The New York Klezmer Series (NYKS) has been presenting Klezmer Music and Yiddish Dance in New York City since 2010. Originally The East Village Klezmer Series, we moved to a new home in the Upper West Side – at the historic Stephen Wise Free Synagogue – beginning in February 2013. We present concerts, music and dance workshops, and open klezmer jam sessions in an intimate and beautiful setting. Founded by Rabbi Greg Wall and Artistic Director Aaron Alexander, and inspired by the week-long Yiddish Culture events, Klez Kamp, and Klez Kanada, the NYKS aspires to present the music in a respectful setting and allow the artists freedom to present their vision. The series consistently presents world class artists in an intimate setting, in addition to providing education and a place for all to come and participate in this wonderful and often neglected part of Jewish and American Culture.
Klezmer music is the instrumental party music of the Jewish People from Eastern Europe – (Ashkenazim). It’s origins are in the 16th century, and it has evolved and assimilated local influences (Russian, Romanian, Ottoman, Hungarian etc.) wherever Ashkenazim have lived since. It is essentially Yiddish music – the instrumental music of people who spoke (and speak) Yiddish. It came to America with the immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe beginning in late 19th century, and has had a wonderful history in America, where it also assimilated American music traditions. Hasidic nigunim (wordless melodies), Yiddish theater music and Yiddish folk song are all related and will be represented at the series.
Tantsheiser (Dance Parties): Once a month we will present, along with the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD), a Tantshoyz – Yiddish dance party, with a Yiddish Dance specialist, and a professional dance band. Past dance leaders have included Michael Alpert, Steve Weintraub, Avia Moore, and Deborah Strauss.
We will have a Klezmer Instrumental Workshop every Tuesday, led by Aaron Alexander, and/or the concert artist of the day, depending on availability. This workshop has already been running for over a year and has a devoted following. We work on repertoire, style, form and ornamentation. Often the participants have an opportunity to play the current songs at the jam session after the concert.
The fall schedule includes Joel Rubin All-Stars, Lorin Sklamberg, Klezmerfest with Greg Wall, Ezekiel’s Wheels (from Boston), Yiddish Chanteuse Eleanor Reissa & band, Roger Davidson and Frank London, Mike Cohen Band, Breslev Bar Band, Jake Shulman-Ment,Christina Crowder, & Pete Rushefky, father/daughter Mike & Joanna Sternberg in a salute to their uncle/great uncle Moyshe Oysher, and three great Yiddish Dance masters, Zev Feldman, Steve Weintraub, and Avia Moore.
Past concert artists have included: Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, Alicia Svigals w/Patrick Farrell, Elaine and Susan Hoffman-Watts, Michael Winograd Trio, Levitt Legacy Band, Strauss/Warschauer Duo, Jake Shulman-Ment, Margot Leverett & Klezmer Mountain Boys, Eve Sicular’s “Metropolitan Klezmer”, Christian Dawid, Zev Zions, Arkady Goldenshteyn, Benjy Fox-Rosen, Lisa n Sruli Family Band, Aaron Alexander’s Midrash Mish Mosh, Dmitri Slepovitch’s “Litvakus”, Levitt Legacy Band, and many others.
In addition we will begin this year a new program – New York Kidz Klezmer, which will be geared toward teens and tweens. Once a week, (Sundays. from 1:15-2:45pm) musicians will get together to learn, rehearse music and then perform in local nursing homes, programs for children with special needs and other community based events. This will be co-led this fall by Artistic Director Aaron Alexander & Jake Shulman-Ment – a wonderful violinist who is great with kids, was a leader of his own Kidz Klezmer band at age 14, is a Fulbright Scholar, NYU Grad, and one of the leaders of a new generation of young klezmorim.
We welcome musicians in fifth grade and up, with at least one year of instrument instruction and the ability to play a chromatic scale, read music, and play in a band setting with other musicians.
New York Klezmer Series is hosted by and receives support from the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue.
We are also supported by The Center for Traditional Music and Dance.
Support for the NY Klezmer Series is provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency in partnership with Governor Andrew Cuomo. Major support for the An-sky Institute for Jewish Culture was provided to the Center for Traditional Music and Dance by the Keller-Shatanoff Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Atran Foundation. Additional support was provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, New York Community Trust, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Scherman Foundation and the Gilder Foundation.