If you travel over to the Congregation Anshei Sfard on Sunday morning, March 16, you will actually be taking a voyage that goes much farther than that, one that will cover many different countries, from America to Turkey.
Your musical tour guide will be the Chicago-based Klezmer band, the Ensemble M’chaiya™, as they perform their unique brand of music at a special, free brunch concert to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim.
The community is invited to participate in the Purim services, which begins at 8:30 a.m. Following the reading of the Megillah, around 9:45, everyone can enjoy a free buffet brunch and the concert will begin around 10:30.
With a huge repertoire of music from four different Jewish traditions, this fascinating family band will transport your imagination on an exciting exploration of culture as they get your heart grooving to everything from American Klezmer boogies with a Balkan Gypsy sound to the even more exotic Sephardic Jewish songs. When was the last time you grooved to a fraelach played on a Bulgarian wooden flute or was mesmerized by a Purim piece set in a 12/8 time signature sung in Ladino, the language of the Sephardic Jews? This is clearly a trip worth taking!
This band was formed in 1983 after leader Terran Doehrer first heard Klezmer music at a concert by a band called the Klezmorim on their first trip to Chicago. Doehrer, the founder of the Balkan Rhythm Band™, immediately recognized that Klezmer had at least some of its roots in the Balkans. “It is no surprise,” says Doehrer, “that when you run across a Klezmer tune called a ‘Bulgar’ it has some sort of connection to Bulgaria.
Doehrer’s borderless musical curiosity led him to discover a second style of Balkan-influenced Jewish music, that of the Sephardim, the Jews who originated in Spain. Back in 1492, when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand consolidated their power by marrying, they expelled from Spain all non-Catholics who refused to convert. Some Spanish Jews went eastward along the Mediterranean basin to Greece and other parts of the Balkans as well as to Turkey. Others hopped on the boats that Columbus led that year to the Americas.
“We once met,” says Doehrer, “a woman who claims to be the a descendent of one of Columbus’s navigators!” The Ensemble M’chaiya has a large enough Sephardic repertoire to do concert performances completely in that style, singing in Ladino, French, and Turkish.
“Our Sephardic repertoire is why we initially contacted Congregation Anshei Sfard,” Doehrer pointed out. “Their name, ‘Sfard,’ made me think that they might be interested in our Sephardic music. Turns out that, even though the synagogue no longer has much of a Sephardic membership, happily they decided to invite us to come play for them anyway.”
The Ensemble M’chaiya has an eclectic repertoire of Purim music. Moreover, since the band’s Spring Tour would bring them to Louisville exactly on Purim, Rabbi Golding found to be an opportunity too good to pass up.
Rabbi Golding explained that he decided to make this event a free brunch concert featuring this engaging family band. “The pairing of the band to this event just made sense because Purim is a very family-oriented holiday, with everyone getting to dress up in costume.”
Purim celebrates that fact that Queen Esther and her cousin, Mordechai, were able to save the Jewish people from the extermination called for by Haman. Not much has changed since then as recent history and current events continue to demonstrate.
Thus, Klezmer music and Sephardic music both come out of very hard conditions and resonate from the thousands of years of violent discrimination against the Jewish people. This gives rise to the same sort of searching for meaning and release as you find in American Blues and in the music of the Gypsies, another culture that has wandered the earth playing music, all the while facing extreme oppression, including actual slavery.
“Yet,” reflects Doehrer, “despite all the suffering these various groups have experienced, their cultures have all survived and their musics all share a joyousness and a desire to celebrate life. The result is very, very powerful and very moving.”
You can get a sense of what the band sounds like by visiting their web site, www.modalmusic.com/klezmer.
For more information about Purim services and to reserve your spot for this free brunch concert, call the office at 451-3122.