My name is Doug Leblang and it is my great pleasure to be performing for you today.
Klezmer is a Hebrew word that comes from two words: "kle," which means vessel, and zmer from the word "zmeros," which means song. It refers to either the musician or the instrument making the music. The tradition started long ago but familiar klezmer music started about one hundred years ago when Jewish shtetyl musicians entertained their brethren with music made with the few instruments that were available to them: the gypsy accordion, the marching band clarinet and the violin. Jewish people especially loved the clarinet because they thought it sounded like the human voice. You could laugh or cry with the clarinet evoking sadness or joy.
A lone clarinetist or accordionist could bring the schtetyl to an ecstatic state. When people heard this music they began to clap, sing, and dance, and families invited the klezmers to play for their weddings and bar mitzvahs. When the Jewish people came to America they brought their klezmer tradition with them. The music influenced Benny Goodman, who learned clarinet in the synagogue on his way to becoming the most popular musician in the US, eventually being proclaimed the "King of Swing."
Please join me on a musical journey as we return to Eastern Europe and then follow Jewish music as it travels around the world.
Thank you and Tzi Gezunt !