodations were wonderful—the tanzhall had terrific acoustics, and without the bands being amplified to rock concert levels, I was able to preserve my voice to the very end, with no loss of musical excitement. It was great working with the musicians in the Make Them Dance class—it was phenomenal to hear the change in the sound as the dancers found the groove. I could go on—but I gotta run right now. Oh and big thanks to Matt, Ken and the late night Sher crew! I'm a man with a mission....