Berkeley, CA, January 15 2013 – Folk music, jazz and contemporary classical music drawing attention to a thousand years of Jewish life and legacy in Poland will be the focus of the 28th Jewish Music Festival, scheduled March 2-12 in Berkeley and San Francisco.
Festival Director Eleanor Shapiro has announced an impressive array of artists including Theodore Bikel, David Krakauer, Matt Haimovitz, European Yiddish diva Shura Lipovsky, the world premiere of Bay Area composer David Garner’s Vilna Poems, the West Coast debuts of the Polish ensembles Shofar and Polesye, and more in nine performances. A complete schedule and details may be found at jewishmusicfestival.org.
Festival director Shapiro explains that “we are focusing on Jewish music from Poland to highlight a thousand years of Jewish life, a history which includes the roots of most Jewish Americans. The murder of more than 90 percent of Poland’s Jewish population in the Holocaust ruptured that continuity within living memory.
“We are at an incredible moment now where the post-Communist generation in Poland wants to know more about the country’s Jewish past, and Jewish Americans have also begun to explore their families’ Polish histories. Music offers a compelling and universal gateway into Polish Jewish history remembered as traumatic by people of both backgrounds.”
FESTIVAL EVENTS AND SCHEDULE
Why is Jewish music surprisingly popular in Poland, a country less than one percent Jewish? Why do thousands of Poles crowd into a small town square one night every July in Cracow to attend a festival dubbed “the Jewish Woodstock”? These questions and more will be answered by award-winning journalist and author of Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe Ruth Ellen Gruber. She’ll open the festival with a pre-concert slide presentation at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at the Thrust Stage of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The Festival Opening Night concert follows at 8 pm, presenting the original sounds of Polish musicians making their West Coast debuts. Polesye, a joint Polish-Israeli CD project, features Olga Mieleszczuk, a young vocalist who often brings Jewish music to small Polish towns that last heard these sounds before World War II. Shofar, a trio of vanguard Polish jazz instrumentalists, will present its exquisitely original improvisations inspired by the Eastern European Jewish folk music known as klezmer. The theatre is located at 2025 Addison Street, close to the downtown Berkeley BART station.
Sunday, March 3, offers the premiere collaboration of two top local women’s ensembles, Real Vocal String Quartet, recently returned from a State Department tour of Azerbaijan and Eastern Europe, and True Life Trio, veterans of the acclaimed vocal ensemble Kitka. The concert begins at 8 pm at Freight and Salvage Coffee House, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley.
“Night Songs from a Neighboring Village” is a concert pairing a leading figure in the klezmer revival, the multilingual, multi-instrumental Michael Alpert, with Julian Kytasty, a master of the Ukrainian bandura (lute/harp). This concert takes place at 7:30 pm Tuesday, March 5, at the Jewish Community Center of East Bay, 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley. Michael Alpert will also give a free presentation Wednesday, March 6, at the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library, Civic Center, at 6 pm.
On Thursday, March 7, legendary singer, film and theater actor and activist Theodore Bikel will share the stage with Europe’s diva of Yiddish song, Shura Lipovsky, direct from Amsterdam, and Merima Ključo, whose unique accordion sound derives from her native Sarajevo. They’ll perform at Freight and Salvage.
The world premiere of Bay Area composer David Garner’s new work, Vilna Poems, will take place in a concert Saturday, March 9, at 8 pm at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The piece commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising through the poetry of Avrum Sutzkever, who is regarded as one of the greatest poets to come out of the Holocaust. The performers are soprano Lisa Delan:http://jewishmusicfestival.org/performers/lisa-delan, pianist Kristin Pankonin, clarinetist David Krakauer and cellist Matt Haimovitz. The Vilna Poems will be performed with Akoka: the End of Time, composed by David Krakauer and Matt Haimovitz, musicians acclaimed in both jazz and classical worlds, for the Banff Center for the Arts. Crushed a month after it began on April 19, 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the largest and symbolically most important Jewish uprising in World War II, and the first urban uprising in German-occupied Europe.
Other events include a Monday, March 4, matinee Yiddish performance with Polesye at the JCC of the East Bay; two lecture/demonstrations with the internationally known trio Veretski Pass an afternoon symposium about S. An-ski, celebrating the centennial of his Folklore Expedition to Jewish small villages or shtetls before the Russian Revolution, and a pre-Festival celebration of the work of Yip Harburg, lyricist of The Wizard of Oz, including the top American song of the 20th century, “Over the Rainbow,” as well as “Brother Can You Spare A Dime?” among many others.
For the complete schedule and tickets, go to www.jewishmusicfestival.org.
Tickets may also be purchased by calling 1-800-838-3006. Discounts are available for students and seniors. Groups of ten or more receive a 15% discount. Call 510-848-0237, x118 for details.
_The 28th Jewish Music Festival is a fiscally sponsored project of the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay.
Co-sponsors of this year’s Festival include the Bernard Osher Foundation, the Guzik Foundation, the Polish Cultural Institute (NY), The Consulate General of Israel (SF), The Consulate General of Poland (LA), Gaia Fund, The Koret Foundation, The Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture, and The Jewish Community Federation and Foundation of the East Bay._