Klezmephonic and Drake Meadow: Bringing Jewish Music and Dance together the Ann Arbor Way

10931275_692424077523327_4042546703563411397_nCan 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.