Guitarist Tim Sparks has released several beautiful albums of Jewish inspired music on John Zorn’s Tzaddik record label. One is called Little Princess, which is the translation of Kleine Princessin a klezmer classic made famous by Naftule Brandwein, a king of klezmer clarinet.
Hear just how different two musicians can make the same song sound. First, let’s hear Naftule (who was quite a rascal it seems) play it.
And here’s Tim’s version.
How does a guitarist decide to take a wild klezmer tune and reinterpret it as a lilting, almost lullaby stringed statement? Let’s ask Tim when he performs at Club Passim on Tuesday, March 5.
As we are about to launch the 2013 Boston Jewish Music Festival, I’ve been thinking a lot about the very concept of religious music. For instance, on March 3, the Celebrity Series of Boston is presenting the Eternal Echoes concert program of Itzhak Perlman and renowned Israeli cantor, Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. BJMF is incredibly honored to be a marketing partner for this event and to sponsor a special reception with the artists after the concert. Yes, a limited number of tickets are still available by clicking here.
But my thoughts aren’t about selling tickets (at least right now they aren’t). I’m pondering just how universal is religious music. Does music itself open you to divine presence or do you have to be open to it? How spiritual an experience will this concert be for the non-Jew?
Personally, there have been several non-Jewish music recordings and experiences that I have savored both musically and mystically. Don’t get me started on the magic that happens in trhe Gospel Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. And hearing an old Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers live version of Nearer My God to Thee always gets to me. Hear it for yourself (stay with it…it builds each minute to an unbelievable climax).
And lately, I’ve been held rapt by a CD of hymns that jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas released. These were songs that his mother wanted him to play at her funeral. I hear God’s presence in every note though I wouldn’t recognize a hymnal from a science textbook. Well, that is an exaggeration. Hymnals do have musical notations and science texts doesn’t.
Two very different approaches to praying to God musically. Let’s try one more, one of ours.
Why do some of us only hear divinity in country gospel or qwaalii music, chazzanus or a Springsteen revival concert while others can hear it in all great music? If we really do believe that there is one God, then shouldn’t we accept the idea that the divine is present in so many different musical styles? Personally, I think music is one of humanity’s greatest gifts to God. Or is that the other way around?
What do you think? Of these three examples, what touched you? Why? Care to share a piece that speaks to your soul?
And lets talk about it and share all this and more here on this blog and at the festival, March 1-10.
The web site is live. The tickets are on sale. The brochures will be going to the post office this week. And the Third Annual Boston Jewish Music Festival is up and running. Obviously, we’re incredibly excited about the range and quality of the programs that have been planned. And, of course, we hope you’ll buy lots of tickets to lots of events (notice we eliminated as many service fees as possible). But allow me a few moments to share some of the little personal moments that have touched me.
First, you should have seen Basya Schechter’s face when I told her she would be performing her Songs of Wonder program in a shul where Rabbi Heschel frequently spoke and his daughter still belongs. It was a wonderful combination of fear and excitement and pride. Her concert will be incredible. As will her Kabbalat Shabbat in Sudbury.
I’m also blown away by how many phone calls we’ve been getting about the Hadag Nahash concert at Johnny D’s and the Andy Statman/David Grisman Opening Night at Somerville Theater. David will also be doing a master class at Berklee School of Music while he is in Boston. BJMF always tries to have our outr-of-town guests do something in the community besides their concerts. And most artists are all too happy to do so.
Lastly, I just want to tell you how much Jim and I appreciate all the kind words people offer us. So many people are so appreciative that Boston finally has a Jewish Music Festival. And not just any festival, BJMF is already considered a model of innovation, collaboration, and community building. Your simple ‘thanks’ and ”this was so enjoyable’ mean so much to us. So get ready. Clear your calendars. And be sure to attend something wonderful at the 2012 Festival.
Tonight (Saturday, March 12), the Boston Jewish Music Festival concert rocked the Berklee Performance Center. We floated. We soared. The Divine Sparks concert was truly a magnificent experience. Featuring Frank London and an all-star band, with Cantors Yaakov Lemmer, Aaron Bensoussan, Elias Rosemberg, Gaston Bogomolni, and rabbinic student Jessica Kate Meyer, I believe they actually achieved what Allen Ginsberg tried to do to the Pentagon back in the 60s: the Berklee Performance Center was lifted several feet off the ground. It was an elevating concert, and judging from the audience reaction…well, several people floated out.
It’s exactly what our hopes for the BJMF are–to present the diversity of our people in a way that unifies us. To present the power of Jewish music to bring the many threads together in unique ways. Art breaks down barriers; music moves our souls, and we know that we are One.
Thank you to everyone who helped to make it possible. Now, on to tomorrow (Sunday)–and the Zamir Chorale of Boston and Brookline Chorus presenting an all Leonard Bernstein concert at Sanders Theater at 2 PM, and Neshama Carlebach at Temple Emanuel in Newton at 7:30 (PS–that concert is almost sold out; hope you have your tickets already).
We’ve posted photos and web sites for most of pour performers in the 2011 BJMF. It’s on our web site under the menu item 2011 Artists. Click on their sites to find all kinds of goodies–music, videos, links to more. Make sure to check out SoCalled and One Ring Zero, who have very interesting material up. See you soon.
People often (well at least sometimes) ask me what is my favorite memory from the first Boston Jewish Music Festival. This is definitely one of them (the headline above is a link to a video). In fact, it is the exact moment when Flory Jagoda bent her fingers to ask the audience to sing along.
Cantor Gaston Bogomolni has been a fan of Flory Jagoda’s since he was 16. He always hoped to be able to sing with her. And here it is. An 88 year young legend passing on her tradition to a 32 year old cantor and to everyone else in the audience. You’ve got to love it.
But there is more to come. We’ll be announcing the 2011 line up right after the start of the New Year. But I can assure you this, the program is even more diverse and intriguing than last year’s. See you there.
There was a very nice article about the Festival in the Jewish Advocate this week. It’s unbelievably exciting. The Festival direct mail brochure goes to the printer today and should be delivered within 2 weeks. And Sunday night, we kick things off with Habanot Nechama. This Festival is no longer a dream, Its real. And it is going to be spectacular.
Here’s a great interview with Flory Jagoda, Ladino cultural treasure, who will be coming to the Festival on Tuesday, March 9. This woman is INCREDIBLE and not to be missed.