Sruli & Lisa
Jerusalem Cultures Center
Jerusalem -- November 24 Few things are as unimaginably far and yet heartbreakingly close to most of us as Yiddish folk culture. Sunday night, American klezmer pair Sruli and Lisa made it more accessible in an overflow concert for an overflow audience at the Jerusalem Cultures Center.
Few things are as unimaginably far and yet heartbreakingly close to most of us as Yiddish folk culture. Sunday night, American klezmer pair Sruli and Lisa made it more accessible in an overflow concert for an overflow audience at the Jerusalem Cultures Center.
How had I not realized that the poignant Hebrew ballad about a forest seduction and abandonment - like so many others standards of Israeli radio - was an adaption of the Yiddish song "Margaritkelekh" - to which much of the predominantly American, older audience sang along the familiar lyrics.
Lisa provided just the right amount of introduction and translation of key words for each song. Her background to a rousing mother-in-law to mother-in-law wedding song sketched a keen picture of the vagaries of Jewish village family life, while her sometimes over-the-top execution provided clues to the musical roots of some famous American belters.
Vibrant Lisa - whose promotional picture does her good looks little justice - finds nice counterpoint in solid Sruli, who threw over a legal career to devote himself to Jewish music. The law's loss was the audience's gain, especially in his beautiful contrast of the stately northern Poland/Lithuanian version of the liturgical melody, Eli Ata ("You are My God"), to the animated one hailing from southern Poland/Galicia.
Some of the between-numbers jokes might have been overdone, but those that carried that special Yiddish ta'am, such as Sruli's just barely ribald yarn of the not- too-amorous cow from Minsk, more than made up.
The banter ultimately was absorbed into one of the song numbers - a no-holding-back version of Chitty Bim.
A stirringly beautiful a cappella version of a song about the Messiah's coming highlighted the pair's special strength: their deft juggling of the mix of the sacred and the profane that characterized so much of European Yiddish culture.
* Abigail Radoszkowicz