(AMHERST, Mass.) – The Klezmatics, Frank London and the Yidstock All-Stars, and David Krakauer’s Mazel Tov Cocktail Party headline the 11th annual YIDSTOCK: The Festival of New Yiddish Music, taking place at the Yiddish Book Center over the course of four days, Thursday, July 13-Sunday, July 16, 2023.
YIDSTOCK artistic director Seth Rogovoy curated this year’s lineup, which includes favorites like Merlin Shepherd, Nigunim Trio, and Lorin Sklamberg alongside rising stars making their Yidstock debut, including Forshpil, Midwood, and clarinetist/composer Sam Sadigursky. In addition to the music performances, the festival includes workshops, talks, films, and conversations with the artists.
The 11th annual YIDSTOCK festival also introduces a new program called Festival Artists-in-Residence. This inaugural year features Eleanor Reissa and Socalled, who will make surprise appearances with other performers, participate in artist conversations, and lead short, casual sessions exploring their creative process.
“Last year we were able to regain our footing with a live festival after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rogovoy. “This year, we are thrilled to be able to present three artists and groups making their Yidstock debuts, as well as several international artists. We look forward to the magic and surprises that can only happen at a live event, which often provides a platform for spontaneous cross-pollination and jamming between performers.”
“Yidstock is always a highlight of the year at the Yiddish Book Center,” said Susan Bronson, executive director of the Yiddish Book Center. “Once again we are thrilled to bring together a remarkable group of musicians for a jam-packed program of concerts, talks and workshops and welcoming audiences from near and far.”
The Klezmatics, the Grammy Award-winning modern klezmer outfit, will kick off the festival on Thursday, July 13, at 8pm. The internationally acclaimed group was founded in New York City in 1986 and has been performing its trailblazing blend of traditional and progressive klezmer and Yiddish music around the world since then.
Yidstock newcomer Sam Sadigursky will perform excerpts from The Solomon Diaries, his suite for duo, accompanied by accordionist/multi-instrumentalist Nathan Koci, on Friday, July 14 at 2pm. Sam’s musical composition—inspired by photographer Marisa Scheinfeld’s visionary project, The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland—evokes the lost world of the Jewish Catskills in music that blends klezmer with folk, jazz, chamber music, and the avant-garde, making for a unique and highly personal cross-genre hybrid. Immediately following his concert, the composer and clarinetist will discuss how he turned Scheinfeld’s photographs into music in a multimedia conversation with Seth Rogovoy on Friday, July 14, at 3:30pm.
The Nigunim Trio, featuring vocalist/accordionist Lorin Sklamberg and trumpeter Frank London (cofounders of the Klezmatics), will bring their unique blend of nigunim and zmiros–spiritual Hasidic-Jewish chants whose purpose is to induce a state of piety and ecstasy in both performer and listener–on Friday, July 14, at 5pm. Joining the trio will be special guest Merlin Shepherd, the world-renowned klezmer clarinetist, from Brighton, England.
Composer/clarinetist and Yidstock favorite David Krakauer will return to the Yiddish Book Center on Saturday, July 15, at 8pm, with his latest project, David Krakauer’s Mazel Tov Cocktail Party, conceived and created by Krakauer and producer/multi-instrumentalist Kathleen Tagg. A musical celebration rooted in Krakauer’s signature Yiddish style while expanding it into a cross-cultural dance fusion, the project showcases an international crew, including Iranian percussionist Martin Shamoonpour, jazz bassist Jerome Harris, Montreal rapper Sarah MK, and electric guitarist Yoshie Fruchter.
The concert program on Sunday, July 16, kicks off at noon with Midwood, a Brooklyn-based outfit led by violinist Jake Shulman-Ment. Making their Yidstock debut, Midwood is a contemporary klezmer/rock celebration of freedom and the Jewish tradition of wandering and migration, featuring some of the most exciting young performers on the international world music stage, including vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Eleonore Weill (France), guitarist Yoshie Fruchter, and drummer Richie Barshay (Klezmatics). Midwood seamlessly traverses borders through original compositions, expansive improvisations on traditional melodies, and heart-wrenching re-imaginings of Yiddish folk songs.
Forshpil, an international group founded in 2003 in Riga, Latvia, and led by vocalist Sasha Lurje and keyboardist/arranger Ilya Shneyveys, gives new life to dark and obscure Yiddish love songs through klezmer-infused rock rhythms, harmonies, and instruments, on Sunday, July 16, at 3pm. Deeply rooted in tradition, this unlikely fusion feels weirdly authentic. If Pink Floyd and the Doors had ever jammed together at a Jewish wedding, it would have sounded something like this.
The festival will culminate with the return of the Yidstock All-Stars, led by Frank London, on Sunday, July 16, at 7pm. This once-in-a-lifetime grouping will perform a globally oriented program called “Yiddish Around the World.” The unique concert will feature performances by vocalist Eleanor Reissa, Montreal-based Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, the de facto godfather of “klezmer hip hop,” clarinetist Merlin Shepherd, vocalists Sasha Lurje, Lorin Sklamberg, Eleonore Weill, and Lauren Brody, plus many others.
In addition to the above, this year’s Yidstock will include the typical range of talks, films, and workshops. Talks will include “The Essential Klezmer” by Seth Rogovoy, based on his book of the same title, on Thursday, July 13, at 2pm; “Itzhak Perlman’s Jewish Violin,” by Hankus Netsky, on Thursday, July 13, at 4pm; “Bronia, Leon, Ruth, Chane and Theo” with Hankus Netsky on Friday, July 14, at 10am. Details on other talks, artist conversations, and film presentations are forthcoming.
As always, Steve Weintraub, the “Pied Piper of Yiddish Dance,” will be in residence for the entire festival to foster dancing and to lead his perennially sold-out dance workshops (Friday, July 14, at 10:30am, and again on Saturday, July 15, at 10:30am), with accompaniment by accordionist extraordinaire Lauren Brody. Brian Bender will teach his annual instrumental klezmer workshop (Saturday, July 15, from 1 to 3pm), and he will accompany Asya Vaisman Schulmanfor her annual “Lomir Zingen! Yiddish Song Workshop” (Sunday, July 16, at 10:30am).
Full YIDSTOCK Schedule:
Thursday, July 13
1:00–1:45 p.m. What’s the Matter with the Klezmer? Perspectives from the Center’s Wexler Oral History Project, with Christa Whitney | Film
2:00–3:00 p.m. The Essential Klezmer, with Seth Rogovoy | Talk
4:00–5:00 p.m. Itzhak Perlman’s Jewish Violin, with Hankus Netsky | Talk
8:00–9:30 p.m. The Klezmatics | Concert
Friday, July 14
10:00–10:45 a.m. Bronia, Leon, Sid, Pete, Ruth, Chane, and Theo, with Hankus Netsky | Talk
10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. Go Figure, with Steve Weintraub and Lauren Brody | Workshop
1:00–1:45 p.m. A Conversation with Socalled | Talk
2:00–3:00 p.m. Sam Sadigursky Duo | Concert
3:30–4:15 p.m. A Conversation with Sam Sadigursky | Talk
5:00–6:00 p.m. Nigunim Trio, with special guest Merlin Shepherd | Concert
Saturday, July 15
10:30–11:30 a.m. Yiddish: A Global Culture, with David Mazower |Talk
10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. And Around We Go, with Steve Weintraub and Lauren Brody | Workshop
1:00–1:45 p.m. A Conversation with Lorin Sklamberg | Talk
1:00–3:00 p.m. Instrumental Klezmer, with Brian Bender | Workshop
2:00–3:00 p.m. A Conversation with Aaron Lansky and Susan Bronson | Talk
3:30–4:15 p.m. A Conversation with Merlin Shepherd | Talk
8:00–9:30 p.m. David Krakauer’s Mazel Tov Cocktail Party | Concert
Sunday, July 16
10:30–11:15 a.m. Eleanor Reissa in Conversation with Lisa Newman, host of The Shmooze | Talk
10:30–11:30 a.m. Lomir Zingen! Yiddish Song Workshop, with Asya Vaisman Schulman | Workshop
12:00–1:00 p.m. Midwood | Concert
1:30–2:15 p.m. Connecting Klezmer to the Jewish Wedding and Dancing, with Steve Weintraub | Talk
3:00–4:00 p.m. Forshpil | Concert
7:00–8:30 p.m. Yidstock All-Stars: Yiddish Around the World | Concert
About the Yiddish Book Center
The Yiddish Book Center is a nonprofit organization working to recover, celebrate, and regenerate Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture.
The million Yiddish books recovered by the Yiddish Book Center represent Jews’ first sustained literary and cultural encounter with the modern world. They are a window onto the past thousand years of Jewish history, a precursor of modern Jewish writing in English, Hebrew, and other languages, and a springboard for new creativity. Since its founding in 1980, the Center has launched a wide range of bibliographic, educational, and cultural programs to share these treasures with the wider world. Visit yiddishbookcenter.org to learn more.