An Evening of Ladino Music (Notes from the Cantor)
Over the next few weeks you should be hearing a lot about an upcoming concert that will be taking place at EMJC. On November 18th, at 8:00 pm, Club Oasis will be presenting An Evening of Ladino Music. Here's a little background on the material:
Ladino, or "Judeo-Spanish," is a Romance language derived mainly from Old Castilian (Spanish) and Hebrew. It is often said that Ladino is to Spanish what Yiddish is to German; both are medieval dialects of their respective "host" languages. Ladino developed during the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry, in the centuries prior to the Expulsion of 1492, and was carried to various parts of the world by Jews and Conversos fleeing persecution. The exiles carried it to the far corners of Europe, where it continued to change and develop over the centuries, morphing and adapting to whatever new environment its speakers would find themselves in. Ladino is closely related to Spanish, but has words and terms mixed in from Hebrew, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Greek, and South Slavic languages (depending on where the speakers resided). Modern-day speakers of Ladino are almost exclusively Sephardic Jews residing in various parts of the world, though the language is spoken less and less and is in danger of extinction.
Over the centuries, Ladino-speaking Jews developed a rich folk-music tradition. The songs fall into different categories; most are love songs – melodramatic laments of spurned lovers ("Farewell, my dear one. I do not want my life – you have embittered it...") and penniless but happy brides ("The bride has no riches. May they have good luck... May they have joy and prosper and always be happy..."); there are also songs on biblical and Jewish historical themes – stories of the forefathers and other Jewish heroes; and there are songs to fit liturgical purposes ("Buena Semana" – wishes for "a good week" to be sung after Havdalah at the end of Shabbat, and of course "Non com Muestro Dio," or, in Hebrew, Ein Keloheinu). The songs are charming – perhaps not meant to be taken too seriously, perhaps meant to be heard and appreciated with a glass of strong wine in hand and a son or daughter to turn to mid-song and say "see what can happen if you're not careful!" The large repertoire of Ladino folk-songs represents a unique and delightful chapter in the musical history of our people.
We owe this concert largely to the energy and talent of Marjorie Sanua, an EMJC member, a wonderful soprano, and a Ladino enthusiast. Marjorie and I have been working on arranging and rehearsing a set of Ladino songs for the past year and a half, and are greatly looking forward to presenting them at last. To help us out, we have conscripted three top-notch musicians. East Midwood's own Ben Lapidus is a world-renowned Latin Jazz musician. His own band, Sonido Isleño, has recorded on EMI Capitol, played on CBS – The Morning Show with Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson, and performed at various high-profile jazz venues in the U.S. and Europe. He has played and recorded with many of the leading Latin Jazz players working today. His primary instruments are the Cuban Tres and the Puerto Rican Cuatro, instruments well suited to the spirit of Ladino music. (Click here to read an article about Ben that appeared in The Forward in October 2005.) Jeremy Brown is a well-known violinist on the New York Jewish music scene. He has performed with many groups including Art Bailey's Orkestra Popilar and Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars. He is also a composer whose original music is featured on the CD This Year in St. Louis. Ira Epstein, percussionist and vocalist, played with the celebrated Jewish music group Tayku which was the brain-child of Matthew Lazar and David Burger. Ira sings and percusses with the Brooklyn Jewish Community Chorus.
An Evening of Ladino Music promises to be a wonderful night of music. Bring your friends and family and see what a bunch of Ashkenazi Jews do with the musical legacy of their Sephardic brethren.
Tickets are on sale now for $25 (general admission) and $20 (students and seniors), and are free for children 12 and under. Order by check by filling in and mailing in the form available in the November Bulletin or by coming into the office, or use any major credit card (an EMJC first!) online or by phone, 24/7, at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/8447 or 1-800-838-3006 to have tickets mailed to your door! For more information, call the Center office.
Cantor Sam Levine