It’s time for a Klezmer quiz: What band has a key to our city and a band leader whose cousin co-wrote the classic “My Yiddishe Mama?”
Answer: The Java Jews from Des Moines, IA. (Abe Goldstien’s cousin Jack Yellen co-wrote the Yiddish favorite, made famous by Sophie Tucker, with Lew Pollock.
The high-octane sound of the Java Jews promises to spark a spontaneous urge to dance at Temple Shalom’s KlezmerFest 2011. The musical event at the Iroquois Amphitheater on Sunday, May 15, brings the Java Jews back to town for the third year in a row as one of four featured groups.
Like the lyrics to the Eastern European folk tunes they play, there is a story behind the musical bond between Louisville and the Java Jews. Something clicked in a sacred place between two talented people with a passion for Jewish culture, most notably, the music.
Temple Shalom’s Kathy Karr, the accomplished principal flutist of the Louisville Orchestra, went to Israel’s Western Galilee in 2007 to celebrate a milestone: the 10th anniversary of Louisville’s Partnership with Israel. She was (and still is) chair of this dynamic cultural, professional and economic exchange program.
There, Karr met Mark Finkelstein of the Java Jews, who she calls “an outstanding trumpet player.” They had a long talk about their mutual love for Klezmer music and tossed around the idea of forming a Partnership with Israel Klezmer Band.
Fast forward to 2008, while full-fledge brainstorming continued via e-mail, the Java Jews invited Kathy Karr to play with them in their hometown of Des Moines. Wanting to share the band’s talent and charisma with her Louisville community, Karr returned the favor and asked Java Jews to play Temple Shalom’s Annual Awards Dinner in 2009.
With a performance that generated thunderous applause and dancing in the aisles, Karr was inspired to create a festival of Klezmer music and gave it a catchy name, KlezmerFest 2010, with none other than the Java Jews as the headliner. On stage at Temple Shalom, Karr and her flute joined the band for a few memorable numbers. The audience loved every minute of it.
In fact, then-Mayor Jerry Abramson proclaimed that day Java Jews Day in Louisville and presented the group with the key to the city.
“We felt honored to have a classically trained musician on stage with us,” says Abe Goldstien, the leader of the Java Jews, who at first feared an orchestra musician might be something of a classical music snob but quickly realized the opposite. “Kathy Karr gets the idea of the Java Jews perfectly, which is to have fun,” adds Goldstien.
“Once again, the Java Jews were so engaging, I was thrilled to invite them back for KlezmerFest 2011, says Karr.”
On the stage of the Iroquois Amphitheater the Java Jews will perform classic crowd pleasers like Bei Mir Bistu Shein and Hatikvah, in honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. Adath Jeshurun’s Cantor David Lipp will join the Java Jews for their signature ballad, “My Yiddishe Mama.”
The headliner for KlezmerFest 2011 is Margot Leverett and The Klezmer Mountain Boys performing their rare blend of Klezmer and its cousin Kentucky Bluegrass. Oy! The event will also feature Cincinnati Klezmer Project and Louisville’s own Klezmer ensembles; Lost Tribe and River City Klezmer Band.
The music at KlezmerFest begins at 1 p.m., Sunday, May 15. The warm up act will be “The Biggest Jewish Tailgaiting Party in Town,” at 11 in the Iroquois Amphitheater parking lot. Everyone is invited to bring their bagels and the rest of their favorite Jewish nosh for a pre-show picnic feast. Be aware, alcohol is not permitted in Louisville’s public parks.
During tailgating and the concert there will be children’s games and activities created by Ally Baer and Temple Shalom’s SHORTY (Super Heroes of Religious Temple Youth) youth group.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. Children 12 and under are free. Students are $10. Admission to tailgating is free. Go to www.klezmerfest.org or visit Louisville Klezmerfest on Facebook and @klezmerfest on Twitter.
Underwriters of KlezmerFest 2011 include: The Adolf & Sara van der Walde and Israel Rosenbloum Charitable Fund and Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services. Gold corporate sponsors are Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL), Gould’s Dis-count Medical and Hank Davis Jewelers. Benefactors include Republic Bank, Alan Hyman Enterprises, Women of Temple Shalom, Temple Shalom Men’s Club and the Temple Shalom Endowment Fund. KlezmerFest would welcome new sponsors. Contact Bruce Holzman, KlezmerFest chair, firstname.lastname@example.org.
[by Helene Kramer]