Boston Jewish Music Festival broadens scope, sound

Highlights of the Boston Jewish Music Festival include (clockwise, from above) Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot; César Lerner and Marcelo Moguilevsky; Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird; Josh Nelson.
Lisa Marie Mazzucco
Highlights of the Boston Jewish Music Festival include Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot.

The big attraction of the Fourth Annual Boston Jewish Music Festival, which runs from March 1 to March 10 in various locations, is a very big one indeed: Itzhak
Perlman, who’ll be performing “Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul” with Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot at Symphony Hall on March 3. It’s actually a Celebrity Series presentation, but it says something about the BJMF that it’s been able to wrap its event around an appearance by one of the world’s most famous classical violinists. The festival is also spreading its wings: Thursday night it opened with a “North Shore preview” concert in Newburyport, and there will be New Hampshire concerts in Nashua and Portsmouth.

Jim Ball, the BJMF’s director of communications, explains that Perlman developed “Eternal Echoes” with New England Conservatory faculty member Hankus Netsky. He points out that “Hankus also happens to be on our board of directors. They did this show two years ago in LA, and we knew they would be taking it on tour. It was a show we couldn’t have afforded to mount ourselves. But as it turned out, the Celebrity Series already had it on their calendar.

“It’s a mix of traditional Jewish folk music and chant,” he continues. “Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, who is revered as one of the great classic cantorial soloists, will sing some cantorial favorites as well as some traditional folk music. Perlman will play that kind of music; he’s done concerts on Jewish themes in the past. And Hankus’s Klezmer Conservatory Band is playing with them as well.” After the concert, Ball adds, “we’re having a reception in Symphony Hall that Perlman and Helfgot and Hankus will be coming to. It’s an extra ticket that’s a fund-raiser for the festival.”


Aside from the Symphony Hall performance, Ball has some picks for other festival events about which he’s particularly excited:

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Josh Nelson’s Warehouse Shabbat (March 1 at the Julep Bar, Boston, moved from Oberon in Cambridge) “Josh Nelson went to BU and got a doctorate there in music, and he’s been a rising star in the Jewish music world for quite a while. It was his feeling that the [people in their] 20s and 30s don’t necessarily join temples, so he’s been taking service to a bar. There’s an hour social time for people to get together, have a few drinks, and we’ll have food, and then there's an hourlong multimedia service with a band and projections on screen and a rabbi who says a few words in the middle of the thing."

New World Klez Fest (March 2 at the Somerville Theatre) “Michael Winograd went to New England Conservatory and is one of the top clarinet players around today. He hooked up with pianist Pete Sokolow, who used to play with the legendary clarinetist Dave Tarras, and they put together a Dave Tarras tribute band. Then we’ve got these two unbelievable artists from Argentina, César Lerner and Marcelo Moguilevsky, who do music that's a little bit of klezmer, a little bit of tango, some jazz improvisation, and folk stuff. And Shura Lipovsky, from Amsterdam, is noted as one of the great Yiddish singers in the world today. She’s actually going to San Francisco after this to do a show with Theodore Bikel.”

Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird (March 6 at the Milky Way Lounge, Jamaica Plain) “Daniel Kahn is a Detroiter who really took to Yiddish and moved to Berlin and assembled a band there, the Painted Bird, that’s based on the Jerzy Kosinski novel. He does Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht updated Yiddish protest punk music, cabaret-style, some of it translated, some of it not. He’s a real phenom and has made quite a name worldwide for himself.”

The Electro Judeo Dance Party (March 7 at Johnny D’s, Somerville) “This is another one of our young-adult-oriented concerts. Mazal, from France, are making their American debut here. It’s basically two people doing a lot of recorded sampling and keyboard stuff, Ladino music with a dance beat. Stereo Sinai do a similar thing, only they use Hebrew texts set to pop dance music. They call their style of music ‘Biblegum pop.’ ”

Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at jeffrey