Growing up as a liberal Jew in London in the 90's I don't remember having much fun in Synagogues or liking Jewish-related things. Through a serendipitous series of events I 'discovered' Klezmer music in my early 20's and this was partly what inspired me to spend some time studying at NEC in Boston. Knowing the Klezmer legacy of the school and having teachers there who were instrumental in the American Klezmer Revival period in the 1970's such as Hankus Netsky from the Klezmer Conservatory Band and having worked with numerous inspirational musicians from the Klezmer & Improvisation scene that had attended this school, I knew it was the place for me.
During my time in Boston I was invited on several occasions to perform at the Boston Synagogue, the only surviving Synagogue in the centre of town, which was rebuilt after an aggressive regeneration programme in the 50's where the slummy down area was bulldozed.
Nat Seelen, of Boston Klezmer band Ezekials Wheel skilfully curated a long season of events celebrating New Jewish Music and I am greatful to have had the chance to try out some of my own ideas there as well as to perform with Klezmer Fiddler and composer Abigale Reisman to showcase her original compositions.
So rarely is there funding from within the Jewish community and particularly the Jewish Arts community to provide a solid platform for professionals who work with Jewish music directly to develop and showcase their work. It is great it is happening and it should happen more!
Thank you to Nat for your enthusiasm and invitation to be part of the series, to Susan and the team at the Boston Synagogue.
Pandemic mask times. (Much stricter in Massachusetts than the UK of course) They don't have Boris to contend with over there.
It was to meat new musical collaborators and keep my creative focus during those cold winter months in Boston.
Supporting by JArts Boston.
Note to self...NEVER FORGET TO BUY COFFEE BEFORE A SNOW STORM!!!!!!
Hackney Girl lesson learned, yes. ME being an absolute wimp? Makes the Margate Winter blustery wind chill look tropical (seaside town in the UK where I been living).
What about that ICE, Layers upon Layers of SNOW i folks keep their head down. Ground so slippery. Folks stay in.
So very beautiful. Evidence of Winter Wonderland adventures below - in the end it worked out for me. I learned about the ice and snow, trekked in the snow storms, had my face bashed around a bit with hail. ice skated on a real pond. These are important things too. All a weirdo explorer from London could ever want :)
Julius Eastman ' STAY ON IT'
A major highlight of my time at NEC was performing Stay On It by Julius Eastman.
Every Monday I got to work with Anthony Coleman in his weekly ensemble, Survivors Breakfast. You can imagine why the name...
One day Hannah Dunton, a killer bass player in the Jazz department asked if we could work on Stay On It by Julius Eastman. Me being such a folky weirdo I embarrassingly hadn't come across his music before. It is an incredible piece of music!!!!!!! Eastman was such a strong proponant for doing things his way, and being Black and Gay in the Avant Garde in the 70's in the US made him even more of an outsider. I wish we'd gotten to meet.
You can find out more about him, his work and contribution to everything here and here.
Luckily Anthony had access to a score deduced from some of the favoured recordings of the piece, as it was never written down by Eastman in his short lifetime.
So we worked on it, at first it didn't make sense, but then eventually - as is often the case with some of the best things - it feel into place, we found a pace with the piece, we found a way of listening to and playing with each other and finding our own voices within the parameters of the vague yet specific instructions for each section. It's a hefty length of a piece to perform and with Anthony's guidance we pulled it off. It was a super fun way to get to know fellow improvisers and experimenters at the school and I loved performing the piece. What an energy. Anthony really understood how to get inside the music, a rare skill which I appreciate so much.
Check out the two seminal performances below of the piece. I think you will like.
Thank you Julius for your amazing music and for being you and keeping it real in a time where it was even much tougher than now.
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