A goal of the long-running Philadelphia Folklore Project is to keep the many diverse cultural traditions in our community alive, but through a contemporary lens — and what better way to do that than through music? That’s the idea behind the project’s one-night-only concert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts this fall, which will explore the centuries-old tradition of Eastern European Jewish folk music, or klezmer.
Called Soul Songs: Inspiring Women of Klezmer, the October 28 event will feature 12 women musicians who have dedicated their lives to learning the klezmer tradition and carrying it on through original composition. The performers span three generations and will include world-renowned klezmer fiddler Alicia Svigals, a founding member of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, plus several other well-known musicians in the discipline, including violinists Cookie Segelstein and Deborah Strauss, pianist Marilyn Lerner, and flutist Adrianne Greenbaum. The rest of the musicians will cover instruments including clarinet, trombone, accordion, and percussion.
The concert is the brainchild of artistic director, fourth-generation klezmer musician, and world-renowned trumpeter Susan Watts, and stemmed from her concern for the future of the art form. According to Watts, “Soul Songs is about the old and new intertwined. It is future provoking, intuitive, grassroots. Soul Songs is about these women’s musical journeys, their artistry and their discernment to use the force of adversity to their gain. It is the klezmer of today and a prelude to future possibilities for the art and the communities it nurtures.”
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