"Shulem Aleykhem"

from Fraidy Katz

 

 Fraidy
 Katz
 Wolf
Krakowski

"Fraidy Katz is exceptional!"

Center for the Arts, Northampton, MA.

 

Jewish music has enriched my life since I was a child in Rochester, New York, where my mother, a devoted fan of "The Jewish Hour," never missed a Sunday morning broadcast. Although my father and grandfather were funeral directors, my father loved to sing (he often sang the same song all day long!). Even as a very little girl, I was coached on quiz show questions and songs to perform for my parents' friends.

Yiddish was always the secret language in our family, yet during the folk music "craze" of the 'Sixties, when I began to teach myself to sing Yiddish folk music and accompany myself on the guitar, nobody was able to help me learn the language. I studied German my last year of high school and would sing Ruth Rubin's transliterations with a German accent. "The melodies are beautiful," my Zeyde would say, "but I don't understand the words."

Although I continued to sing and act in both musical and dramatic productions throughout the world and over the years, it was not until I was living in Somerville, MA, teaching English to Russian immigrants at Brookline's Hebrew College that I found a Yiddish class in the Adult Education Program. Inspired by my students' profound interest in Jewish history, culture, and traditions, I became a graduate student in Jewish History and Yiddish at Brandeis University. My German studies, coupled with the Summer Programs of the Max Weinreich Institute at Columbia University in 1981 and 1982, enabled me to study Yiddish literature independently with several scholars at Brandeis. A group of khaveyrim in the Boston area formed a leyenkrayz which met faithfully over several years, sharing literature, conversation, cookies, and simkhes.

Today I teach both English as a Second Language and Yiddish. I have taught Yiddish at Brandeis, Hebrew College, MIT, Tufts, Boston University, and other institutions in the Boston area, as well as at UMASS Amherst, the World Fellowship Center, and the National Yiddish Book Center, where I was Bibliographer from 1986 through most of 1987. I also translate books, printed articles, letters, memoirs, and other manuscripts from Yiddish into English. My biggest challenge as a Yiddish translator involved preparing articles for The Forward's 100th Anniversary Edition in less than two weeks, while on vacation in the former East Germany.

In 1987, I began to sing professionally with Klezamir, with whom I worked for eight years. Since 1995, however, I have performed with The Klezical Tradition.

In other lives, I received my undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College in American Studies, an M. A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Minnesota, and an M. A. in Jewish Studies from Brandeis University. I have served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Italy, and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in French-speaking West Africa.

 

. . .Fraidy Katz supplied the lead voice with such mirthful grace, such unadulterated joy, it was quite moving. Her voice was almost bawdy in its chutzpah--soaring, indulgent and luxuriantly passionate.

The Sandpaper, Long Beach Island, New Jersey

 

We are still high on the superb music you gave us. . . the memory of Miriam's Bat Mitzvah will forever be joined to the music and your singing--your wonderful singing which created a bond between generations, a unifying history.

The Joffes, South Hadley, MA

 

Fraidy Katz . . provided high voltage melodies. . .

R. D. Eno, Conference on Judaism in Rural New England

 

"Vilna" is sad and beautiful. I was moved to tears.

Dr. Richard Shaw

 

. . . Out of the 18 years of programming musical events each week in the summer, there have been only three or four that were truly memorable. Your evening of Gebirtig songs has to be counted right at the top. . . . Awesome!

Kathryn Schmauch, Associate Director, World Fellowship Center

 


Although we lead typically modern, frenetic lives as musicians and teachers, we come together as The Klezical Tradition to preserve and perform traditional instrumental and vocal music of the culture of the Jews of Eastern and Central Europe.


Concert Programs

by

The Klezical Tradition

Mishpokhe Lider

celebrates family life from the cradle to the khupe (and beyond) with stories and songs of warmth and humor. Traditional folk songs and Yiddish theater hits will bring back memories, while spirited bulgars and freylekhs will have the audience dancing in the aisles!

 

Der Zinger fun Noyt: Mordkhe Gebirtig

the Krakow carpenter whose songs for the Yiddish theater made him famous on both sides of the ocean, could be considered "the Yiddish Woody Guthrie." This concert interweaves the music of Gebirtig, his biography, and reflections on a journey to Poland in 1994.

 

From A Ruined Garden: A Concert and Exploration of the Holocaust

begins with music from Jewish life in Eastern Europe and the Americas before the rise of National Socialism, continues with songs depicting various aspects of life and resistance during the Holocaust, and culminates in an affirmation of Jewish life in our times.

 

Froyenlider

a poem by Kadia Molodowsky, begins,

"At night, the women of my family will come to me in dreams. . ."

In this concert, the women of our families come to us in song.

 

Comments from our concert audiences:

 

. . . how energetic and raw spirited you all are, yet so musically polished !

Zelda Bernstein, Jewish Federation, Greater Waterbury

I thoroughly enjoyed the "getting to the feeling and soul" of your very excellent musical and dance Klezical offering. I have been privileged to attend Mt. Holyoke Music Department programs for nearly 28 years, making my weekly pilgrimage. . . I must admit that the Klezmer performance of yesterday was at the top of the list for all productions I've heard.

Dr. Charles B. Redington, Professor of Biology, Springfield College

. . . I just had to tell you how successful your group's concert was . . . The 400 people who attended were treated to the best Klezmer many of them had ever heard--according to comments made to me for days after the concert. People were literally dancing in the aisles throughout the concert . . .

 

Albert Harary, Chairman, Adult Education,Temple Beth Sholom, Hamden, CT

I came to your concert expecting to hear klezmer music and I came away with so much more!

Larry Shire, Concert-goer

. . . one of the finest Klezmer bands on the East Coast, The Klezical Tradition provides the ultimate in Jewish musical entertainment. They are a group that MUST NOT be missed!

Neil Gelerter, Concert Presenter, Teikyo Post College
For bookings contact Adrianne Greenbaum at 203-374-0607


Mordkhe Gebirtig: Der Zinger fun Noyt

Dear Fraidy,

Your concert performance of the work of Mordkhe Gebirtig was incredible (!) on many levels. . . Within our generation, there are perhaps a handful of people that can offer the multilayered, historical and deeply personal context that you wove together. On this level, what you have created in your tribute to this heroic and beloved Yiddish writer and lyricist is of great merit as a living history lesson, . . .

As I watched you on stage, I felt transported back to the days when Yiddish theatre flourished, enjoying your theatrical, musical presentation of characters that I have only read about, heard about in oral history accounts from the many Jewish elders I have interviewed, or seen in snippets in Yiddish films. It was a real treat and treasure to have such an experience, which, unfortunately, because of my age, I could never have seen in the days of its glory.

Finally, you are making a truly important contribution to the historical preservation of Yiddish culture. At many times throughout your performance, I was moved to tears, deeply affected by the power of your voice and neshome as it brought to life a world that was tragically destroyed. We are fortunate that there are musical visionaries like yourself who have committed their lives to carrying on this tradition. Thanks so much. Carry on!

Joel Saxe

Art Department, Greenfield Community College
Oral Historian, Tamiment Labor Archives, New York University
Filmmaker, Writer on Yiddish culture and Jewish radicalism

 


Fraidy Katz, media@kamea.com


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