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The Celtic Klezmer Concert of the Second Millenium
My friend Craig plays in about twenty San Francisco contradance, Irish, Celtic, and assorted ensembles featuring folk music of people from the British Isles and thereabouts. He's also, always been a big fan of my love, klezmer, so the two of us have spent happy time swapping melodies and tapes. So, when I first heard of a "Celtic Klezmer" concert, it seemed like a perfectly obvious fusion.
The recording in question contains selections from a "Gala Celtic Klezmer" concert held on March 18, 1995 at Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Washington, DC. The concert and cassette are benefits for Fabrangen Project Hope and Tifereth Israel's Project Homestart, which assist formerly homeless families.
Okay, it's taken that far to establish a warm, fuzzy feeling. Now on to the music. Mostly, it's lovely. At times, such as Ashbrook & Scheim playing "Shaki/the Orphan," one hears licks on the hammered dulcimer that sound distinctly Jewish, merging soon into clearly traditional-Irish in perfect fusion. Special mention must also be made of the harmonies of Kristie Price & Pam Miller on "Factory Girl."
Most important for klezmer fans, though, is mention of the two Jewish bands. I have to admit that I am less in love with Fabrangen Fiddlers in this live performance than I am when I listen to an old, old Seventies recording by an early conglomeration of same. I'm not fond of Sue Roemer's rendition of "Abi Gezundt." "Reb Shlomo's Niggun," is an okay prettied up Carlebach hum, and "Jaffa Orange Express" is bluegrass with a Middle Eastern name as if justification were required to fit it into the repertoire. (Okay, so they do tack "Hava Nagila" onto the end.) Still, it's pleasant.
Klezmos, on the other hand, is thoroughly delightful. Regulars for many years on the DC scene, they play a tight klezmer with pleasure and soul, all played with a light, you can feel your feet tapping lightly on the floor touch. Having watched accordion player Wendy Morrison keep that touch and the beat for hours at a time in other ensembles and jams, I am not surprised to find the entire band comfortably doing the same here. I especially like the way several dances are strung together, just as they are traditionally played at a simkha, on the opening medley. Then, because this is, after all, a concert celebrating diversity, we get a taste of klezified, celticized "Tarantella." The harmonies on "Tif in Veldele" are also a pleasure. I wish they'd do an entire album. For now, this is the only available recording of the band.
Hey, it's good music and a worthy reason to celebrate with music. Put this in the car next time you're driving somewhere and watch yourself arrive in a good mood, despite any traffic outside.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 7/19/97
Karen Ashbrook (hammered dulcimer, flute), &