Moderator and blogger Riggy Rackin leads us in an investigation as to why so many musicians in a typical Irish music session are Jews. History and happenstance, summer camp experience, travel and musical ancestors have all had their way with us. The appeal of another culture's melodic variation on the kinds of sadness we both know well brings us together.
Riggy Rackin, Concertina
Marla Fibish, Mandolin
Lewis Santer, Bouzouki
Riggy Rackin "It was The Beatles' fault. They came along when bar mitzvah lessons had ceased, making room for music lessons.
They made a different kind of music, with neat baroque chords and words that mattered. My dad took me to his favorite Greenwich Village haunts, with coffee and guitars and other folks who spoke words that mattered. My first guitar teacher, Bream-devotee David Harris, sprang from that same milieu, and instilled an appreciation for those modes not found in doo-wop and blues. Soon I was playing Scarlatti and thumbing through the more obscure record bins on 8th Street and in the Folklore Center. It was those special records that brought me to England a few years later.
"New York was the cultural focus for my whole family. Mom decided I was special and set me up with several New York agencies to get modeling and acting jobs. In the mid-60s I performed with a rock and roll band called Richard and the Young Lions, playing electric bass. We had a record that was a hit in some West Coast and Midwest markets, but not in our home market, as New York was having a radio announcer strike in the summer of 1966. We got airplay, but nobody knew who it was because they never SAID who was playing! The following year I moved to Philadelphia to go to college. Even though I attended Temple University, in my sophomore year I fell in with a bunch of art student musicians at Philadelphia College of Art. I met John Specker there and we ended up working together for years afterward.
"In the mid-70s I was asked to be part of an ambitious bicentennial production by the Cambridge, MA Proposition Theatre. The goal was to weave entries from actual ship's logs and traditional whaling songs into a true-to-life dramatic presentation. I found the music, taught the actors how to sing in an authentic style, serving as Music Director, and provided concertina accompaniment. The Whale Show
succeeded to considerable acclaim, and we toured the show in New York and throughout New England."
Read more at riggy.com/jews-in-irish-music/
is one of the prominent voices of the mandolin in Irish music. She brings a deep and distinctive sensibility to the tradition on one of its lesser-heard instruments. She has performed and taught nationally and in Ireland, and was a featured performer at the 2018 Masters of Tradition Festival in Bantry, County Cork.
Marla also plays mandola, tenor guitar and button accordion, and is a singer and composer. She is known for her musical settings of works from a variety of poets, as well as original tunes written in traditional forms. This work is featured in the duo Noctambule, her longtime collaboration with guitarist and husband Bruce Victor.
Marla teaches private students and classes, online at Peghead Nation, and has been on the faculty of many music camps including The Swannanoa Gathering, The Mandolin Symposium, O'Flaherty Irish Music Retreat, Portal Irish Music Week, California Coast Music Camp, Colorado Roots Music Camp, Lark Camp and others. Her instructional DVD has been a popular self-learning tool, focused on acquiring the foundational technique for playing Irish music on the mandolin. Read more at www.marlafibish.com
Lewis Santer has integrated Irish music with his Jewish roots more successfully than anyone else I know. His Klezmer/Irish band, Ceilizemer, provided music for the films Shalom Ireland and Blessed is the Match.
The lutherie that bears Santer's name produces fine guitars and bouzoukis specifically designed for playing Irish music. All the members of both his energetic, straight-ahead Irish bands, Driving with Fergus and The Hup Pups have at least one Jewish parent. This journey was his own, but it shared central circumstances and experiences common to many: disappointment with bland, suburban Jewish life, socialist family members who had a vision of a better one, summer camps and travel to places where folk music was played, and eventually, Ireland.
Daytime Adult Learning and Culture Programs are made possible in part by the John R. Schwabacher Family as well as a grant from the Maimonides Fund at the Jewish Community Federation & Endowment Fund of San Francisco, The Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma and the East Bay.
Need a ride?
The OFJCC provides door-to-door rides for mobility-impaired seniors to all Community Tuesday lectures and concerts. The price is $10 for a round trip. All reservations must be made by Thursday morning the week before the event. To make a reservation, contact Betty Saad at [email protected] or (650) 223-8741.
Funded by the Senior Mobility Initiative at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.
Tuesday, September 24
Schultz Cultural Arts Hall
$15 or one punch ($10) of the Community Tuesdays Punch Card
No registration required | Pay at the door
Contact: Michelle Rosengaus | (650) 223-8616 | [email protected]