THE AN-SKY ENSEMBLE
Michael Alpert and Ethel Raim of the An-sky Ensemble
photo by Janina Wurbs/Center for Traditional Music and Dance Archive
Originally assembled for the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, four leading performers/researchers have come together to form a new supergroup of Yiddish music. The An-sky Ensemble - Michael Alpert (vocals, violin, accordion), Ethel Raim (vocals), Jake Shulman-Ment (violin) and Pete Rushefsky (tsimbl) - presents in concerts and workshops a diverse repertoire of rare historical ballads, exquisite songs of love and loss and exuberant klezmer instrumentals.
In Fall 2014/Spring 2015, the An-sky Ensemble will present The Fourteenth Year - A Memoir in Song in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of World War I, an event which transformed the East European Jewish world and propelled much of the Jewish migration to the New World.
The onset of the war cut short the famed An-sky Expedition (1911-1914), an unprecedented folklore collecting project through Jewish Ukraine directed by Yiddish writer Semyon An-sky (best known as author of The Dybbuk). An-sky was subsequently appointed to report on the war's early movements and impact on Jewish communities in Galicia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire).
The Fourteenth Year presents Yiddish music of the period, contextualized with An-sky's own eyewitness accounts as well as the recollections of individuals whose worlds were transformed by the war. While the history is of a specific time and place, the songs create a transcendent meditation on the human impact of war and reveal a society thrust into modernity.
The An-sky Ensemble is a project of the New York City-based Center for Traditional Music and Dance's An-sky Institute for Yiddish Culture. For more information about bringing the ensemble to your community, contact Pete Rushefsky by email or call 917-326-9659.
Click here to listen to a feature about the An-sky Ensemble on NPR's All Things Considered.
Click here to watch an interview with the An-sky Ensemble at the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center.
We are grateful for the support of the Keller-Shatanoff Foundation, the Atran Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Michael Alpert (vocals, violin, accordion, poyk/drum, dancer) has been a pioneering and innovative figure in the renaissance of East European Jewish klezmer music and Yiddish culture for four decades. He is internationally known for his award-winning performances and recordings with Brave Old World, Kapelye, Julian Kytasty, Itzhak Perlman, Theodore Bikel, David Krakauer, Daniel Kahn, Socalled, Frank London and The Klezmatics. A native Yiddish speaker, Alpert is considered the finest traditional Yiddish singer of his generation and is noted for his original Yiddish songs. Alpert was Musical Director of the Emmy/Rose D’Or-winning PBS special "Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler's House," and the subsequent CDs and concert tours. He appears in numerous feature and documentary films, and in broadcast media worldwide. An important link to Jewish musicians from Eastern Europe, Alpert has extensively researched and published on Jewish music and dance traditions, which he regularly teaches in workshops worldwide. This work has played a central role in the transmission of Yiddish performing arts to new generations of artists and cultural activists. Longtime Co-Artistic Director of KlezKanada, he is a Senior Research Fellow at New York’s Center for Traditional Music and Dance, and has taught and lectured at numerous institutions including Indiana University, Oxford University, Columbia University, Yale University, and the New England Conservatory of Music.
Ethel Raim (vocals) is a leading performer and teacher of the unaccompanied women’s Yiddish folksong tradition and is widely recogniezed for her expertise in both Yiddish and Balkan vocal traditions. She has had a distinguished career as a performer, workshop leader/singing teacher and recording artist for the Elektra/Nonesuch labels. Raim is additionally the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of New York's Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD), one of the nation's preeminent traditional arts organizations. Through CTMD, Raim has worked closely with thousands of master immigrant musicians and dancers to assist them in preserving and presenting the traditions of their communities. In 1962 she co-founded and was musical director of the renowned Pennywhistlers who were among the first to bring traditional women’s singing traditions from the Balkans and East Europe to the folk music world. Formerly a research assistant to pioneering ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, from 1965 to 1975 Raim served as Music Editor of Sing Out! Magazine and additionally edited a number of important folksong collections. At CTMD, Raim has curated and overseen the production of hundreds of artistic presentations, as well as publications, recordings and film documentaries, and has developed many of the innovative program models for which CTMD is best known, including Community Cultural Initiatives - designed to establish and nurture community-based documentation, presentation, education, and cultural preservation in New York's immigrant communities. Raim received the American Folklore Society’s Benjamin Botkin Award in 2012 in recognition of her career impact on the field of public sector folklore.
Pete Rushefsky (tsimbl), is a leading revivalist of the tsimbl (cimbalom), the traditional hammered dulcimer of klezmer music. He is one of a handful of contemporary klezmer musicians to use field and archival research in recreating a performance style for the instrument. Rushefsky is currently touring with violinist Itzhak Perlman in a program/recording titled "Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul," featuring the leading cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, as well as klezmer revival legends Hankus Netsky and the Klezmer Conservatory Band. He has performed at the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and featured on NPR's Prairie Home Companion. A protégé of tsimblists Walter Zev Feldman and Josh Horowitz, Rushefsky regularly performs and records with many of the leading contemporary performers of Yiddish music, including clarinetists Joel Rubin and Michael Winograd, violinists Steven Greenman, Lisa Gutkin, Jake Shulman-Ment and Alicia Svigals, flutist Adrianne Greenbaum and vocalists Michael Alpert and Rebecca Kaplan. By day, Rushefsky serves as Executive Director of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York City, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and nurturing the performing arts traditions of the city’s immigrant communities. A popular instructor at camps internationally such as KlezKamp, KlezKanada and Yiddish Summer Weimar, Rushefsky is also the author of a pioneering instructional book on adapting the American 5-string banjo for klezmer. He is a well-known lecturer on klezmer and other traditional musics and has a number of published articles to his credit.
Jake Shulman-Ment (violin) is recognized internationally as both one of the leading performers of the klezmer violin tradition, as well as an innovator for his work in exploring the deep connection between klezmer and Moldavian muzica lautareasca (Romani/Gypsy music). Beginning studies in klezmer from age 12, he was initially a protégé of Alicia Svigals, the long-time violinist of the Klezmatics. Shulman-Ment later immersed himself in related violin traditions, living in Greece, Hungary and Romania for extended periods, becoming fluent in both the musical and spoken languages. In 2010-2011 Shulman-Ment was a Fulbright Scholar based in the Eastern Romanian province of Moldavia, where he was surely the first American (or outsider from any other place) to become a member of the well-regarded professional Botosani Folk Orchestra, apprenticing himself to the Orchestra’s leader. He regularly headlines festivals with his own ensemble as well as with Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird, and teaches at leading Yiddish music camps internationally. In New York, Shulman-Ment worked with Center for Traditional Music and Dance to found the Tantshoyz (dance house) program. Modeled after the Hungarian tanchaz movement, the Tantshoyz works to revitalize the Yiddish dance tradition, and has been replicated in a number of cities in North America and Europe. His critically-acclaimed album "A Redl (A Wheel)" was released on the German Oriente label.