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Juergen L. Hemm

International Klezmer Festival Fürth 2010

March 8, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Saturday and Sunday, I attended some workshops held as part of the International Klezmer Festival Fürth. They took place in the town's music school, right in the middle of what used to be the William O. Darby Kaserne - originally the home of the 6. Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment (back before 1918) in which my paternal grandfather served as trumpeter. After the Nuremberg Military Community (which, ironically, was mostly located in Fürth) disappeared in 1995, the barracks and the housing area were razed or converted to civilian use.

I grew up some blocks away and enjoyed being back in my old home town. The workshop panelists came from the A-list of the international Klezmer scene: Cookie Segelstein, Joshua Horowitz and Stuart Brotman  (Veretski Pass), Alan Bern and several other living legends. There were three fantastic fiddle coaches: Cookie from the US, David Hoffman from Israel and Marin Bunea from Moldova. The latter was especially fascinating: using not much more than one inch of bow, moving the fingers of his left hand at the speed of a hummingbird's wings, he played faster than his own shadow. 

For those who play slower than the speed of sound (e.g. yours truly), Cookie offered a special slowed-down session on Sunday - patiently spoon-feeding us "the DNA of a Doina", several other Jewish tunes and helpful hints for surviving in a jam session. The workshop participants came from far and wide in Germany; the workshop was subject of a newspaper article on Monday.

Zwischen Konzertess und Workshop-Spaß

Many festival participants could not talk to each other without somebody interpreting - in extreme cases using a third language, e.g. a Russian talking in French to somebody who translated this back to German. Music provided the common ground - we all learned a great deal and had loads of fun.

The whole event culminated in an energetic, exuberant open jam session on Sunday afternoon which sent everybody off on a musical high. I bought "The Ultimate Klezmer Book" as well as a CD and sheet music by Veretski Pass.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on March 10, 2010 at 7:03 AM

In the DVD "In the Fiddler's House," Itzhak Perlman said that in order to understand a culture, you must understand its music, and for Jewish culture, that means Klezmer music.  I didn't know that there were that many Jews left alive in Germany.  Klezmer music must be very, very special for them.

Thanks for the information on the world's leading Klezmer groups.  Do you recommend the book of Klezmer that you mentioned?

From Juergen L. Hemm
Posted on March 10, 2010 at 11:39 AM

Hi Pauline,

thanks for the quote. The trouble is that in order to be able to play a certain kind of music, you must also be familiar with the culture of its origin - thus creating a beautiful circular argument.

The city of Fürth has indeed a very special relationship to her jewish citizens (most famous among those are Henry Kissinger and the writer Jakob Wassermann); for decades, more than an fifth of the inhabitants were jewish - not living in a ghetto either, but intermingled with the rest of the population and also represented in the city council (what sounds so natural today was a singularity in those days).

Many projects were funded by generous jewish pillars of the community, e.g. the beautiful theater, the Berolzheimerianum (originally a public educational facility) and the Nathanstift (a special hospital for newly born babies and their mothers, designed to combat the appaling rate of infant deaths in the early 20th century). Fürth was home to a well-respected talmudic university and several print shops whose quality products were highly esteemed by the Yiddish speakers all over Germany and Europe.

Sadly, the Holocaust did not spare "Franconian Jerusalem" (as Fürth was known before WW II) and the jewish citizens of Fürth were stripped of their rights, forbidden to work in their professions, robbed of their wealth, driven into exile, deported to concentration camps and murdered like everywhere else as long as the cruel, unjust Nazi regime ruled.

Nowadays, jewish culture, religion and music are making a comeback all over Germany. The crimes of the past cannot be undone - so we all have a shared responsibility to see each other as what everybody here is: just another European, which, by the way, is the idea behind another excellent band in this scene: The Other Europeans.

As to your last question, yes, I do recommend the products I bought during the festival, very much so.

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