With so many musicians and Yiddish singers in Edinburgh for Limmud Scotland – and with so many people eager to hear them – it was easy for SCoJeC to decide to arrange a Yiddish song concert and Klezmer ceilidh as an add-on, working with Kleznorth, a group that put on Klezmer events throughout the year.
With more than 140 people in attendance, the event was an enormous success – we nearly ran out of chairs, though not of space, as the Edinburgh Synagogue’s community centre is spacious and welcoming.
The first act was the Yiddish Song Project, with spectacularly talented Yiddish singer Stephanie Brickman, accompanied on keyboard and accordion by brilliant musician Phil Alexander of Moishe’s Bagel. Among their set was a fabulous reworking of Yiddishe Mama – this one wasn’t about the traditional Yiddishe Mama who sits alone in the dark waiting for someone to call … THIS Yiddishe Mama can bake twelve blitz-torte cater a WIZO lunch for 80, clean the house from top to bottom, feed the cat, and still be ready for Shabbos!
Acoustic trio Kleyne Klezmer – clarinet player Andrew Gardiner, accordionist Jan Waterfield and tuba player Simon Carlyle – then played three tunes in beautiful harmony. Although usually on stage as a raucous Klezmer dance band, they took the opportunity to play a short concert set in the first half of the evening.
The final act in the concert was the duo of Michael Alpert and Gica Loening. Gica is an Edinburgh based Klezmer and Scottish fiddler who leads Klezmer band Celter Schmelter as well as Scottish women’s ceilidh band, the Belle Stars. Acclaimed Yiddish singer and Klezmer musician Michael Alpert has now moved permanently to Scotland from his native California and is based in Fife. Their set was a mix of traditional Yiddish songs, soulful Klezmer tunes played on two fiddles or fiddle and accordion, and contemporary songs in English and Yiddish. One beautiful song written by Michael himself in honour of his late father was performed for only the second time in public, featuring Michael on old-time guitar accompanied by Gica’s fiddle. Gica introduced a set that linked the Scottish and Klezmer tradition and got everyone stamping their feet and clapping along. To finish off, Michael sang a Sy Kahn song, Crossing the Border, that spoke, like his own song, of generations of working people attached to family and the land.
After a short interval Kleyne Klezmer returned for a Klezmer Ceilidh with Michael Alpert leading the dancing for the last part of the evening – and at the end of the night the whole ensemble reunited, with Gica and Phil joining the band, and Michael and Stephanie joining together for a Yiddish version of Auld Lang Syne! Click here to watch a short video of the dancing.
"Thank you for such a beautiful celebration of Yiddish life, culture and history" said one member of the audience, and another commented, "I had a super time relaxing to the beautiful singing and playing of Yiddish music. I loved all of it – would love to hear of more events."
We are grateful to the Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust for their generous support of our event programme.