(AMHERST, Mass.) – YIDSTOCK: The Festival of New Yiddish Music is emphasizing the “new” in its title this year with a lineup comprised almost entirely of performers new to Yidstock audiences, including David Krakauer, one of the world’s great klezmer clarinetists and bandleaders, and Beyond the Pale, Canada’s premiere Jewish-roots music outfit. Also making their Yidstock debuts this summer during the seventh annual YIDSTOCK, taking place at the Yiddish Book Center from Thursday, July 12, through Sunday, July 15, are Yiddish art singer Heather Klein with Joshua Horowitz; vocalist Anthony Mordechai Zvi Russell; and Ladino-fusion vocalist Sarah Aroeste, in a specially commissioned program exploring the Yiddish-Ladino connection.
Returning stars of Yidstock include Josh Dolgin aka Socalled, appearing in two programs, including the Yidstock premiere of the Socalled String Quartet; Klezmer Conservatory Bandfounder and director Hankus Netsky; accordionist Lauren Brody; dance instructor Steve Weintraub; songleader Asya Vaisman Schulman; and klezmer instructor Brian Bender.
Two programs featuring world-renowned clarinetist David Krakauer – a former member of the Klezmatics and a soloist, bandleader, and cofounder of cutting-edge klezmer-funk group Abraham Inc. – will serve as festival centerpieces. Opening night (Thursday, July 12, at 8pm) will feature the gorgeous, chamber music-like sounds of David Krakauer’s Acoustic Klezmer Quartet. This unplugged group features the world-renowned soloist — whose clarinet can be heard in recordings and performances by Kronos Quartet, Emerson String Quartet, Osvaldo Golijov, Dresdener Philharmonie, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, the Klezmatics, among dozens of others – backed by accordion, bass, and drums, performing a repertoire largely drawn from and emphasizing the beauty of traditional klezmer dance tunes and reflective melodies, all given the ineffable David Krakauer touch.
On Saturday night at 8pm, Krakauer offers an entirely different program: a reunion concert of his original post-Klezmatics outfit, Klezmer Madness, with special guest Socalled, featuring Krakauer’s groundbreaking fusion of the early klezmer sounds of immigrant-era clarinetist Naftule Brandwein, the jazz influence of New Orleans clarinet great Sidney Bechet, and the funky undertones of James Brown. Klezmer Madness showcases Krakauer’s soulful, boisterous clarinet on classic instrumental klezmer and original tunes that merge the synagogue wail with the avant-jazz of downtown New York, driven by an incessant, rhythmic pulse that explores the affinities between klezmer dance and modern soul music. Joining the group on this special occasion will be Socalled – Krakauer’s bandmate from the klezmer-funk supergroup, Abraham Inc. – adding digital beats and samples to the mad mix of Krakauer’s contemporary klezmer stew.
The festival concludes on Sunday night with a one-of-a-kind concert by the brand-new Socalled String Quartet, featuring the mad wizard of Yiddish hip-hop on vocals and keyboards backed by members of the Common Music Collective playing his transcriptions of classic Yiddish theater and folk songs – some of which he uncovered in the book center’s archive of Yiddish sheet music from the early 20thcentury. This program presents Montreal’s Socalled as you’ve never heard him before, forefronting his genius as a performer and arranger, enlivening a new Yiddish music for the 21stcentury.
Also representing our neighbor to the north, Toronto-based Beyond the Pale– celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year – brings a global, world-music approach to klezmer. In traditional and original compositions and improvisations, you’ll hear hints of Balkan and Romanian music, as well as bits of bluegrass, jazz, reggae, funk, and classical.
Classically trained soprano Heather Klein will present lost works of the Yiddish Art Song repertoire, with accompanist Joshua Horowitz – a key figure in the klezmer renaissance as a founder of ensembles including Budowitz and Veretski Pass and as a former member of Brave Old World.
In Tsvey Brider, Yiddish vocalist Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell and pianist/accordionist Dmitri Gaskin will explore diverse idioms and styles to create contemporary and idiosyncratic new music set to some of the greatest poets in the Yiddish language, as well as performing unique interpretations of classic Yiddish songs.
As always, Yidstock will include a full schedule of talks, conversations, and singing, dancing, and instrumental workshops, including several led by musicians-in-residence for the festival. Yiddish music scholar Hankus Netsky will speak on Yiddish theater music on Thursday, July 12, at 4pm, and on Yiddish Art Music on Friday, July 13, at 11am. Netsky’s lectures are always popular and include multimedia and live music performances.
And as always, festival artistic director Seth Rogovoy – author of “The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover’s Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music” and a contributing editor to the Forward – will kick off the festival on Thursday afternoon with his multimedia talk, “The Essential Klezmer,” taking the audience on a multimedia journey from Old World shtetls to New World stages, providing historical context for the music that will be heard throughout the four-day event.
The weekend will be peppered with talks by and discussions with festival performers exploring their music and their personal journeys, including David Krakauer, Anthony Mordechai Zvi Russell, Sarah Aroeste, Eric Stein of Beyond the Pale (also the artistic director of Toronto’s biennial Ashkenaz Festival), and Josh Dolgin aka Socalled.
Workshops include Yiddish dance, song, and instrumental klezmer.
Now in its seventh year, Yidstock brings together a diverse range of musicians who weave elements from traditional Jewish music, jazz, Americana, and other styles to take klezmer and Yiddish music (and, this year, Ladino, too) in exciting, unexpected directions, underscoring the dynamic, ever-evolving nature of the genre.
For ticket sales and a complete schedule, check the Yiddish Book Center’s website at Yiddish Book Center.
The world’s first Yiddish museum, the Yiddish Book Center is home to permanent and visiting exhibits; two performance halls with a year-round schedule of educational programs, concerts (including the annual Yidstock: The Festival of New Yiddish Music), films, and events; an English-language bookstore; and over a million Yiddish books.
The Center is open Sunday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.