Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Heart and Soul of Gypsy Music

I believe it is time to begin working on next year’s repertoire, not the least of which is this violin and cello Duo by Zoltán Kodály that concertmaster Gabe Lefkowitz and I will be playing on October 2 and 3 at Remedy Coffee. It’s a piece I know well but have never performed. I remember witnessing performances of it in college and marveling at the exotic, gypsy-delic musical language and pyrotechnics, and thinking, “how am I, a suburban kid from Connecticut with a cigar-box instrument, going to sound like that)?!

Well, I like to believe that some of that gypsy business has taken root in me over the decades, but in case it hasn’t, something I did recently can only help. This past weekend I have been in Northampton, Mass. at Django in June, a gypsy jazz summit which has happened at Smith College every June for 10 years now. My affinity for and participation in this genre is fairly recent (about 8 years), but I made a splash in the gypsy jazz community this weekend and held my own with some scarily talented artists. What’s more, the source of the gypsy-flavored writing in Kodály’s Duo revealed itself to me in the person of one Tcha Limberger, a blind guitarist/violinist/vocalist whose every move embodied the spirit of gypsy music.

Since Django Reinhardt was a guitarist, there were a predominance of guitarists in attendance, but violins, mandolins, basses, and accordions were also there. An ensemble of 10 accordionists was one of the highlights of my experience there, as well as multiple groups of musicians jamming on the lawn and in various rooms on the Smith campus. I could go on and on about this; how it was somewhat of a homecoming for me, (although I went to nearby UMass-Amherst, my wife Helen went to Smith and the quartet we played in practically lived at Smith), and how Knoxville was one of the most-represented cities at the camp, but suffice it to say that I wished I didn’t have to leave and I am now charged up with new ways to tackle the playing of the Kodály.

Here are some videos of Tcha Limberger playing various gypsy instruments. Enjoy!

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