Which London summer event brings together Orthodox and secular Jews, old and young from all over the world; often conversing in a language which is spoken only by a small group of people?
For those in the know, the answer is obvious, the Jewish Music Institute’s annual summer school, a week of classes and events at the heart of a two-month programme of concerts and events. The summer school, held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) centres on Ashkenazi culture, with intensive Yiddish classes, a dance school named Tants Tants Tants and courses on Yiddish song and klezmer. This year, for the first time, all four summer schools are being held on the same week. The organisers hope this will mean that the experience is even more intense than usual, “so that there are even greater opportunities for creative synergies to take place,” says Gil Karpas, JMI’s events manager.
The courses are led by Khayele Beer, lecturer in Yiddish from UCL’s Hebrew Studies department; Shura Lipovsky, the Yiddish singer and judge of the International Jewish Music Competition; Ros Hawley, the clarinettist who founded the University of Manchester’s klezmer course, and the UK’s leading Jewish and Israeli dance leader, the celebrated dancer, percussionist and band leader Guy Schalom.
Each day culminates in performances, giving visitors a chance to enjoy the work of some of the world-class performers and experts involved, including singers from the UK, Russia and America and klezmer musicians including the Grammy- winning Klezmatics, the London Klezmer Quartet, Shekoyokh and the Berlin klezmer powerhouse Trio Yas.
Karpas says that an eclectic group of people attend the summer school. Ot Azoy, the Yiddish school is attractive to secular and Orthodox Jews. “They study together with a keen interest in connecting with their culture and heritage.” They are joined by older people looking to reconnect with the language of their childhood homes. The course on Yiddish song, the Golden Peacock, attracts singers from the best music schools, and members of Jewish choirs in London and Brighton, while the klezmer school is a must for members of klezmer bands, who get a special discount rate.
“We feel very humble to have the privilege to work, programme and commission world leaders in Ashkenazi culture to express their love and wealth of talent to such an engaged audience,” adds Karpas.
The evenings, from Sunday August 6, feature an event from each school faculty. On Sunday, it’s song; on Monday, Yiddish lectures and film and a klezmer jam session. Tuesday August 8 sees an international dance off between the Jewish dance school and an international folk society from London, and the concert on Wednesday August 9 has a special appearance from the head of Kleztival in Sao Paulo, Brazil. On Thursday, there’s a public concert from all the students and on Friday everyone takes part in a Yiddish parade through Bloomsbury.
The focus of the summer schools is Ashkenazi, but the JMI hasn’t forgotten Sephardi music. From 7-11 September this will be celebrated, with a concert on the 7th as part of the Sephardi Voices exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Camden; Baladi Blues Reloaded at the JMI’s big free festival Klezmer in the Park: The Big Mix in Regents Park London on September 10 and a master class with Iraqi Jewish musician Yair Dalal at SOAS on September 11. The plan is to develop the Sephardi and Mizrachi festival in September into a permanent fixture, like the Ashkenazi celebration in August.
This summer the JMI and the JC are offering a deal to JC readers, 10% off all JMI events, concerts and courses, by using the code JC2017 when booking through the JMI websitewww.jmi.org.uk/events