The Klezmatics: A Happy Joyous Hanukkah


The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)  in Phoenix, Arizona, is hosting The Klezmatics, an award-winning klezmer band from New York, for a Hanukkah concert on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 7:30 pm.

The name of the event is “The Klezmatics: A Happy Joyous Hanukkah,” and will include music from their album “Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah.”  This album gives the performance its name and is known for putting new music to lyrics that Guthrie wrote before his death.

The band won a Grammy for another album that uses lyrics written by Guthrie, “Wonder Wheel.”

The Klezmatics have performed Hanukkah concerts at the MIM’s theater multiple times since it was established in April 2010.

Patrick Murphy, the theater manager at the MIM, says the Klezmatics are a good complement to the Hanukkah season.

“It’s such a joy to see them come back,” Murphy says.

Frank London, trumpeter for the Klezmatics and a member since its inception in the mid-1980s, says he loves the MIM. He says it has a great atmosphere, it is full of caring people and that doing Hanukkah, there can be a “really fun party.”

“I think we can get people on their feet (this performance),” London says. “I want to get people dancing in the aisles.”

London says he feels lucky to be able to make Hanukkah songs because there are so few of them.

“It feels good, like an honor, to hear when someone says they sing our songs in their service,” he says.

London says many people and groups use their music for celebrating holidays, especially Hanukkah and Passover. He says Woody Guthrie’s music is especially popular.

Lisa Gutkin, the band’s violinist for the past 17 years, says it was a tremendous honor to work with the Woody Guthrie archives, which is how they were able to make music using his lyrics.

“It’s not like (Guthrie) wrote a million Hanukkah songs… to set Woody’s works to music is a big honor, and the music is really fun,” Gutkin says. “The lyrics are quirky and funny, and so it’s a treat for us to do this every year, to revisit Woody and his vision of Judaism.”

Gutkin and London both say they and the band are ethnomusicologists to a degree, which means they enjoy studying the music of different cultures.

Gutkin says she loves the MIM, and the ethnomusicological aspect of the band fits in well at the museum because of their celebration of the music of other cultures.

“(We) spend a lot of time studying that so that we can play in a very real traditional way,” Gutkin says. “Then you go to a place like the MIM that really appreciates that and celebrates it… it’s fascinating.”

London says that, while their music isn’t especially well-known among younger generations,  playing at places like the MIM allows them to reach younger people and bring in fans of different ages. Though, London gives all the credit to the music for being able to reach people of all ages.

Murphy says The Klezmatics’ brand of klezmer is fun, exciting, and that it has a message of “togetherness.” He says they always make the audience happy, and that audience members ask if they will be coming back any time soon.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit MIM.org.

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