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Re: Mikveh Music and Svigals "Fidl" band

Apropo of the Jon Kalish article about Alicia Svigals new band,
Mikveh, here is something I posted on the WELL late Thursday

Topic   4 [jewish]:  Jewish Arts, Jewish Music
#392 of 394: Ari Davidow (ari)      Thu Jul 30 '98 (21:11)    85 lines

 Every so often, you see music so good that you know that
 your sense of how good music can be is forever changed.

 I feel that way about a concert I saw tonight featuring two
 bands put together by Alicia Svigals, the violin player from
 the Klezmatics. Svigals released an album of "old-style"
 fiddle klezmer last year to much acclaim, so I was quite
 happy to have an excuse to be in New York to see her perform.
 I just didn't expect anything this good.

 The first half of the show was the "fidl" ensemble: Svigals,
 with an experienced group of klezmer heavyweights that included
 bass player Marty Confurius (played on the first klezmer revival
 album, the 1975 Statman-Feldman recording) and Lauren Brody
 (original member of Kapelye, on accordion). Steven Greenman, 
 violin-whiz-at-large (Yiddish Cup, Flying Bulgars, Budowitz, 
 ....) and his Cleveland bandmate Alex Fedoriuk on Tsimbl were
 also hot (and not unknown to New York audiences). This is not klezmer
 as we have become used to it--this is a softer, gentler, and
 still intricate and compelling klezmer. Even better, the ensemble
 laidd suites of tunes, where one tune led into another which led
 into another, just as one would play at an old-fashioned wedding
 with an experienced klezmer band. Svigals violin playing is
 extraordinary. I found myself just staring at her fingers moving
 as she improvised and played. The rest of the band was right there
 with her--so tight, they could all have been one person.

 Had the concert ended there, I could have gone home very happy.
 But after a short break, we were treated to her newest group.
 It was the debut of "Mikveh," an all-female quartet featuring
 Svigals, Margot Leverett (original clarinet in "Klezmatics"),
 Lauren Brody on accordion, and Adrienne Cooper, reigning diva
 of Yiddish song. They were on fire. I have been in love with
 Cooper's voice for years, but she has never sounded nearly so
 passionate, nearly so tuneful or masterful. She has perfected
 a stage presence that includes explanations of songs, and then
 the Yiddish, all juggled with passion and melody. Tonight, she
 was even better. Svigals and Brody were even better than in
 the first set, and Margot Leverett, whose playing I have always
 enjoyed, tonight, showed that she is the equal of any clarinet
 player today. (Her rant about "revenge of the Jew Girls" was
 also one of the neatest, needed to be done, and needed to be
 done this well, monologues I have heard in a long time. This
 isn't just klezmer or Yiddish, anymore, it is identity and
 who were are. Me, I'm a Jew Girl, too, and I agree, "tear
 down the mechitza. " But I digress.)

 Towards the end of the set, California juggler Sara Felder
 came on stage to perform her juggling poem, "circumcision,"
 a poem musing about the ritual, performed whilst juggling
 three large, sharp knives. In its own way, this, too, reminded
 us that to play with such fire, and such passion, the music has
 to have meaning; it has to come from the heart, and one's
 entire being. That is "Mikveh."

 At some point in the last few years, klezmer has become just another
 Jewish music genre. In fact, it isn't even necessarily just Jewish
 music (which I think is a good thing). But, for many of us, klezmer
 was also a way to reconnect with parts of our Jewish identity and
 roots, and to rethink. Klezmer, with its connections to the Eastern
 European culture that is shared by most American Jews, provided a
 way to connect to that culture without ritual, and without politics;
 or, perhaps more correctly, with a ritual and politics that could
 be different from those of the mainstream Jewish community (but
 which, and this was the neat part, weren't necessarily different--
 we could =all= share the music and our identity, regardless of

 The klezmer revival succeeded. It's normal music now. Svigals,
 by digging deeper into eastern European Jewish musical roots
 to revive klezmer violin, has deepened our sense of klezmer.
 And then, moving forward with "Mikve," pulling in not just
 music, but yiddish folk song and (for this night, at least)
 even the juggling that describes how most of us experience
 Judaism, has expanded our sense of Jewish and Jewish music
 yet again, in another direction.

 And it wasn't just Svigals. Every performer on the stage
 tonight has a history, often at least as far back as the beginning
 of the klezmer revival. And they were all ready and tuneful
 and passionate about moving on and moving deeper.

 Watching and swaying and writing about this kind of performance
 is why I write about klez, and why I feel the passion for this music
 that I do.

 I am awe.

Ari Davidow
The klezmer shack:
owner: jewish-music mailing list
e-mail: ari (at) ivritype(dot)com

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