Oy Vey! Chanukah! / A totally klezmer Chanukah for kids

Album cover: Delightful menorah and musicians and kids as candles

Sruli and Lisa
Oy Vey! Chanukah!, 1999

Order this and other Sruli and Lisa CDs from www.sruliandlisa.com

So, a couple of years ago, there was a first album by Sruli and Lisa. I tried to get it reviewed by kids, but they kept keeping the album and not letting me pass it on to the next kids. It was very popular.

First review of the new album:
"I love Oy Vey!"

Michael Goldchain, 5, Toronto, Canada

Sruli and Lisa have been working with kids for many years. When I saw them most recently, they were doing the children's workshops at KlezKanada. At the concert that ended the camp, the kids, none older than 13 and some considerably younger, put on a whole play and music, with which to accompany it. And had tremendous fun doing it amazing well! So, I wasn't entirely surprised when they admitted to having been in the recording studio again with some of their own kids, and some fun neighbors.

Oy Vey! Chanukah! mixes the same sort of delightful bad jokes and great music that make the original album so much fun. And, of course, each bad joke ends, instead of with laughter, but with the child on the album not telling the joke saying, "Oy Vey!" in disgust. This is an album to which kids will relate.

For parents, in addition to unadulterated damn good, fun traditional klez, Chanukah songs, and a few new made up ones ("10 Little Latkelehs"), there is also a very well written, short description of the music and the holiday. So, this isn't just the sort of album that kids will listen to over and over. They'll learn a bit about the holiday, and might not drive their parents crazy doing it. Well, mostly they won't drive their parents crazy. That was a very realistic scream from the young participant who found all the worms in the potatoes in the story! I've heard our very own 13-year-old scream in a remarkably similar fashion.

In any event, I apologize for posting this review without more kids quotes. So far, none of the kids to whom we have given the album will take time away from listening to it to write, and with Chanukah coming, I wanted to let parents know of this special recording. It's an easy choice, no? You can get your kids some treacly, awful recording that will drive you crazy, and that your kids will pretend never to have heard of when they reach adolescence. Or you can get them "Oy Vey! Chanukah!" and have a real good time until they start going off to college and taking it with them, forcing you to get a new copy for the home each time. And one of the best things about "Oy Vey! Chanukah!" (other than the positive effect it has on kids) is how very well-thought out the real parts are. Sruli and Lisa don't need to talk down to kids (or to parents). Even our 13-year-old "I already know how much I hate klezmer" found himself leaving the room and coming back and saying, "this is really good." And, even as I write this, I am astonished to realize, on careful relistening, how many explanations and stories there are, not to mention how much Yiddish, all mixed in with the jokes and music and just as much fun for the native Yiddish-ignorant as for those fortunate to be Yiddish-enabled. What can I say? These guys really are good.

You know, good klezmer is supposed to make you want to get up and dance. This album not only makes you want to get up and dance, it makes you look around for your kids, or the kids down the block, or nephews and nieces, to whom you can give copies so you can all dance together. Who'd ever have thunk what a great Chanukah song "Ale Brider" can be? But, now that Sruli and Lisa have done it, you'll always think of "yo yo" spelled backwards. And all those latkes. "We're all brothers singing chanukah songs together!" What could be better?

By the way, did I tell you that all these latkes make me very thirsty? Oy vey!

Date: Sun, 31 Oct 1999
To: World music from a Jewish slant
From: Dena Ressler

Sruli & Lisa's "Oy Vey, Chanukah" is a gem for kids. Here's my take on it:

"Oy Vey! Chanukah!" captivates, educates and delights. Using a combination of story, music, and silly banter centered around the Chanukah theme, it draws a picture of the history and culture of small-town 19th century Eastern European Jewish life.

For example, one klezmer style, the Terkisher, is introduced and the listener invited to clap the rhythm along with the kids on the album. Likewise, learning to count to 10 in Yiddish is a fun prelude to the story and song about tzen kleyne latkelech (10 small latkes). This, and several other songs are sung by a children's chorus - and translated by Sruli and Lisa. This invites children into the action once again while introducing kids to the language.

To learn even more about the history and context of klezmer music, adults can share the "Klezmer Music Study Guide" section of the booklet with kids.

Last, but not least is the musicianship of the two klezmorim who play, lead the singing, and tell the stories. The instrumentals are strong enough to stand alone - Sruli Dresdner on clarinet, poyk [drum], accordion, recorder - and Lisa Mayer on violin and cello - are first class. Sruli's playing is in the Hasidic tradition and reminiscent of Andy Statman's; Lisa has come into her own as a klezmer fiddler. If the kids in your life play clarinet or strings (and/or if you do) they will be inspired. If not, they will still enjoy the music immensely.

The musical selections include: Chanike Oy Chanike; Tzen Kleyne Latkelech, A Chanike Nign, Ale Brider, Der Yidisher Soldat in di Trentshes/Nokhshpiel, A Chanike Tantz, and Medley of Yiddish Chanike Songs (Chanike Oy Chanike, Drey Zikh Dreydele, Oy, Ir Kleyne Likhtelekh)


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