SCoJeC was delighted to be joined via Zoom from Inverliever onLoch Awe in the Western Highlands for “An Evening of Klezmer” with musicians Gica Loening and Michael Alpert. Gica is an Edinburgh based musician and Michael is a celebrated instrumentalist and a National Heritage Fellow of the United States. Gica and Michael first started playing together in 2017 but this was first time they had played together for a while and it was wonderful to watch this fantastic musical reunion.
For this hybrid event, Gica and Michael were joined physically in the room by friends and family who cheered them on as they played, and they welcomed the audience in the zoom room with open arms as they treated us to an array of traditional pieces as well as more recently composed music in the Klezmer tradition.
Using their music as an window on their lives, Gica and Michael chatted between songs about each of their family histories, and their own life stories that brought them here to Scotland. Michael sang the Sy Kahn song Crossing the Border which prompted Gica to share how her parents ‘crossed the border’ in 1939 when they fled to Edinburgh from Berlin and how they built a home for themselves on the East coast. These heartwarming tales added to the cozy atmosphere of the evening, warming as we enter the winter months and the long nights draw in.
Gica reflected after the event that: “It was lovely to beam our klezmer, Scots tunes, and stories out to SCoJeC members, friends, and family across Scotland and beyond, from the intimate setting of a rural retreat on the West Highland coast. It was a unique experience to play for both zoom as well as a small in-house live audience, and we hope that the convivial atmosphere carried across the airwaves. That online and live experience offers great possibility for more to take part, no matter which part of the world you are in. However, nothing beats a live gig and we look forward to playing for you all in person, face to face, heart to heart, as soon as we can!”
The evening was compered by Adam Schwartz, one of the newly appointed Technical Assistants for our Jewish Scotland Connected project. It was wonderful to have him host his first SCoJeC event, and he commented, "It was a delight to be a part of an evening of Klezmer with Michael and Gica. The unique presence of Klezmer in Scotland evoked the sense of Yiddish culture yet having a modern twist with Michael and Gica’s storytelling. They used klezmer to illustrate their family’s immigrant stories of coming to a new and unfamiliar land. Both musicians also presented the audience with 1960s-esque folk songs and biographic excerpts to evoke a sense of connecting the viewer to their own life story. This being one of my first events for SCoJeC, I felt very honoured to present Gica and Michael to the Jewish communities across Scotland. Here is to more amazing Jewish programming in Scotland.”
SCoJeC Chair Nicola Livingstone spoke for all of the audience when she said, “I thoroughly enjoyed attending my first Klezmer concert as Chair of SCoJeC! These events have always been a wonderful way to come together as a community through the power of music. We loved having Gica and Michael, and we hope to have them back in person to entertain us all soon!”