Special Programs

Zloczow 1902

My little town Zloczow: A Survivor’s Memoir

Joel Rubin Ensemble with Roald Hoffmann.

Zloczow (now Zolochiv, Ukraine) was a thriving Polish-Jewish-Ukrainian town near Lwow/Lemberg. Then, during three years, 1941-44 the Jewish population perished in the Holocaust. One of the survivors, Roald Hoffmann, tells in his own words, in readings from others, and in poems, the story of the town, its rich religious and cultural heritage (reaching out to America through the Yiddish writer Moshe Leyb Halpern, the photographer Weegee and others). Hoffmann, who was named after the discoverer Roald Amundsen, received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in his new home America, while at the same time becoming known for his poems, essays, and plays. A lifelong connoisseur of music, Hoffmann’s memories of the musical traditions of his home town were revived by the music and research of Joel Rubin. Kindred spirits in their approaches to science, the arts, and religion, they began to perform together, drawing into the moving poetry and memoirs of Hoffmann and Rubin’s musical score the thoughts and the musical traditions of the great hasidic masters, one of whom was Yekhiel Mekhl, the Maggid of Zloczow. The program interweaves text with appropriate musical selections, including hasidic, cantorial and klezmer music from the region of Zloczow.

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The Nign of Reb Mendel: Hasidic Songs in Yiddish

The Joel Rubin Ensemble featuring Rabbi Eli Silberstein, voice

The Nign of Reb Mendel is a continuation of Rubin’s exploration of the intersection between the Jewish instrumental klezmer and Hasidic vocal traditions that began with Midnight Prayer. It grew out of the four years Rubin spent documenting the vocal repertoire of Rabbi Silberstein. Whereas Midnight Prayer featured instrumental versions of a number of Hasidic nigunim, this project integrates a Hasidic singer as a member of the klezmer ensemble, something that had not been done since the klezmer revival began in the 1970s. The singing of nigunim has occupied a unique position in Hasidic life since the emergence of the movement in mid-18th century eastern Europe. Songs and, especially, pure melody are seen as being capable of establishing a direct connection to God, without the interference of text. These beautiful melodies, which range from introspective shepherd’s laments to ecstatic dance tunes, have been created over the centuries by Hasidic rabbis and musicians and may be sung at many occasions: in the synagogue, at the Hasidic rebbe’s table, at sabbath and holiday gatherings, at life-cycle celebrations like the wedding, in the home, or today as popular music of Jews the world wide. It is the Yiddish song repertoire as it was cultivated among Hasidic and other religious Jews of eastern European heritage (e.g. Lithuanian ultra-orthodox) for over 250 years that forms the core of The Nign of Reb Mendel. Here we present largely unknown gems, such as the Nign of R. Meir Shapiro of Lublin and Geloybt bistu (Praised Are You), alongside chestnuts such as the Dudele of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and Vos vet zayn? (What Will Happen?). By combining old Hasidic nigunim with the sound of instrumental klezmer music, the ensemble reunites two worlds, creating an aesthetic close to that which might perhaps have been heard by the Ba’al Shem Tov (founder of the Hasidic movement) or R. Shneur Zalman (founder of Chabad hasidism) and their descendents, yet which is thoroughly contemporary at the same time. more...

Dave Tarras solo CTMD Archive

The Tarras Legacy: Celebrating the King of American Klezmer Music

This special program was originally developed for the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York, to be performed at the beautifully restored Museum at Eldridge Street’s synagogue sanctuary. It features live performances as well as rare video footage and photographs of Dave Tarras from the Center for Traditional Music and Dance’s Archive. Clarinetist Dave Tarras (1895-1989) remains the most influential and well-known American klezmer musician of all time. Through his compositions, live performances and recordings, the Ukrainian-born virtuoso was the unrivaled leader in the creation of a uniquely American klezmer sound.

While the popularity of klezmer amongst American Jews declined precipitously after WWII, Tarras’s career was reborn in the late 1970’s through a project conducted by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (then called the Balkan Arts Center). The project played a major role in sparking an international revival of klezmer, and thirty-one years after his death, Tarras remains an indelible force in the performance and conception of klezmer. more...