I’m thrilled to release Radiant Others: A Klezmer Music Podcast into the world!
I hope you’ll join me as I sit down for in-depth and informal conversations with musicians and other artists whose work has made them an integral part of the klezmer world. With this podcast, I want to give folks who were instrumental in the period of time most of us call the “klezmer revival” a platform to tell their stories and share their ideas about music. The time I spent listening and talking to the musicians in this world who I looked up to was completely integral to who I am today as a musician and a person. Even just listening to the stories of these folks late at night places like at Klezkamp and Klezkanada made a big impact on me when I was coming of age. I hope listening to these conversations can provide you all with some of that same inspiring feeling I had back then.
The first episode features one of my closest friends and musical collaborators, Michael Winograd. Michael is one of the top klezmer clarinetists around. He’s an incredibly creative, hardworking and prolific guy, and I wouldn’t be where I am without him. We’ve played so much music together for so long and in so many contexts and genres. I think he’s the perfect conversation partner to start this show off right!
I will be releasing these episodes in mini-seasons or 3-4 episodes each, once every two weeks for the duration of the season. I plan on offering these seasons every couple months, so this first season will debut this month, and then my plan is to have a set of new episodes for you in October. That’s my current plan, and I expect to re-evaluate as I get deeper into this.
I’m truly happy to announce the release of my newest recording, Radiant Others. This album is a set of original and traditional klezmer music with me as the lead melody player on trombone, backed up by the futuristic, yet still danceable sounds of Nick Millevoi on guitars, and Christopher McDonald on keyboards.
Those of you who know me and my work from places like Klezkamp and Klezkanada know that I’ve been slowly developing my technique and ideas from being a traditional accompaniment player to figuring out how to play klezmer melodies with all the ornaments and feeling of the typical lead instruments. This album is my chance to share the results of this work. As far as I know, this is the first album in klezmer to feature the trombone as the main lead instrument. I can’t wait for you all to hear it.
Radiant Others will be officially released digitally and as a CD on September 29th 2017. You can pre-order the album from Bandcamp:
And if you’re planning on coming to Klezkanada, there will be a special chance to purchase the CDs early in person!
Here’s a live video from a recent concert that is a good preview of this music:
In addition to being the title of my album, Radiant Others will also be the name of a klezmer music podcast that I will be releasing in August. In this podcast, I sit down with musicians whose artistic lives are deeply connected to the Klezmer Revival of the 1970s and 80s to talk about music, and especially klezmer. Stay tuned for the release of our first episode in the coming weeks.
I am very excited to announce that I will be joining Kol Tzedek Synagogue in West Philadelphia as their Simcha Band Leader and Klezmer Musician in Residence for this coming Jewish year! For members of Kol Tzedek who I haven’t had the chance to meet yet, you may have seen me when I played trombone at Let My People Sing concert in January and when I led the Simcha band at the Purim Party in March.
In this coming year, I plan to bring a lot of klezmer music and Yiddish culture to the synagogue, grow the membership and skills of the Simcha band, and to make amazing music for some great holiday celebrations! The primary activity of my residency will be rehearsing and leading the Simcha band to get you all celebrating and dancing for specific holidays – Simchat Torah, Hanukkah, and Purim. In addition, I will lead two workshops with the band apart from these holiday performances to work on klezmer style and repertoire. I will also hold two congregation-wide Yiddish song workshops throughout the year, at least one of which will be about old songs that speak to social justice issues of today.
Klezmer music was central to the life of many Ashkenazi Jews back in Europe and in our early days in America and no Simcha would be complete back then without it. Now, in bringing this music and culture to Kol Tzedek in a concentrated way, I hope we can use the joy the music brings to fuel deeper and broader conversations of Jewish identity and place in today’s world.
Klezmer music is a major part of my life and how I live in the world as a Jew. I believe that it’s history and how it exists today provides us with lots of resources and insights for us all to use and enjoy. I am very honored to be able to bring this music and culture that I love to you all.
Please email me at Simchaband@kol-Tzedek.org with any questions and be on the lookout for a synagogue-wide request to join our Simcha band! And mark your calendars for these holidays that’ll involve the band!
10/11/17 Simchat Torah
2/24/18 Purim Party
Zay Gezunt un Shtark (In Health and Strength),
And here’s some music from our amazing Purim Part in March!
$10-20 Suggested Donation. No one will be turned away.
Judith Berkson: Voice, Keyboards
Dan Blacksberg: Trombone
Nick Millevoi: Guitar
Tom Kraines: Cello
Announcing Together in Struggle (Tsuzamen in Kamf), a new composition and community collaboration between klezmer musician and composer Dan Blacksberg, Society Hill Synagogue and the Philadelphia Chapter of hte AMerican Composers Forum. The composition is a Yiddish musical response to the social justice work of Society Hill Synagogue and congregations in POWER . On Sunday, June 25th Dan will be presenting a version of the piece at SHS.
Through talking with the leadership of SHS and their collaborators in POWER and from attending meetings and protests, Dan has identified specific issues central to Society Hill’s work in the struggle for justice and equal rights. Through research at archives like the YIVO Institute and the Freedman Archive, Dan has gathered Yiddish texts and songs that resonate with these issues to use as material for a new long-form composition.
Here’s Rabbi Avi Winokur talking about SHS’s social justice work:
On Sunday, June 25, the Synagogue will host the first presentation of this new piece based on Yiddish and klezmer music as well as Dan’s own vocabularies of contemporary music in an evening “Works-in-Progress” concert. The performance will feature performances an ensemble of expert performers of Jewish and creative music from Philadelphia and New York. Along with the concert, Dan will share his research and creative process with the SHS community in a pre-concert talk and in a question and answer talk after the performance of the piece.
Thanks for ACF Philadelphia and Society Hill Synagogue for their generous support of this project.
I’m very excited to announce that Archer Spade (Nick Millevoi and I) have a new Bandcamp page! We’ve uploaded wonderful recordings of two of our Janauary Spectrum Ensemble shows. January 17th at Retro City Studios, which featured performances by Van Sutra, Bog, Sirius Juju, and Archer Spade + Jesse Kudler, and January 31st at House Galery 1816, which featured small improvised groups from a large chunk of the ensemble, plus a big finale!
We’re pleased to offer the recordings of both these concerts as name-your-price, so don’t hesitate to check out the fantastic music!
You can also listen to and purchase our album of compositions written by and for us, Orbital Harmony.
Thanks again to Barry Knob and Eric Carbonara for recording the music and to all the amazing musicians who made it. We’re busy brewing up plans for the next Spectrum events, so stay tuned!
I recently wrote a blog post extolling klezmer music and Yiddish culture as a preview for a concert I led last week at BZBI in Philadelphia. Here it is for your reading pleasure:
Old Culture Makes Jewish New
Yiddish culture gives me a fresh kind of Jewish identity. Contemporary Yiddish culture provides a world that sates and enriches the ethnic, religious, political, and ancestral aspects of my Jewish identity. For me and many others, klezmer music – the instrumental party and ceremonial music of Ashkenazic Jewry – is the gateway to this world and one of its most exciting parts.
I come to my love of Yiddish culture and klezmer music through the path that I often call the “DNA” path. As in, once I started really hearing the music (the Klezmatics album Jews with Horns sat on the banister outside my bedroom for years before I sat down and listened to it), I felt like I was experiencing a homecoming, as though the music was already a part of me that had been just waiting to be rediscovered. I’ve later come to learn about the myriad ways in which my family was connected to Yiddish and klezmer, when this culture first came to America and now. But if all those connections were active when I got hooked, they were in the deep subconscious.
My favorite thing about engaging in the Yiddish world is that I’ve been able (and encouraged) to broaden my horizons and find my own path without rejecting any other ways of looking at the world of music or otherwise. Personally, I’ve become more radical, but also more inclusive. On the final day of the 1st ever Yiddish New York back in December, I got the chance to talk to and play music with ultra-orthodox jews, radical queer activists and people from all different backgrounds. I had previously played with and for such a range of audiences in the same week, but never in the same room! This experience showed me the power and depth of the culture and the music that draws us in so strongly, that we can find common ground and ways to listen to each other.
I’ve had the chance to play this music with some of the best musicians on the planet. I’ve performed with Frank London, Hankus Netsky, Adrienne Cooper and had the chance to grow with my own generation like Michael Winograd, Patrick Farrell, Dan Kahn, Benjy Fox-Rosen, and many others. I’ve played for thousands of Lubavitch Hasidim outside 770 Eastern Parkway, and for thousands of Poles at the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival. And I’ve had the chance to meet and teach trombone players from all over the world and from every musical background.
Yes, it’s an exciting life. Yes, I’m one of the few people with a dedication to playing traditional klezmer on the trombone. Maybe that’s enough to say why I feel klezmer connects me to my Jewishness but I think there’s more to it all than that. When I hear all about the identity struggles from the mainstream Jewish world, when I hear Jews losing their culture and identity, I think, “well, we’ve kind of got the solution to that.” I’m not saying I know the answers, or that I’m even right in saying what I feel, but I do know that in the Yiddish world, the culture isn’t lost in the face of the modern world. Often, we’re drawing on very old sources to face the challenges of the modern world. Whether a show (written by Jenny Romaine, Adrienne Cooper and Frank London) based on The Memoirs of Glükel of Hamelin, one of the first known female Jewish writers from the 17th century, or my own forays into fusing Hasidic music with rock, the engagement with the past gives us deep resources to work in the present.
The concert on Saturday night will mostly be traditional klezmer music and Yiddish song. We’ve got some of the best folks in Philadelphia who have deep roots and lots of great energy. And remember, klezmer is so often the entry into this big wide world of music, language, culture, history, food, humor, etc. Yiddish culture is already a huge part of our lives as American Jews, and I believe it only gets more fun and more fascinating the deeper in you go. That’s why I’ve found such a home here as a musician and in figuring out what it means for me to be Jewish.
In January 2016 Nick Millevoi and I under our banner of Archer Spade produced a series of four Sunday afternoon concerts for our new large ensemble, the Spectrum Ensemble, we called The Archer Spade Spectrum Ensemble Sunday Matinee Series. Over these four amazing concerts, each taking place in a different part of the city, the members of this 24 person ensemble performed together in all sorts of combinations: from 17-musician improvising large groups, to intimate small groups, to a great showcase of already existing groups that the members formed on their own.
I want to send a huge thank you to all the wonderful musicians and everyone who came out to the shows. Each show was unique and really showed off the huge talent of the Philadelphia experimental music community! And thanks to Christopher Andrew, Kinan Faham, Barry Knob, and Eric Carbonara for their documentation help!
Archer Spade will be debuting a new Bandcamp page with audio more concerts and link to purchase our album coming very soon so stay tuned to this page!
“[Perilous Architecture] comes at you like a palette cleanser, wiping out the residue of whatever you were listening to before and freshening you with something honest and real.”
~Gapplegate Music Review
I am currently one of the composers-in-residence at the UCross Foundation, located in UCross Wyoming! It is a fantastic, place to feel inspired and for getting work done. I will be away until May 24th. I look forward to sharing the results of the my work here with all of you!
I am extremely excited and honored to announce that I have been awarded a 2012 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. For more information about this amazing award, please visit the Pew Center For Art’s and Heritage’s site: http://www.pcah.us/fellowships/.