Klezmer Ensemble (MPF4128.01)

Joseph Alpar

Klezmer is a musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jewish communities of Central and Eastern Europe. With its breakneck dance tunes, soulful strings, and wailing horns, Klezmer has been an ever-evolving fixture of Jewish cultural life since its beginnings in the sixteenth century, incorporating elements from Ottoman Turkish music, Baroque music, Slavic and German folk dances, and the sounds of Jewish prayer. From exuberant dance music for weddings and other celebrations to ritual melodies and stirring improvisations, Klezmer moves between hard partying, regal, elegant, and raucous. This ensemble will cover a wide repertoire of songs meant for listening or group and solo dancing—the lively freylekh, ecstatickhosidl, sher, bulgar, terkisher, patsh tants, skotshne, hora,and more. We will learn the dances themselves and the significance of gesture, melody, and movement in Jewish expressive culture. Our repertoire will move from the shtetls (Jewish villages) of Eastern Europe to Klezmer’s migration and flourishing in the United States, where it encountered big band, salsa, and other pop music styles. We will continue on to the Klezmer renaissance of the 1970s and to its current and thriving experimental period with punk, jazz, and more. The other pillar of our course will be the vocal repertoire—Yiddish folk and Yiddish theatre songs of love, satire, protest, celebration, Holocaust, and liberation, along with other Jewish Eastern European traditions such asniggunim (wordless songs) andzemiros (table songs). We will learn through a combination of learning by ear and with notation. The Klezmer Ensemble will include Vocals (3), Strings (2) Acoustic guitars (1), Upright bass (1), Keyboard/Accordion (1), Drumset (1), Winds (3). The makeup of the ensemble is subject to change.

Learning Outcomes:
Students will:
1. Learn the history and evolution of Klezmer music, from its 16th century roots to its migration to the United States and subsequent transformations.
2. Become familiar with Klezmer's different genres and repertoires.
3. Learn the functions of Klezmer music in Jewish community life, particularly weddings, dancing, and other rituals.
4. Strengthen their sense of rhythm and ability to learn by ear and with music notation.

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Students should audition for the instructor with a musical selection that adequately demonstrates their abilities as an instrumentalist or vocalist. Students must be able to learn and retain music comfortably by ear and/or with a notated score. Please email josephalpar@bennington.edu to arrange an audition.
Corequisites: Participation in Music Workshop on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 PM. Participation in scheduled performances during the term
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 2
W 4:10PM - 6:00PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 12
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Fully In-Person , New Courses , Performance , Two Credit , Updates
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