Los Angeles Music Preview: THE KLEZMATICS:  HAPPY JOYOUS HANUKKAH (Disney Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on December 19, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


A figurehead in the folk movement, Woody Guthrie wrote hundreds of political, traditional and children’s songs, as well as ballads and improvised works. Yet how many of you know that Woody Guthrie wrote Hanukkah songs? Indeed he did, and in a pairing as richly diverse as Guthrie’s life itself—from the plains of tiny Okemah, klezmaticsOklahoma to the cultural stew of post-war Brooklyn—his evocative lyrics are the perfect match for the music of America’s premier Yiddish band for over 25 years, The Klezmatics, who will be appearing at Disney Hall one-night only on Dec. 22.

The concert’s title—Happy Joyous Hanukkah—is taken from The Klezmatics’ immensely popular 2006 CD, which has tracks penned by the songwriting legend and music from the ambassadors of Yiddish culture. Guthrie’s Jewish lyrics (previously unknown prior to the album’s release) can be traced to the unusual collaborative relationship he had with his mother-in-law, Aliza Greenblatt, a prominent Yiddish poet and confidant of Guthrie during his tenure in Coney Island.

Primarily set to music by founding members Lorin Sklamberg and Frank London, Guthrie’s holiday lyrics come alive to prayerful Hasidic nigunim (wordless tunes often used in prayer) and playful klezmer freylekhs (traditional dance music), as well as to Nashville-tinged country fare. We won’t know the program selections until The Klezmaticsthe night of the show, but you can expect this presentation of Hanukkah music to be rich, lively, and a most welcome respite from the cacophony of Christmas carols currently crammed in your cranium.

Sklamberg and London will be on hand with longtime bandmates Lisa Gutkin (violin, vocals), Matt Darriau (kaval, clarinet, saxophone), Paul Morrissett (bass, tsimbl) and Richie Barshay (drums). In addition, Irish songwriter and folk singer Susan McKeown—who released with Sklamberg Saints & Tzadiks (2009), an album combining Yiddish and Irish songs, is appearing as a guest musician. Also joining the sextet and McKeown is Boo Reiners, who brings his expertise with the five-string banjo and bluegrass music to the party, a unique mixture of traditional klezmer music with Eastern European, Latin, Celtic, Afro-Caribbean, and folk-flavored music. L’chaim so there!

Frank London, Lisa Gutkin, Boo Reiners, Lorin Sklamberg,Matt Darriau, Susan McKeown, Paul Morrissett.

photos by Joshua Kessler

The Klezmatics: Happy Joyous Hannukah
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave.
Monday, December 22, 2014 at 8:00
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit www.laphil.com

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