Since Friday’s Great Day on Eldridge Street photo shoot I’ve been a part of two massive concert events in New York City. Last night was a gala event at Symphony Space on 96th St. and Broadway. In a classic case of “too much of a good thing” the gig was a bit long and … um… grueling for the musicians who had to check in during the afternoon for sound check. Starting at seven pm the list of performers pushed the concert to over four hours long, which is a bit much if you don’t want to lose audience members. The day started out with an impromptu street concert by Amsterdam’s Di Gojim at the Broadway street fair just outside Symphony Space. Inside, it was tuning and rehearsing for the likes of Alicia Svigals and Rachel Lemish, who did a complex and beautiful fiddle-trombone duet. Theodore Bikel opened the second half of the show with a bang – Theodore is about as big a celebrity as there is in Yiddish folk singing, well known from his career as an stage and screen actor. At 83, Theo counts as Jewish Music Nobility, and can still belt out the songs in a full, strong voice (although, as he pointed out, only in Yiddish folk music would you find a song with references to hemmorhoids - and he then proceeded to sing just that song.)He first appeared in The African Queen in 1951 (how’s that for film yikhes?) and played the captain of the Russian submarine in the 1966 film The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming! Bikel co-founded the Newport Folk Festival with Pete Seeger and released LPs of international and Yiddish folk song. He also played the adoptive father of Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation which may be the coolest thing possible in the universe.
Joel Rubin is usually busy with research and lecturing, but he made an appearance playing with Pete Rushevsky accompanying on tsimbl. Joel is also one of the few clarinetists who has a mastery developed from first hand apprenticeship next to older generation musicians such as the fantastic Ray Musiker, seen below backed by Pete Sokolov on piano. Sokolov, however, had much praise for Don Byron's set, which highlated a truly inspirational doina composed by Ray's deceased brother.Ray - the fourth generation in a dynastic Klezmer family - taught music in the NYC school systems his whole life, and rediscovered himself in Klezmer music after retirement. “We never called it ‘klezmer’” said Ray after the show, “Klezmer was a word for the lowest of the low, the guys who played on the street for coins. We just called ourselves musicians” Hmmm... I don't know whether to be proud or embarrassed... I haven't played for coins on the street in some time, though. My Mom, Pop, and Sis came to the show (I don’t often get to play stateside. Pop missing from photo because he was late parking the car due his lifelong mission to never park in a paid parking garage.) Even so, we had to split before the finale… it was after eleven and I had to pick up a tsimbl from Pete Rushevsky’s place nearby to play as we take the Eldridge Street tour on the road in upstate New York. Thanks, Pete!