I played Chopin as they sent my family to their deaths

By Jessica Duchen, March 11, 2010

At the age of 106, the concert pianist Alice Sommer Herz is an international celebrity. But despite playing in front of audiences all over the world, perhaps what is most remarkable about her life is her continued capacity for hope in the face of unimaginable suffering.

In 1943, with her husband and their six-year-old son, she was deported from Prague to the Nazis' "model" concentration camp at Terezin; her music helped to sustain her spirit there and throughout her astonishing life.


Review: Ghost Stories

By John Nathan, March 4, 2010

Is it possible to feel fear in the theatre? Yes it is, if Jeremy Dyson’s and Andy Nyman’s evening of terror tales is anything to go by. It takes the form of a lecture delivered by paranormal expert Prof Goodman (Nyman) who relates stories of ghostly encounters experienced by others, and one that happened to him when he was a boy and called by his schoolmates “Jewy Goodman”. Despite the jibe, it was not he who was the victim there. Take a cushion, and I don’t mean to sit on.


The Orthodox rapper mashing up culture

February 25, 2010

First Matisyahu fused Orthodox Judaism and black music with his kosher version or roots reggae; now an observant hip hop artist is causing a stir on the rap scene. At first glance, Eprhyme - aka Eden Pearlstein - seems an unlikely hip hopper. He comes not from the 'hood but from a middle-class home in Washington state. But he started to listen to hip hop as a child and by the age of 14 (he is now 30) he was rhyming and freestyling. The religion part came later, he says, speaking ahead of his concert at Sandys Row Synagogue in London next week.


The legend plays on

By Jessica Duchen, February 25, 2010

When the Beaux Arts Trio announced last year that it was disbanding, music-lovers the world over felt that it was the end of an era. Since 1955, without pause, the Trio had been the life and soul of the chamber music world, playing its way into listeners' hearts with irrepressible vigour and making more than 50 recordings. But only one of its three members remained constant over its entire lifespan - the pianist Menahem Pressler.


Klezmer band Moishe's Bagel

February 5, 2010

Moishe’s Bagel may play klezmer but they are not your typical barmitzvah band. Although all the musicians enjoy performing Eastern European music, their backgrounds are eclectic.

“The fiddle player is a violinist with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the percussionist is a student of tabla and Indian percussion, and the bass player is a jazz musician from Brazil,” says pianist Phil Alexander, the only member with a background in Jewish music.


A vision of a rabbi inspired me to sing

By Simon Round, January 21, 2010

Many people feel they have a vocation for their jobs but few in showbusiness have actually experienced a calling. But this happened to Daniel Cainer, who had what he describes as “a vision” which compelled him to perform.

Cainer, who for the past two years has been touring with his successful show Jewish Chronicles, says the original idea of writing and singing Jewish-inspired songs came to him in a rather unexpected way.


Vampire Weekend: Don't call us white

By Paul Lester, January 14, 2010

Vampire Weekend, the four-piece from New York, have been described as “the whitest band on the planet”.

This not entirely flattering label was pinned on them in 2008 after the release of their million-selling self-titled debut album of world music, which sounded like a bunch of young punks playing Paul Simon’s Graceland. Accusations of cultural imperialism were levelled at them for their appropriation of African music idioms.


The football hooligan who sings in Yiddish

By Jessica Duchen, January 7, 2010

When Mark Glanville began to put together A Yiddish Winterreise, he had little thought that such a personal project would carry him quite so far. His programme of Yiddish songs, designed to mirror the emotional journey of Schubert’s Winterreise, has now been released on CD by Naxos, and this month Glanville and his right-hand man and accompanist, the Jewish music expert Alexander Knapp, are performing it at the Southbank Centre. But above all, Glanville’s Winterreise has taken him to the heart of his own identity.


Chicago rock band OK Go

By Robert Collins, December 29, 2009

Even if the name does not ring any bells, chances are you will be familiar with the work of OK Go. The Chicago rockers’ video for their song Here It Goes Again, featuring the band performing an intricately choreographed dance routine on treadmills, has been viewed almost 50 million times on YouTube, earned the band a Grammy for best music video and was even parodied on The Simpsons.

The lead singer in that video, thanks to his ability to dance and lip-sync simultaneously, was bass player and native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Tim Nordwind.


A musical Indian takeaway

By Simon Round, December 29, 2009

Six years ago, record producer Julian Futter was given a pile of old 78s. He knew nothing about them apart from the fact that they included music derived from the Jews of Iraq.

These songs were later released in a celebrated CD called Shbahoth. However, included in the pile were a few records from Mumbai — fascinating to listen to, says Futter, but not enough in themselves to make an album.