Music and Story for An Old-Fashioned Passover

Arts & Books

Music and Story for An Old-Fashioned Passover

Zelda Shluker

Radio and Recordings

The Witches of Lublin
This hour-long radio drama for Passover, written by Ellen Kushner, Elizabeth Schwartz and Yale Strom (with music by Yale Strom), is a story of faith, tragedy and redemption.

It is 1797 in Lublin, Poland. Passover is around the corner and money must be earned to buy food for the holiday. Despite the risk—pogroms are a familiar happening here—a grandmother, Rivke (Tovah Feldshuh), her two unmarried daughters and granddaughter dare to play klezmer in a gentile market (where shoppers call them witches) to supplement their earnings from needlework. Rivke is the daughter of a great mystic and a principled, compassionate and independent woman whose outspokenness can get her into trouble. Her biggest grief comes, however, when her granddaughter and Polish Count Sobielsky’s son fall in love.

The tale is based on Strom’s research, which found that there were women klezmer musicians in late-18th-century Poland. Directed and produced by Sue Zizza (SueMedia Productions), the program has already garnered awards for best audio drama and a Gracie Award for Outstanding Director of an Entertainment Program for the two CD Collector’s Edition. It also was listed as 2011 Best Books for Women, Booklist Online and 2011 Top Ten Best Full Cast Audio Drama, Audiofile Magazine.

All the voices are Broadway talents including Simon Jones, Barbara Rosenblat, Joanne Borts as well as popular author Neil Gaiman. Tune in to the radio between March 31 to April 14 or purchase the CD; check to see if one of your local radio stations is carrying the show (it is available free to stations) or for individual purchase.

The Devil’s Brides
This companion album to The Witches of Lublin has original music by Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi and includes works from late-19th-century Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Bessarabia, Transylvania and the Carpathian mountain region. These archival finds include kick-up-your-feet dances such as a lively, Polish-influenced hop heard at weddings (“Shtayngart’s Skotshne”), mournful vocals about a young girl in Vilna during World War I (“As okh un vey iz tsuzey”), a klezmer’s complaint—he doesn’t make enough money (“Dine Gelt”)—and a heartfelt niggun with violin (“Simkhas Hanefesh”) as well as popular songs such as “Tumbalalayka.”

Each of the 23 tracks includes a descriptive introduction by veteran voice artist Miriam Margolys. Arc Music Productions.

Passover Seder Songs
Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray sings the Passover standards in traditional melodies from “Kadesh Ur’chatz” and “Ma Nishtana” to “Dayenu” and “Chad Gadya.” But she also adds a fun song, “Don’t Sit on the Afikomen,” and concludes with a Zionistic, guitar-backed “Hatikva.” After all, wasn’t aliya the purpose of leaving Egypt?

Books for the Holiday: Upping the Passover Quotient - By Zelda Shluker

The Arts: Utopia, Visions and Evolution  - By Renata Polt

Florida's Foodies: Growers, Grocers & Gefilte Fish - By Molly Arost Staub

A Talk with Ari Shavit - By Stewart Kampel

Books: Israel, Looking Backward

Brief Reviews: Philosophy and Fatalism

Exhibit: Saving the Past - By Barbara Trainin Blank

Book Review: A Ride With Nicholas Sparks - By Zelda Shluker

Exhibit Review: Graphic Life - By Sara Trapper Spielman

The Many Sides of Peter Max - By Zelda Shluker

The Arts: United (Jewish) Artists - By Aaron Rosen

Brief Reviews: Beauty, Brutality and the Blues

Q&A with Director Claude Lanzmann - By Judith Gelman Myers

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