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Ruth Rubin, Klezmer Conservatory maintain Yiddish traditions


Lecture-recital by Ruth Rubin.

Performance by an ensemble of the

Klezmer Conservatory Band.

Kresge Little Theatre,

Saturday, November 18.


FOLK SONG "reflects the day-to-day life of the people . . . It expresses what the community feels like," said Ruth Rubin, legendary folklorist and assembler of Yiddish folk song, Saturday night in Kresge Little Theater.

With a clear, energetic voice she sang and spoke her way through the life cycle in Yiddish song. Oy! What to do when a mallet hits your shutters at dawn to arouse the faithful to prayer and the baby starts shrieking? You sing a lullaby to put the baby to sleep, and Rubin sang a gentle, rocking tune.

Then we heard other lullabies with less gentle themes: "Sometimes the text of the lullaby had nothing to do with the baby; the baby doesn't know," Rubin said. She sang of the annoyance of the babysitter who had to change diapers, and the plaint of the woman deserted by a man who had promised to marry her but had married another.

"Childhood was short," and boys would be sent off at bar mitzvah to learn a trade. Rubin sang a vigorous apprentices' song, and one bewailing a child's fate as a seamstress. Love songs -- part of a clandestine culture given the custom of arranged marriages -- came next, then tunes for a wedding. Many were sad songs, but an upbeat "nonsense song" was included as well.

Rubin's involvement in both her singing and her lecturing made her texts come out from the past and live today. It was all rather touching, but energizing, too.

After the intermission, an ensemble from the Klezmer Conservatory Band hit the floor for a very lively set. The beat was strong; the Yiddisher spirit was fiery. Ilene Stahl on clarinet put in a very spicy performance of a Rumanian Doyne. Judy Bressler sang several numbers with great character, while the racy colors and ebulliance -- in sadness as well as in rejoicing -- of Director Hankus Netsky and other members of the band showed that this repertoire is alive and well. The evening ended with the audience dancing up and down the aisles of Kresge Little Theatre. "Dance with such passion it'll give a pain to your enemies" we were told. The enemies were surely vanquished as everyone left for home happy.