Program Details

Tracing a Genre: How Jewish Wedding Music Became Klezmer

Lisa Gutkin
Music / Jewish Culture & History
Video Catch-up

Course Description

The celebratory instrumental music of the Eastern European Jews is not unknown to the world. One phrase of anything that sounds like Fiddler on The Roof gets a nod of recognition. But why? What are the characteristics that make this unique style, synthesized from many traditions? How did ancient cantorial prayer grow into a dance music that would eventually charm even Benny Goodman and the jazz musicians of America? When did the instrumental music mix with the vocal ballads of the Yiddish choruses and theater to become this modern genre called Klezmer? With live examples played by Gutkin on the violin, and recorded musical examples, the influential styles of the local musicians in the Pale of Settlement that shared their sounds with their Jewish neighbors will be explored, then traced, as it mixed with Yiddish Theater from Moscow to New York, inspired folk bands like the Weavers, became concert music with stage bands like the Klezmatics, and wove its way through Paula Vogel’s Tony Award Winning Musical Drama, Indecent.

About the Instructor

  • Lisa Gutkin is best known as the Grammy Award-winning violinist, singer, and songwriter of the renowned Klezmatics, and for her score and performance in the two-time Tony Award-winning play Indecent, by Paula Vogel. Gutkin began as a backup musician in the Fast Folk Collective with artists such as Rod MacDonald and Christine Lavin, and went on to an eclectic career performing Klezmer music, blues, traditional Irish and Appalachian tunes and more. She has co-authored songs with Anne Sexton, Maggie Dubris, and Woody Guthrie, performed and composed for Sex and the City, played in Sting’s musical The Last Ship, and is a MacDowell Fellow. She has taught and lectured on Klezmer and other fiddle styles throughout the world including St. Petersburg, Russia. She has scored for Pearl Gluck’s films Summer and Write Me.

    Pete Rushefsky is a leading performer, composer and researcher of the Jewish tsimbl (cimbalom or hammered dulcimer), Rushefsky tours and records internationally with violinist Itzhak Perlman as part of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, and collaborates with a number of leading figures in the contemporary klezmer scene including Andy Statman, Adrianne Greenbaum, Steven Greenman, Joel Rubin, Lisa Gutkin, Eleonore Biezunski, Michael Alpert, Madeline Solomon, Zhenya Lopatnik, Zoe Aqua, Jake Shulman-Ment, Keryn Kleiman, Eleonore Weill, Joanna Sternberg and Michael Winograd. Since 2006 he has served as Executive Director of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to the preservation and presentation of diverse immigrant music traditions from around the world.

Upcoming programs presented by Lisa Gutkin.

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