Friday May 22nd was really a special and beautiful evening. The room filled with the warmest of blessings for Rabbi Michal. And then the fun really kicked in. Many thanks to Allison Stupka, Barbara Rust Boyk and the whole crew that organized the evening. Let’s have Klezmephonic over again! Nancy Meadow took terrific photos of our klezmer dance party!
Can a Contra dance caller lead a Yiddish sher (scissors dance)? Darn right, if it’s Drake Meadow! We will all get to experience the fun of it on Friday May 22nd as we gather to honor Rabbi Michal and appreciate her leadership of our community over the past two years. A special Kabbalat Shabbat beginning at 6:30 will be followed by a potluck dinner and entertainment by Klezmephonic, a new Ann Arbor klezmer band.
Klezmephonic’s first show was at the Old Town Tavern in Ann Arbor in June 2014, and they’ve played pretty steadily ever since, most recently, to a packed Kerrytown Concert House. Klemephonic’s guitar player, Alex Belhaj, and clarinetist and vocalist Jennie Lavine both attended the November klezmer workshop led by Maxwell Street Band and co-sponsored by AARC. There Jennie met Margo Schlanger, AARC board chair and intrepid viola player and our other member musicians Deb Gombert, Paul Resnick and Deb Fisch. Also at the workshop were Dan Peisach and Ralph Katz, both of whom play with Alex in the Celtic klezmer fusion band, ‘Twas Brillig and the Mazel Tovs’, which plays an annual contra dance that, this past year, was called by Drake Meadows.
Drake says it’s not really too much of a stretch to combine Contra and klezmer. After all, he says, Contra draws on all European folkdance. For instance the Virginia Reel, the classic American folk dance is a British dance, and yet it bears a close resemblance to a dance from Czechoslovakia. Similarly, Drake explains, a sher is an Ashkenazi square dance, same basic structure. For more than you probably want to know check out this transcript on sher and Contra dance from a 2007 Symposium on Yiddish dance.
Klezmephonic’s Jennie Lavine is also hosting klezmer jam sessions through Oz’s music and the band is currently in the process of mixing and mastering their first album.
Earlier this month six or eight AARC musician-members and about 20 other local musicians joined at the JCC for a workshop with three members of the Maxwell Street Band. We played for about 90 minutes, putting together two pieces, Freilechs fun der Hupe and Zol Zayn Gelebt. Photos and audio are below.
Comments from participants
- What an incredible morning. Hope there’s a chance to do it again!
- What terrific fun to play music with these folks! They took a couple dozen amateur instrumentalists, fired us up with enthusiasm, and helped us play with spirit and character. An amazing morning.
- Alex expertly assessed the abilities of over 20 musicians – from novice to skilled – who had never played together before. By the end of the workshop we were playing as a group; Alex, Don and Gail gave each of us a new challenge or musical gem. What fun!!! It was a real treat to play with Maxwell Street. Participants were all asking when the band will come back.
Freilechs fun der Hupe
Zol Zayn Gelebt
The Klezmer Concert & Workshop were organized in part by the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation with support from the Eastern Michigan University Jewish Studies, the JCC of Greater Ann Arbor, and an Impact Grant of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, as part of the Ann Arbor Yiddish Festival.