A Collaborative Program Celebrates Jewish Heritage | Arts News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
Pin It
Favorite

A Collaborative Program Celebrates Jewish Heritage 

State of the Arts

Most people pay rent in dollars and cents; Vermont’s Counterpoint chorus pays its rent in song. For the last two years, Montpelier’s T.W. Wood Gallery & Arts Center has given the singers rehearsal space in exchange for an annual benefit concert there. This year, the chorus teams up with Tim Tavcar, director of WordStage, a Chamber Music Theater, to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month with an evening of Yiddish and Hebrew folk songs and stories.

The songs, many of which emerged from the villages and shtetls of Eastern Europe and America from the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries, celebrate everyday village life — work, love, children and Jewish holidays — as well as the Jewish people’s resistance and perseverance in the face of persecution. Counterpoint released a recording of the songs in 2004 called When the Rabbi Danced, and performed many of them earlier this month at the Rutland Jewish Center in honor of the center’s 100th anniversary.

The Wood show will feature solely a cappella arrangements. “We’re not doing the stuff where people get up and dance the hora,” says Counterpoint director Nathaniel Lew. The songs cover about a century of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, ranging from folk songs poking fun at girls who are desperate to get married to bleak songs from the shtetls. Many are well known, including “Hatikva,” the Zionist song that became Israel’s national anthem. “It’s a fervent kind of song, full of longing to return [to Israel],” says Lew.

The program concludes with the emotional “Zog Nit Keynmol,” which was written in Poland’s Vilna Ghetto during the Holocaust and became the unofficial anthem of survivors.

Between musical acts, Tavcar, a former publicity director for the Wood (he lives part of the year in Cleveland but still coordinates special events for the gallery), will bring to life Tevye the dairyman, the jovial father figure most people know from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. Tavcar’s Tevye, however, comes straight from Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye and His Daughters, the 1894 fictional memoir that inspired the musical.

Tavcar will perform two stories, which take the form of letters from Tevye to Aleichem. The first recounts Jewish village life at the turn of the century: Tevye struggles to sell his butter and cheese and to marry off his seven daughters to reliable husbands. The stories showcase Tevye’s sense of humor, Tavcar says, “not laugh-out-loud, screamingly funny, but very gentle, philosophical humor.”

The second piece was written later, after the Russian pogroms and World War I. “It’s a paean to the indomitable Jewish spirit in the face of adversity,” says Tavcar.

Want to hear for yourself?

“Mir Zaynen Do — We Are Here: Yiddish and Hebrew Songs From the Old Country,” performed by Counterpoint and WordStage, Thursday, May 19, 7:30 p.m. at T.W. Wood Gallery & Arts Center in Montpelier. $10-20. Info, 828-8743.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It
Favorite

More by Megan James

About The Author

Megan James

Megan James

Bio:
Megan James began writing for Seven Days in 2010, first as Associate Arts Editor. She later became an editor for Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT, and is currently a freelance contributor.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Latest in Arts News

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2017 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation