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National Yiddish Book Center's "Paper Bridge" fest opens today

NYBC Paper Bridge Festival logoOne of the most special New England events occurs not during the Fall leaf-gawking season, but in mid-July—starting today, in fact—when the National Yiddish Book Center opens its annual "Paper Bridge" festival, a week-long celebration of Yiddishkeit with lectures, workshops, film screenings, and of course, Jewish music new and old.

This year features two special exhibits, Mayer Kirshenblatt's paintings in a traveling exhibit titled: "They Call Me Mayer July" (so what more appropriate month!??). I am a major fan of the exhibit, and of his pictures, which capture life in pre-Holocaust Poland in a way that is both sweet and yet eschews the shmalzification of the period. Kirshenblatt's exhibit is balanced by a look at "Esn! Jews and Food in America. It's a hard combo to beat. [Off-topic, I note that the Jewish Women's Archive, where I work, has recently begun featuring regular guest blogs—is that an oxymoron?—on food and new kosher recipes. Yummy!

What matters most to KlezmerShack readers, of course, is that there will be music. Amazing music. New music. Tomorrow night I expect to trek out for Hankus Netsky's new ensemble, Branches, "… that uses Jewish musical tradition as a point of departure for creative exploration, performing repertoire drawn from klezmer, Yiddish theater, and cantorial traditions, along with new compositions and improvisations based on Yiddish poetry and other sources."

Tuesday night is a re-interpretation "The Firebird." Double Edge Theatre's interpretation of the classic Russian tale draws from the work of Mark Chagall and uses both the indoor and outdoor spaces of the Book Center to transport the audience into the imagination of the famous painter. This is followed on Wednesday night by two documentaries, "The Peretzniks" and "Paint what you remember," the latter featuring Mayer Kirshenblatt talking about his work and pre-war Poland.

The finale, and another absolutely-must-see evening is the East Coast premiere of Veretski Pass's new piece, "The Klezmer Shul." "Inspired by the synagogues of pre-war Eastern Europe, The Klezmer Shul is rooted in Jewish liturgical melodic principles and emotionals intonations. This four-movement instrumental suite transmits the emotional power of synagogue singing without the use of words, incorporating elements of jazz, avant-garde, classical, klezmer, and folk music." If you are familiar with the ways in which Veretski Pass has revitalized early European klezmer music, you wouldn't dream of missing this. As for me, having heard bits and pieces of the piece in formation, I have my tickets at the ready.

The Paper Bridge festival includes more than just evening concerts. There are workshops, film-screenings, and tours during the day. If, like much of New England, you are spending some time in the Berkshires (or nearby) to escape the current heat wave, this is the week to spend a bit to the East in Amherst. The rest of us, still at work during the day, will simply face a longer commute than usual ;-).

National Yiddish Book Center logoNational Yiddish Book Center
1021 West Street
Amherst, MA