Well, I love klezmer music (especially modernist), spied the Klezmatics on this, and figgered it was worth a try even though it's a religious disc. Shoulda known better. Religion and music don't often mix well, and this is a good example. There's a lot of club spirit—all religions are club mentalities—and festiveness but the gig is short on really professional chops save for a few tracks here and there. The point, I guess, was to be more ground level, "populist" (like there isn't a very strict class system in every religion, right?), and thus the semi-unpolished nature of much of the CD, a program that will be appearing live around the country and on PBS this season. There's a good deal of Yiddish sung (Caren Glasser does a really nice job on Shehechianu) and Jewish artifact references (gelt, dreidels, menorahs, etc.) important to an observance of the holy day but those may be precisely the problem, depending on how you view iconry.
The CD was rushed out (recorded on Aug. 5, 2008) to presage the tour and TV event, and Alberto Mizrahi does a fair job in carrying a Fiddler on the Roof vibe but the Klezmatics ace him (though you'd never know it was them on their second song, Hanukah's Flame) as does Mare Winningham…but, in her A Convert Jig, she brings out some of what I and many find so disturbing about the religious impulse. After detailing a self-chastisement for being late for shul, the lyrics turn as follows:
That is what my teacher tells us
There are any number of problems there to unpack, not the least of which is the mucky self-abnegation required of all faiths ("my tiny insignificance"…transformed by dogma, oy!), but rather than delve into even more disturbing matters, I'll merely say that it appears the gathered could have read a little of Grand Rebbe Joel Teitelbaum's work and spent a bit more time in pensivity on the true nature of things. And they coulda invited someone like Guy Mendilow (here), to leaven the music a bit.
If you go for this kind of thing, it's okay, a bit too emo even so, with music to match—hey, when ya got Dave Koz, ya might as well bring in John Tesh and Yanni too!—but, then, that's what holidays are for, right? It's when the state and its ancillaries, the churches and synagogues, tell you when to be happy, when to be solemn, when to weep, when to shout, etc. Be so good as to obey, please.
Oops! I appear to have gotten just the slightest bit political. Oh well, that's what religion is anyway, so I guess it's appropriate.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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