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October 23, 2005

Paul Pincus (1918-2005), z"l

Paul Pincus and friend, by Bob BlacksbergPaul Pincus was a wonderful saxophone player that I came to know through his work in recent years with the Epstein Brothers. He also tutored my stepson, Ari Fertig, at KlezKanada one year. He was an amazing musican, a great teacher, and a delightful human being. Henry Sapoznik writes:

Our dear friend clarinetist/sax player Paul Pincus died last night in the wake of a stroke. He was about to be released to home care when his heart failed. He was 87.

I spoke to him a few days ago and he was his usually funny, upbeat and sweet dispositioned self. And despite his illness, terribly excited about coming to this year's KlezKamp.

They didn't get any greater than Paul Pincus.

The funeral is being held tomorrow. Monday, October 24 at 11 am at
Bloomfield Cooper Jewish Funeral Chapel
44 Burke Street
Burke Street & Wilson Avenue (Rt. 527)
Manalapan, NJ 07726

You many send condolences to Paul's family in care of his sister
Harriet Nemeth
26 Linsey Circle
Old Bridge, NJ 08857

Photo by Bob Blacksberg

October 9, 2005

The marriage of Lloica and Czackis - a modern klezmer's tale

Alaskan klezmer flautist-at-large Nancy Metashvili has been wandering the world for the past few months, and when we are lucky, sends back emails of her exploits from York to Mali. She sent permission to post this missive about a wedding in Alsace to the KlezmerShack. The world is so small ... it wasn't until I was almost at the end of the vignette that I realized that this is the same Lloica who participates on the Jewish-Music mailing list, and who I have encountered online for years! How wonderful to get a report of her simkha from another virtual friend, Ferengi Nan

Subject: Fun der Chupe
Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2005 13:21:14 +0000
Bratislava, Slovakia

Alors, mes amis- L'Chaim!

There's nothing like a big, exhuberant Jewish wedding, and when it's held in a tiny French mountain village the celebration is simply stupendous and unforgettable.

Andre and Lloica got married last weekend in Grandfontaine, France, in the Vosges Mountains of Alsace. The town (population 300) is postcard pretty, all smartly painted houses with steeply pitched roofs nestled along a stream and hills rising up green and luxurious. The gardens are the classic French potager—the edibles are considered beautiful, and flowers considered just dandy to be in the midst of the veggies. There is one patisserie/epicerie, a school, a church, a Mairie (mayor's office), a Salle d'Fete, some pastures, a pampered donkey and lots of dogs. It's a small town in France, prosperous and not too provincial, because after all Strasbourg in only an hour North, and what a grand place that is!

The 'Grand Fountain' is a tiny little ornamental fountain in the middle of the main street, where it intersects with the other street.


300 villagers, and then 100 guests arrive from around the globe.

Andre is originally from Poland, so his family drove down... Lloica is from Buenos Aires, and some family flew in from there... friends from London, Paris, Strasbourg, Venezuela, Germany, Holland and Alaska.....

I first met Andre on the Nile, we were both in the same felucca sailing from Aswan to Luxor. Two Klezmorim in the middle of Egypt, how very unlikely! I think Andre and Lloica met in Paris...

The bride was zaftig and magnificent, so beautiful in a sexy grey silk number. The groom was calm - bemused? - and happy and - exhausted? (They did the party themselves, with a little help from their friends.)

The sun was nice to us, warmly decorated with those sweet puffy little white clouds, and the guests were exotic and beautiful. Villagers hung (discretely) out windows, clustered in doorways, or just happened to be tending to small tasks in their fields above the mairie.

The ceremony was civil, this being France. A meeting with the Mayor (actually the deputy Mayor, who confessed nervously that it was his first wedding) to cite statutes, proclaim codes, and sign documents around a long table. A crowded room, and quiet voices. I was outside on the steps with a pickup Klezmer band—we tended to burst out joyously at the appropriate times (ie "you are now man and wife") but had to be shushed at least once!

Ah, but when they emerged, what a simcha! A wineglass was smashed and the music commenced. Rob, playing the Bobover Wedding March in context was sublime. We were a kapelye like a rainbow made audible, with 2 accordions, 2 fiddles, 1 clarinet, 2 flutes, 1 piccolo, and a sopranino sax.

Humdrum no more, la Rue Principal metamorphosized from gasn to Carnival ... the wedding pair, the Klezmorim; freilachs, gasn nign, der Heisser Bulgar, horas and shers, Zol Zayn Gelebt, , Mazel Tov and up the street in a colourful procession. From silver hair to babes in arms and not forgetting Inez the fluffy mini dachsund, we wended our way all through the town and ended up by Andre's underconstruction but already enhanced with blooming windowboxes, what class! houses. And there was champagne, canapes (I'd been working since dawn helping with the canapes) and papirossen. It was the first wedding where I've seen cigarettes officially included in the feast like that.

Toasts, chatter in French, Spanish, English, Yiddish, Dutch and Polish.

More winding and wending to the Salle d' Fete, and a banquet of French lavishness and international style—ducks, tagines, breads, cheese, sauerkraut, wine, jus de pommes, cornichons, pickled herring, prickly pears, a five tiered wedding cake (made by a Parisian 12 year old) a la Buenos Aires, of dulce de leche.

More music. Lloica sang. She's the Queen of the Yiddish Tango, with a voice like a sultry chanteuse from the 20's and a presence beyond words.

Dancing Poetry Papirossen

Lloica and

triumphantly carried aloft on chairs. Tears in the eyes of the Bubbies, like little diamonds of love.

Mazel Tov. May great happiness travel with you.

And in this pristine setting nestled, in a last hurrah, my little tent. When I errected it, (it was the first to go up) there was a troup of kibbitzers; Madame La B&B in whose garden we camped "Mais non, c'est froid!!" and her sister and brother-in-law, a cousin from Paris and her 12 year old. The 12 year old wanted to help "Oh, I LOVE putting up tents!". Well, enthusiasm more than experience, and of course there was the inevitable CRACK&mdah;merde—and a vital pole snapped. Inevitable again, the brother-in-law was an expert Mr Fix it and he quickly cobbled up a temporary repair. So holding back charming Agathe the 12 year old, crying "Doucement, doucement" slowly I put up my poor little lopsided dwelling for the last time. Sleeping on soft grass to the music of the stream, overlooking the neighbour's Gnome Garden and content at my friend's love and happiness, I accepted that my Camping in Eastern Europe Lark was at an end.

Gracias a la vida,

F. Nan

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)

A wonderful new graphic novel, "The Rabbi's Cat"

book coverI don't have much of an excuse for writing about this wonderful graphic novel on the KlezmerShack except for the fact that it is, in fact, a wonderful graphic novel. And, among the wonders of this collection of stories about an Algerian rabbi, his daughter, and his cat (narrated by the cat) is some great music. So, genug.

Since the beginning of the summer, I have been trying to catch up on some non-fiction reading. In particular, I have been asking myself, "what is Jewish writing today." There is no shortage of answers, ranging from the works of writers as diverse as Saul Bellow to Michael Chabon in which characters happen to be Jewish, but which do not, to me, sing of what it means to be a Jew. I expected to find refuge in Israeli writer David Grossman, who is one of my favorite writers, but catching up on a couple of recent books left me cold. Wonderful as novels, they, too, seemed "just novels" in which the Israeli setting was, again, part of the setting, but not the point or question of the works.

At this point I began feeling that I was being stupid. It is rare enough to find a book worth reading. Grossman's luminous language and humanity should be enough. But it also wasn't what I was looking for.

An Allegra Goodman book that had been sitting on the shelf for a while, "Paradise Park", for all of the obtuseness of the main character, and the silliness of many of the scenes, rollicked into familiar territory. It was the first of the recent Jewish books to speak to me from something that felt like Jewish immersion (strange, if you consider how little of the novel has anything to do with Jewish practice or life inside a Jewish community). It was certainly more fulfilling than Nathan Auslander's "Beware of God", a collection of short stories that mostly shrieked, "I have broken away from religion and I'm going to blaspheme like only a former yeshiva bokher can". I was especially disappointed because I heard him tell a story about Hebrew school on "This American Life" one afternoon and was entranced.

Intro this ennui steps French graphic novelist Joann Sfar with an entirely original take on Jewish storytelling. A Jewish graphic novel that doesn't talk about the Holocaust and isn't about some existentially lost real estate photographer. It doesn't even have much to say about Ashkenazim in any context. Instead, the novel is set in Algeria (and a bit in Paris) sometime prior to the revolution—the review I read that pointed me to the book suggests that it takes place between the two world wars, which seems plausible, but I'd have to ask the author. The novel says much about life, about living Jewishly, and about faith and people and the impact of modernity on old laws and customs, and it is absolutely, rollickingly funny and wise and beautifully drawn. Once I sat down to begin reading I couldn't stop.

Oh, yes, and did I mention the music? There is great music, not least a wonderful scene between the Rabbi and a Sufi jam together in the desert on their way to visit the same shrine.

Next up, I'm going to see if American Poet Laureate (and fellow Jew) Robert Pinsky's new "biography" of King David approaches the humor and intrigue of the late Stefan Heym's often-brilliant "King David Report".

October 1, 2005

Brave Old World to perform "Songs of the Lodz Ghetto" in San Francisco, Oct 15

Brave Old World

Songs of the Lodz GhettoBrave Old World
Song of the Lodz Ghetto
In Yiddish, with English Supertitles

Saturday, October 15, 8:00 pm
JCCSF, 3200 California St. at Presidio Ave.
Tickets: Members $20 | Public $25 | Students $15
Box Office: (415) 292-1233
Box Office hours: Monday - Friday, 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm; Saturday, 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm.
Click here to purchase tickets online.