KCB Educational Programs

In addition to its concert and recording activities, the Klezmer Conservatory Band has presented educational programs on Klezmer and Yiddish music throughout New England and around the country. The goal of the presentation is to maintain awareness of the musical tradition of the Eastern European Jewish immigrants by respecting the past as the music continues to change in the contemporary world.

This educational program introduces the Yiddish language, looks into the varied cultural sources out of which Klezmer music arose, and explores the uses of music in the home, at celebrations and in the workplace. The musical instruments are presented as they might sound in their conventional settings, such as symphony orchestras or jazz ensembles, and as they sound in a Klezmer group. The band members' years of studying and performing this music will allow the students to have direct contact with Yiddish culture.

During the program, the audience learns about the doyne, an improvised Rumanian style shepherd's lament, originally played on flute, now usually played on the clarinet, to the bride, before her wedding, and the "broigestanz", a dance of anger and reconciliation, danced slowly and intricately by the mothers of the bride and groom to symbolize and ward off the hostilities and jealousies that often arise between two families.

Early in the twentieth century, Yiddish immigrants brought Klezmer music with them to America, and here the old tunes were played over the syncopated rhythms of jazz; Palestina is an old Klezmer melody that became a Dixieland tune, and in 1939, Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn, a song from the Yiddish theatre, became the biggest popular hit the country had ever known.

Throughout the program, the audience is invited to participate by asking questions, singing along to songs of love and work, clapping to traditional children's songs and dancing with us. By the end of the program, the audience will have had a glimpse of Yiddish culture through its music. The younger students will have become actively involved, dancing, singing in simple Yiddish and listening to the stylized cries of the clarinet and fiddle. Older students and adults will realize how the music changed as it moved through Europe, and how it continued to change while interacting with new cultures and changing times in America. The program also provides insight into aspects of Yiddish culture that endure, presenting the uniqueness with which it treats the universal themes of weddings and work, friendship and family.