Jul 13 2009

FrenchWatching in Yiddish

by at 10:41 pm

SwissWatching has temporarily become FrenchWatching, although the pun does not work nearly as well here.

Jackie and I have been in Paris for just over a week now. While she was being a tourist with her visiting family, I spent the last week at Klezmer Paris, which is a week-long program for klezmorim (klezmer musicians), dancers, and singers of all ages, from adorable seven year olds who don’t quite know what to do with their violins on up. Notably, there was a pretty large contingent of people my age and of accordion players and cellists.

I forgot all of my reeds in Switzerland, so on day one, I looked up instrument shops on the Internet and successfully located two closed shops before classes started.  At lunch, I took the metro across Paris to locate a woodwind shop recommended by a Parisian clarinetist.  Success; I had my own reeds!

Klezmer Paris, I was suprised to learn, was in French.  Well, sort of.  Some of the teachers did not speak French, so master classes were given in English with ad hoc, sometimes incorrect translations into French done by participants.  All administrative announcements, on the other hand, were given in French.  All socializing took place in French, too.  I wasn’t left out!  Every day at lunchtime, I went with other participants to find and eat lunch.  Topics of conversation in French included: what Jackie and I are doing in Switzerland, Jackie’s thesis topic, and making fun of Belgium.

Each day was divided into slots for ensemble playing, master classes, and instrument-specific instruction.  The ensemble class reminded me how good RecKlez’s coaches were, as I had heard most of the good advice already, even if I still needed to hear it again.  The master classes and clarinent classes all led me to the same conclusions that I get a lot better when I practice and that the sound of klezmer clarinet is really vital to the music and something I really need to work on.  In helping us work on that sound, New York-based musician Michael Winograd, who ran the clarinet workshops, taught us a number of different klezmer ornaments, which basically means squawks, chirps, or trills meant to imitate the human voice.  At least once per session, he would have us all try one of these ornaments at once, invariably in a high register, which is rather an indescribable sound; let’s just say it hurt my ears.

Klezmer legend David Krakauer came for the last two days of the week to give master classes.  He again demonstrated his French knowledge, as he had at his concert in Switzerland.  He played with the kids class at the final performance, filled out a postcard in French for someone’s friend who is a big fan of his, and came to a park after midnight to hear his students in an impromptu jam session the night it was all over.   Said final performance, incidentally, was on Shabbat and featured vodka shots at intermission (not that those two things are necessarily related).

Miniature Klezmer Madness

Jackie and I are doing a Yiddish program, which started today, for the rest of July.  So far, I’ve learned the alef-beys, and I can say “My name is…”  The only problem is I haven’t decided if my name should be Shes (shin-sof, rhymes with “mess”) or Shmul (“u” sound as in “fool”).  Thoughts?

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “FrenchWatching in Yiddish”

  1. Lizon 16 Jul 2009 at 4:42 am

    What?! There are cellos in klezmer? I want to go to klezmer camp in Paris!!

  2. Lauraon 18 Jul 2009 at 4:40 am

    Shabbat and vodka shots are totally related.

    Hmm, I’m leaning towards Shmul… Have fun at the yiddish program!! Say hi to Niborski for me!!! 🙂

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