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Yiddish music at the Brooklyn Center of Performing Arts

Two Jewish folk bands come together

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Mazel tov!

The Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts is turning into a Chuppah and breaking out with the sounds of Jewish wedding music — and you won’t even have to smash your fine crystal.

Two of the premiere performers of klezmer — the folk dance music of Eastern European Jewry — Metropolitan Klezmer and the Isle of Klezbos will take the stage and regale the audience with a display of both traditional awareness and instrumental skill suitable for a rock venue.

The link between the two ensembles — which include clarinet, violin, accordion, upright bass, and trumpet players — is drummer and bandleader Eve Sicular. A Manhattan native and a student of Russian literature and film, Sicular she formed Metropolitan Klezmer with students from Juilliard and the Eastman School of Music. The band got their start in the unlikeliest of places — next door to CBGB.

At that time the owner of the famed punk club, the late Hilly Kristal, also ran an adjoining folk space called CB’s Gallery. Sicular said that Kristal was early and enthusiastic supporter of the group.

“He was a certain kind of Yiddish guardian angel when we started out,” said Sicular, adding that late klezmer legend Howie Leess also served as a mentor to the upstart band.

The Isle of Klezbos began as an all-female spin-off of Metropolitan Klezmer in 1998, and today both bands tour the world and regularly rehearse in Fort Greene. Thanks to the diverse talents and backgrounds of the numerous musicians who’ve played in the two groups, their the repertoire goes well beyond “Hava Nagila,” incorporating elements of jazz, funk, Arabic, Turkish, and Greek music. One of its trombonists, a native of Colombia, even came up with a klezmer cumbia titled “Cartagena Chosidl.” Sicular said the mixtures are not so strange as they might seem.

“Klezmer itself is very, very diverse. Yiddish is a fusion language, so it has words from a wide array of languages. And it’s the same with the music,” said Sicular, noting that klezmer shares modes and scales with Spanish, Middle Eastern, and Greek folk, and that Jewish-American composers in the early 20th century frequently combined klezmer sounds with tango and jazz.

“When it comes down to it, it’s all music, and it’s music that we all feel passionately about.”

Metropolitan Klezmer and the Isle of Klezbos at Walt Whitman Theater at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College [2900 Campus Rd. between Amersfort and Kenilworth places, in Midwood. (718) 951–4500, purchase.tickets.com]. Nov. 4, 2 pm. $30.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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