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November 22, 2002 - Image 106

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-22

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Arts & Entertainment


Spiritual Sounds

The Klezmatics' Frank London brings a Chanukah
concert to the Jewish Community Center in Oak Park.

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raditional and modern.
Spiritual and cultural.
Jewish and universal.
Serious and celebratory.
Classic and innovative. Just as
Chanukah takes many forms in
America, so does the music of Frank
London, a trumpeter/keyboardist,
composer and producer who has been
recording jazz and modern Jewish
music since the mid-1980s, is bringing
one of his latest projects to the Jewish
Community Center in Oak Park on
Sunday, Dec. 1.
The 2 p.m. free concert, "Zmiros
and Nigunim: A Chanukah Treat of
Jewish Mystical Song," is sponsored by
Wayne State University's Cohn-
Haddow Center for Judaic Studies and
co-sponsored by the JCC, with sup-
port from the Frances and Charles
Driker Yiddish Cultural Fund and the
DeRoy Testamentary Foundation.
London and vocalist-accordionist
Lorin Sklamberg, a fellow co-founder
of the popular klezmer group The
Klezmatics, will be joined for the con-
cert by keyboardist Robert
Schwimmer. The program will feature
music from two London/Sklamberg
recordings: Nigunim (Tzadik Records)
and The Zmiros Project (Traditional
Nigunim and zmiros (or zmirot in
Modern Hebrew) are songs of devo-
tion and praise designed to induce a
state of piety and ecstasy in both per-
former and listener. The trio will focus
on the spiritual music of the
Chasidim, specifically on the prayers,
melodies and celebrations of the
Belzer, Gerer, Lubavitcher and
Skulaner movements.
These religious factions, which
gained prominence in Eastern Europe
during the 18th century, emphasized
the primacy of Torah study and
favored ecstatic, physical manifesta-
tions of religious devotion as opposed
to intellectual connections.
One of those manifestations is in
nigunim, wordless chants that might
be part of worship, but as London _
points out, "are spiritual but not litur-

Zmirot, on the other hand, "are
songs you sing on Shabbos at home at
the table with family and friends.
They can be very spirited," he says.
Reached at his home in Manhattan,
London, married with two children, is
very open and down-to-earth. At the
same time, he clearly has some ideas,
goals and music that could easily be
considered "other-worldly."
Performing music intended to uplift
and inspire the individual doing it,
while giving a concert for an audience,
can be a challenge, says London.
"We have to mediate between being
real to the thing and giving a perform-
ance. It is:a joy to share. We've learned
to do it, but it can be difficult."
"It's nice when we have an audience
familiar with the genre so we can go to
the same place together. We like to get
the audience singing and participating
and share a group experience." -

Spiritual Seeker

The melding of the individual with
the group experience is one of the
things London really enjoys and strives
to achieve. And from the individual
experiences and memories comes com-
"Part of what I consider one of the
many goals of these concerts is to
share the melodies. I get my repertoire
from all over the place and it is a joy
to share the songs. Often, after the
concerts, the audience ends up talking
about the songs they grew up with,"
he says.
London jokingly calls his current
level of religious practice "egalitarian
Chasidism," but as he explains, it
doesn't seem like a joke.
He was raised in what he calls a
"very, very observant Reform Jewish
household" on Long Island that was
typical of suburban America in the
1950s and 1960s. "We were very -
Jewish, very positive and very un-hyp-
ocritical," he says, though at the same
time "our Jewish-centric life was filled
with these gaping holes we didn't even
know existed.
"I've been through a lot of changes,
but I'm definitely just another seeker,"
he says. "I tend to daven (pray)
Orthodox, and the community of peo-
ple I share Shabbat and holidays with

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