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May 29, 2013

Molly Picon video, recordings now online via FAU

The Judaica Sound Archives at FAU Libraries honors the work and life of Molly Picon. Compiling 58 of her earliest songs produced on 78 rpm records and four of her LP albums produced later in her career, the JSA invites you to revisit the talents of a truly great Jewish female icon. Who was Molly Picon? She was an actress, singer, and comedian whose career spanned over 70 years. Debuting in the Yiddish Theater at the age of six she emerged as a respected American actress, performing with Frank Sinatra in Come Blow Your Horn (1963) and starring on Broadway in Milk & Honey (1961) and the film, Fiddler on the Roof (1971). Molly Picon's career followed Yiddish culture from the shtetl into mainstream America. Small and very youthful looking, she often had to fight to be taken seriously. She wore male clothing as a disguise through most of her breakout performance in Yidl Mit'n Fidl (1936) and several of her other early roles as well, including the well-known "Yankele." You can read more about Molly Picon at the Jewish Women's Archive. ClickClick here for Molly's LP albums. ClickClick here for Molly's 78 rpm recordings.

Film clip of a very young Molly Picon singing the title song from Yid'l Mit'n Fidl.

May 25, 2013

Naftule's Dream still driving

Glenn Dickson has periodically rented the tiny LilyPad lounge in Cambridge to showcase his bands. In a hall that small, you're really talking about a chance for the band to play what most interests it at the moment, and for a tiny audience (40 people?) to listen in. It's like a slightly extended house concert, and about that formal. On the other hand, on a cold, rainy day like this afternoon, it is the perfect setting to hear hot music.

This afternoon it was the turn of Naftule's Dream, the avant garde offshoot of one of my favorite local bands, Shirim Klezmer Orchestra. With the exception of relative newcomer Andrew Stern, on guitar, this is the same ensemble that has played together for decades. They are tight, intricate, and exciting to hear. Today, in particular, I could hear their roots, less in klezmer and jazz, and then klezmer and progressive rock, with all of its classical precedents. It came as no surprise when Glenn introduced one number (Free Klez?) as the band's answer to a particularly well-known Genesis suite.

The band introduced a few new numbers, at least one each by Glenn and accordionist Michael McLaughlin, and reached back through a couple of decades for some wonderful oldies. Introductions were sparse, most often "here's a new one by XXX," with even titles left off. (One new number is called "The Butcher"?) The chatter wasn't really what the audience, ranging from high school age to folks even older than myself, came to hear. It was the music, and in that, we got a treat.

In a few cases, the band explicitly noted the klezmer roots of some tunes. Most notable was their version of the Terkisher, with drummer/percussionist Eric Rosenthal starting things off with the familiar snare marching roll, and gradually becoming more complex, moving to explore new corners of dance, perhaps in an as-yet-unfamiliar dimension. Sousaphonist Jim Gray was incendiary, as was trumpeter Gary Bohan.

I apologize for not taping the show. Sometimes it is good to just listen and watch. For your part, watch the KlezmerShack calendar and make sure you don't miss the next show.

May 9, 2013

A first for Europe: Jewish Choirs Fest, Vienna, May 9-12, 2013

Roman Grinberg writes the Jewish-Music list:

European Jewish Choirs Festival
May 9 - 12, 2013

18 Jewish Choirs - over 400 singers from 16 European cities celebrating Jewish Song. Workshops for Yiddish, Yemenite and Chassidic songs led by European Choirmasters:

  • Concerts
  • Musical Kabbalat Shabbat
  • Jam Session
  • Klezmer Dance Party

Gala concert with closing ceremony in the famous Austria Center Vienna on Sunday, May 12, starting 6 PM

Under the patronage of Austria Federal President Heinz Fischer
Main Sponsor: EJP - European Jewish Parliament www.ejp.eu

More info: www.wjchor.at

May 8, 2013

Interview with Arkady Gendler in TabletMag

CD cover

With some follow-up to a recent Kickstarter project I was pushing, here is an interview with Arkady Gendler on Tablet Magazine: 91-Year-Old Yiddish Rock Star, by Vladislav Davidzon. I can get behind that headline.

You can hear some music samples, and get your copy of the CD directly from the esteemed Ates, at Golden Horn Records. Tell him I sent you.

May 7, 2013

Michael Wex and Joseph Opatoshu need your help now

Wex isn't cracking a joke with this project. If he says it's important, I say, time to make it happen (but I always say that when I hear "Polish pagan ritual" in Yiddish).

Dear Friends

Hasidic wife-swapping in honour of false messiah Shabbetai Zvi is the least of the attractions of Joseph Opatoshu's incredible Yiddish novel, In Poylishe Velder (In The Forests of Poland), but with no decent translation available, most of the English-speaking world doesn't know that.

I'm trying to change the situation with an Indiegogo campaign to fund a translation of Opatoshu's classic into the kind of living English that I'm already known for writing and then make it available for free, forever. This book's got just about everything: plot, character, hasidic rebbes, Polish pagan rituals, and plenty of things that you wouldn't expect.

If you love literature, Yiddish, or books that will change your view of Jewish life in Poland, just click on the link to go to the site: www.indiegogo.com/projects/new-authorized-translation-of-a-classic-yiddish-novel-into-english/x/3046674

Here's how you can help:

Don't let this classic novel be lost to history—I am one of only a handful of people still alive who can make sure that this book is available in English for everyone, for free, forever!