Soul festival of Safed

The leading klezmer musician in Germany comes in for the Safed Klezmer Festival.

'Klezmer, the music of the Eastern European shtetl, is the music of the Jewish soul. Yet it speaks to one and all, to both religious and secular Jews, to Japanese, Koreans and Americans," says Hannan Bar Sella, artistic director of the International Klezmer Festival taking place in Safed between August 13 and 15. With klezmer being played as far afield as Japan and Korea, ensembles will be coming from all over the world for the beloved festival, which this year marks its 20th anniversary. The program features tens of concerts every night starting from 8 p.m., playing simultaneously on seven stages throughout the ancient city of kabbalists. These include both open-air performances and music played in beautiful local synagogues. Bar Sella, a klezmer clarinetist who got hooked by the genre listening to Feidman's recordings in his childhood, notes "I myself come from a religious family, but plenty of non-religious young Israels are attracted to klezmer music." The program features both conventional and non-conventional klezmer. Participating are leading artists like clarinetist Giora Feidman, whose contribution to the revival of the genre can hardly be overstated, violinists Mirel Reznik, Helmuth Heisel, Moussa Berlin, Raul Jaurena and various ensembles, including the funky Nashot Chava, the internationally acclaimed Jerusalem Saxophone Ensemble, ethnic pathblazers Habreira Hateivit, and popular Israeli composer Shlomo Gronich. Films about klezmer music will also be screened, and Thursday's closing concert, featuring all the festival's artists, will be broadcast live by Galei Zahal. Admission to most of the concerts - including all the outdoor ones - is free. EVEN AS THE festival starts, another klezmer event is taking place in Safed. The Fourth International Klezmer Workshop (August 6-13) will feature 50 students from Israel and abroad. Says Giora Feidman: "The main idea behind this year's workshop is to serve spiritual food to a spiritually hungry society. We do not come on stage to show off, but rather to share the music. We bring the best teachers from all over the world, such as Helmuth Heisel, the leading klezmer musician in Germany; Franklin Cohen, principal clarinet player of the Cleveland Symphony; outstanding bandoneon player Prof. Raul Jaurena from Argentina; Profs. Ilan Schul, Mauricio Paez and Gersh Geller from Israel. We do not accept ensembles in the workshop, because my idea is to develop the music personality of each individual. During the course, we create new ensembles from the seminar participants. I'm not on stage, but in the hall, representing the average audience. What I say to the students is, 'Look we're here not to show how good we are, but to play the music. You as musicians have to convince me, a member of the audience.'" Later during the festival, the created ensembles will appear on the stages of Safed. I believe that this approach will contribute a lot to the overall artistic level," concludes Feidman. The workshop events are already in full swing, but the audience is welcome to enjoy a lecture and concert starting at 3 p.m., followed by a Carlebach Tzafat early afternoon kabbalat shabbat from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday night, which will be held in the beautiful, ancient Abuhav synagogue. Workshops for the public are open for a token fee. For reservations for the workshop events call (04) 686-9600, for the festival (04) 686-9601/8 For more details, visit August 13 to 15