By Jennifer Lader
of Hadassah Bethlehem-Easton:
Klezmer music started with itinerant musicians who traveled from town to town in Greece, the Balkans and other European lands during the Middle Ages, playing for weddings and other simchas. “The players were called ‘klezmorin’ and klezmer means ‘vessel of song,’” said Barry Wahrhaftig, founder and guitarist of Hot Club of Philadelphia. Multi-lingual vocalist Phyllis Chapell said the group has performed at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Barnes Museum, Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown, Bethlehem Musikfest and Swedesboro Jazz Festival. Now they are set to perform at Congregation Brith Sholom in Bethlehem in a community concert, the 74th annual for Hadassah Bethlehem-Easton, on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 3 p.m., followed by a gourmet dessert buffet.
Because Phyllis can sing in French and Spanish, Hebrew and Yiddish among other languages, the group can range the world over in its musical selections. They will be sure to drop in favorites like “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn” (made popular by the Andrew Sisters in the 1940s), “Bashana Ha Ba’a” and “Jerusalem of Gold.” They hinted Gershwin may make an appearance in musical form as well some gypsy jazz numbers, a favorite for Chapell. “I love the soulfulness of gypsy jazz, the excitement and the playfulness,” she said.
Though the klezmer style was temporarily silenced by the Nazis and Stalinists in Europe, it was brought to America. It’s uplifting and bittersweet at the same time, which it has in common with gypsy jazz. “Klezmer is basically dance music with melodies in often minor keys with a bit of a middle-Eastern sound thanks to our amazing clarinetist, Bob Butryn,” Wahrhaftig said. “It is joyful and poignant at the same time. It embodies the joie de vivre, of the Jewish People – our humor, love of life and our inner strength that has carried us through unimaginable hardships. I think that this music is in our Jewish DNA, so that no matter how secular you may be, you’ll feel it.”
For tickets and information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Carole at 610-554-3788.
This story also appeared in Hakol, the Jewish newspaper of the Lehigh Valley.