"I'd just like to thank you for all the effort and imagination that SCoJeC is putting into improving our lives and bringing us together (virtually) at this time. It is really making a difference."
When LaG b'Omer comes around we at SCoJeC like to celebrate in style! In past years we’ve held large-scale outdoor events with archery competitions and exploring the countryside, but with all that out of the question because of the covid-19 pandemic, we thought we would focus on just one symbol of the festival, the bow and arrow. Since rainbows are also the symbol of popular support for the NHS, we decided that our event should also help Scottish NHS charities.
So we were delighted to bring together five internationally known Klezmer musicians from their own living rooms in the East Neuk of Fife, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the USA, for a Rainbow Klezmer Kabaret, with the proceeds being shared between the musicians and Scottish NHS charities.
We began with flute player extraordinaire Adrianne Greenbaum, Professor of Flute at Mount Holyoak College in Boston, and pioneer of the Klezmer flute tradition. Adrianne is a nationally acclaimed flautist performing on historical instruments of the 18th and 19th centuries. To start off the evening she played a selection of dance tunes; and her second set included a haunting doyna followed by a hora and a freylekhs, and a great tune she had composed for her daughter’s wedding.
Internationally known Klezmer musician, singer, songwriter, scholar, and cultural arts educator Michael Alpert, originally from the USA but now living in Scotland, sang several traditional and original songs in Yiddish, English, and a mix of the two, some unaccompanied, and some accompanied by guitar. His final number was a heartfelt rendition in Scots of Matt Armour’s beautiful song Generations of Change – which mentions many places near to Michael’s home in the East Neuk of Fife.
Michael was followed by Klezmer and Scottish fiddle player, and community music practitioner and teacher Gica Loening, who founded and plays with several dance and Klezmer bands in Edinburgh. Gica talked about the importance of learning from women Klezmer musicians – there weren’t so many women playing in the ‘old country’, but there are many more now. Among the tunes Gica played was a bulgar by Deborah Strauss as well as the Lockdown Waltz, composed in the Klezmer style by Gica herself.
Accordionist Phil Alexander leads the Scotland-based Klezmer/Jazz fusion band Moishe's Bagel, and performs regularly with many other folk & jazz ensembles. He is also an academic who studied the performance of Klezmer and Yiddish music in contemporary Berlin for his PhD, and he is now a British Academy Research Fellow studying historical Jewish-Scottish musical encounters. He began with a very danceable set made up of a hora and two sirbas. His second set began with his own composition, MacGoldberg’s jig and reel and, like Michael Alpert, he strayed from the Klezmer repertoire for one number, a moving performance of Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom.
Lev Atlas, principal viola of the Scottish Opera Orchestra, and Senior Lecturer in Strings at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, is well known to Glasgow’s Jewish community, performing regularly at community events. He is a virtuoso Klezmer and Eastern European music performer, and spoke about his musical life growing up in Rostov on Don, where he would play for weddings and parties. His repertoire included Lament of Israel, Crying Hora, and Whistle Hora, and finished with a selection of freylekhs.
The musicians enjoyed the event as much as the audience: Phil spoke for all of them saying “Thank you Fiona for organising it all. And to everyone for the music! A privilege to be involved."
Feedback from the more than 180-strong audience was extremely positive. One participant who continued ‘shmuesing’ with the musicians after the recording had been turned off, said: “That was another delightful evening. Really enjoyed it – both for the quality of the performances and because I really do admire and appreciate your current efforts towards enhancing and broadening the sense of Jewish community and identity in Scotland, and making connections well beyond our shores. It now feels like a far bigger (and more welcoming) tent than it once did! So thanks again and zayt gezunt.”
Other participants told us:
"The musical diversity was refreshing and a joy to experience. I appreciated hearing the heartfelt stories and artistic styles of Adrianne, Phil, and Lev especially, but all the musicians did a wonderful job."
"I loved the astonishing brilliance of the performers – I was blown away! I also enjoyed the "fireside/kitchen" feel of the event which gave it a warmth and intimacy you don't usually get with audiences over 100! "
"I was very impressed by how smoothly everything ran."
"Couldn't be better. The best evening in of the lockdown so far. Great performers and great hosting."
"Such a lovely concert and so moving all from the comfort of my front room … a night to stay in our hearts for a long time."