(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – Saxophonist Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers will join co-director Paul Green and friends on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, at 7:30 p.m., at Congregation Knesset Israel in Pittsfield in the kickoff concert of a three-week festival of Jewish music in the Berkshires celebrating cross-cultural connections. Other concerts in the series will explore the relationship between Jewish music and classical, choral and jazz music.
Tuesday night’s concert with Charles Neville will illustrate the deep connections between African-American and Jewish music, as seen in works from the Yiddish Theater that demonstrate an early fusion of Jewish music and jazz, works from the blues and gospel traditions that have incorporated Jewish elements, and pieces that have Jewish roots, such as klezmer music, which have incorporated African-American elements.
Further exploration continues on Wednesday, May 30, at 7:30 p.m. with a follow-up lecture/performance by Green and Neville at the Taft Recital Hall at the Berkshire Music School in Pittsfield. The event, “The Relationship Between Jewish and African American Music,” traces the complex interaction between the two cultures and how each has influenced the other. The program will include recordings and live performance. This event is free.
On Wednesday, June 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire in Great Barrington, the festival will present a concert of chamber music showcasing important chamber music by Jewish composers. The concert will include the Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano by Paul Schoenfield; the lush, Romantic Trio by 19th-century Russian-Jewish composer Alexander Zemlinsky; the Suite Hebraique for Violin and Piano by Ernst Bloch; and a special work, Assimilations, by Robert Sirota, which explores the composer’s Jewish roots in the face of his conversion to Christianity.
Cantor Robert Scherr will be featured in the New England premier of “Yishakeni” by Meira Warshaw, for tenor flute and piano, based on The Song of Songs. Performers are Paul Green, clarinetist; Robert Scherr, cantor and Jewish Chaplain for Williams College; Doris Stevenson, pianist and Williams College faculty member; Joel Pitchon, violinist and Smith College faculty member; Ronald Feldman, cellist and Williams College faculty member. Tickets are $12.
Klezmer is featured on Tuesday, June 12, at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Anshei Amunim in Pittsfield, where Paul Green and some of the Berkshires’ best klezmer musicians will perform traditional tunes from the Eastern European Klezmer repertoire, the Sephardic repertoire and the Second Avenue Jewish music scene in New York. Tickets are $12.
New to the Celebration will be a choral concert in the context of the Berkshire Jewish Community’s “Shabbat Across the Berkshires.” On Friday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m, at the Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, the festival will join a Sabbath worship augmented by outstanding choral music presented by the Cantilena Singers, under the direction of Andrea Goodman. The repertoire will include classical composers such as Sulzer and Lewandowski, and contemporary composers such as Finkelstein, Friedman and Janowski. Cantor and co-director Robert Scherr will be a featured soloist with the chorale. As this is part of the regular Friday night service, there is no charge; the public is invited.
The festival wraps up on Sunday, June 17, at 3p.m. with a reprise of the klezmer concert at Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams. Tickets are $12.
The third Berkshire Summer Celebration of Jewish Music builds on the success of the first two seasons. In the inaugural season, the classical chamber music concert was repeated at Bargemusic in Brooklyn and garnered a rave review from the New York Times.
These events are co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Knesset Israel, Congregation Ahavath Sholom, Temple Anshe Amunim and The Berkshire Music School. Supported in part by grants from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the Pittsfield Cultural Council. The Summer Celebration of Music is also presented in cooperation with the Boston Symphony Orchestra Berkshire Education and Community Program.