YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE JEWISH...
Several years ago there was an ad campaign for Levy's Rye Bread plastered all over the subway. A smiling face and a loaf of bread beckoned us to try their new product, proclaiming, “You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's Rye Bread!”
Well, I'm tempted to use the same phrase to describe the wildly wonderful music of Metropolitan Klezmer. A fan of Klezmer music for decades, I can hardly hold back from jumping up and dancing. At a recent performance at the City Winery, several audience members joined me, bringing smiles of delight to the faces of audience members.. Such is the appeal of Klezmer music. It crosses age, income, ethnic barriers, enlivening and exciting along the way.
In an effort to understand the vibrant force behind this Jewishbased music, I interviewed several of the musicians. My question, “What inspired you to be a Klezmer musician?”
Eve Sicular, drummer and general backbone of the group, spoke of being influenced by Howie Leess, a gentleman who, in the 90s, in his midseventies, inspired her to create her own group, Metropolitan Klezmer. She shared how Leess's expertise in Eastern European music along with performances with American society orchestras created a fascinating combination of the old and the new. She smiled as she revealed his nickname, “the mountain goat” so named for how he explored unknown musical territory. Before each piece, Eve delivers a commentary on the historical and ethnic origins of the music, followed by a sprightly, “Ayntz, Tvay, Drey!” to get things going.
Ismail Butera, the accordionist, revealed his early love of Balkan music that emanated from his Albanian heritage. Starting as a teen, his crosscultural performances have produced rich, rousing melodies, grounded with a strong beat he produces by coordinating with the bassist and drummer.
The Bassist, David Hofstra, came to Klezmer by way of Jazz. “It's like Dixieland to me, with its strong wind section, bass, banjo, mandolin... and sometimes, even the violin.” In High School, he played the cornet, making David no stranger to wind instruments, which accounts for his second instrument, the tuba.
Which brings us to the remarkable Debra Kreisberg. Alternating between clarinet and alto sax, she adds the characteristic wailing quality that so typifies Klezmer music. Like Yiddish humor, the vitality (“freylachkite” in Yiddish) stems from a base of sadness. Debra's elegant playing takes us through the highs and lows that this music embodies – a journey that uplifts the spirit.
DON”T FORGET TO BOOK FOR MOTHER'S DAY BRUNCH
Sunday, May 8th 11:00-2:00pm
212 608 0555
City Winery – 155 Varick Street