Musician Alicia Svigals returns to Temple Emanu-El on Dec. 14 with her latest project, The Beregovski Suite. Together with Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Uli Geissendoerfer, they bring to life long-lost melodies from early 20th-century fieldwork of Moshe Beregovski, and re-imagine them for the 21st century. They are joined by accordionist Dr. William Schimmel, a virtuoso in his field.
In the 1930s Moshe Beregovski, a Jewish scholar from the Ukraine, set out, with eerie prescience, to collect and preserve the deep, rich Jewish musical tradition around him. On what turned out to be the eve of the destruction of European Jewry, Beregovski organized expeditions to Ukrainian “shtetlekh” (small Jewish towns) and sought out the eldest singers and instrumentalists he could find, asking them to pour their collective folk knowledge into his recording horn. Thus, he managed to save thousands of beautiful Jewish folk songs, klezmer dance tunes and religious melodies on wax cylinders, the medium of the day.
A few years later, the culture he had documented was destroyed in the Holocaust, and Beregovski himself was arrested and sent to the Gulag. He never saw his work published and for decades it was thought that recordings were gone forever. However, in the 1980s ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin published Beregovski’s transcriptions of his collection, and in the 1990s, with the opening of the Soviet Union, the cylinders were unearthed in a dusty archive in Kiev. Now those long-forgotten melodies and voices are appearing again.
Alicia Svigals is the world’s leading klezmer violinist and a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, which she co-directed for 17 years. She has written for violinist Itzhak Perlman, with whom she recorded, as well as the Kronos Quartet, among many others. She has appeared on television and was awarded the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s annual New Jewish Music Commission for her original live score to the 1918 film “The Yellow Ticket,” which she is currently touring, and a Trust for Mutual Understanding grant to bring that work to Poland. Her second silent film collaboration, “The Ancient Law,” with silent film music legend, Donald Sosin, was performed at Temple Emanu-El last April. It received rave reviews.
Jazz pianist, composer and scholar Uli Geissendoerfer has worked with William Cepeda, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Leslie Uggams, Tito Puente, Cirque du Soleil, David Cassidy, several symphonies, the Connecticut Opera and many more. He resurrected the Latin Jazz Ensemble at University of Nevada, Las Vegas which won Downbeat awards in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He serves as the curator for the Steinway Concert Series, and founded the “Jazz Club at the Dispensary Lounge” (winning Best of Las Vegas) featuring Wynton Marsalis, Brandon Fields, Sam Most, Rick Margitza, Danny Gottlieb and more.
Dr. William Schimmel earned his doctorate of music from Juilliard. A composer, author, lecturer, philosopher and virtuoso accordionist, he performs in a wide variety of styles from classical to pop and has appeared with many major symphony orchestras. He has recorded with such noted performers as Sting and Tom Waits, whose celebrated remark, “Bill Schimmel doesn’t play the accordion – he is an accordion,” has entered accordion lore.
An authority on Kurt Weill, Schimmel has recorded all of Weill’s music with accordion.
He is a prolific composer from the concert stage to Broadway theater and is founder of the renowned Tango Project. In 1992 he was named “Best Accordionist” by Keyboard Magazine and recognized as the figure who has done the most to elevate the accordion’s otherwise tawdry image.
Come join us as we listen to this toe-tapping musical extravaganza! Three phenomenal musicians will play the long-lost klezmer music of Moshe Beregovski at Temple Emanu-El, Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Advance ticketing is $18. Tickets at the door are $25.
For ticket information, go to www.teprov.org/arts-emanuel, or call 401-331-1616. Refreshments will be served.
PAMELA HANZEL is chair of Arts Emanu-El at Temple Emanu-El in Providence.