Klezmer pioneer and accordion wizard Alan Bern returns to KlezKanada, bringing together an all-star band of Jewish music luminaries (including Lorin Sklamberg, lead singer of the legendary Klezmatics; KlezKanada favorites Sasha Lurje and Daniel Kahn; violin virtuoso Mark Kovnatsky, and others) to showcase an almost forgotten side of the ‘Golden Age of Jewish music’ – the Jewish songs recorded in 1930’s Berlin, Germany by Hirsch Lewin on his Semer label. SEMER ReLOADED has brought this amazing music back to life with their critically acclaimed concerts throughout Europe. 70 years after the Holocaust, the rich legacy of Berlin’s Jewish music scene as documented on the Semer label can be passed on to present and future generations. SEMER ReLOADED will also allow us to meet and learn with master of Yiddish thieves’ songs, Fabian Schnedler, and improv wizard and Tzadik recording artist, Paul Brody.
1920s Berlin, a Golden Age of Jewish music and musicians. In this milieu we find Hirsch Lewin, formerly a forced laborer conscripted to Germany from his native Vilnius during World War I. After the war, Lewin decided to remain in Berlin, found work in a bookstore, and in 1932 created his own record label, “Semer”. One year later, the Nazis came to power, forbidding Jewish musicians to perform in non-Jewish settings. Semer became a Noah’s Ark for Jewish musicians who had nowhere else to go. For five years, Lewin mad recordings at a feverish pace, creating a precious time capsule of a world facing annihilation. On November 9, 1938, SA hordes attacked the Hebräische Buchhandlung, demolishing stock and store, including 4,500 recordings and 250 metal plates. The memory of the Semer label fell into oblivion for the next 60 years.
In 2012, the Berlin Jewish Museum commissions Alan Bern to create an ensemble to perform music based on the original Semer recordings, copies of which had miraculously been found scattered throughout the world. The Semer Ensemble’s depth and virtuosity can and does match the entire breadth of Hirsch Lewin’s original Semer label recordings. Its fresh interpretations and provocative, contemporary arrangements open a time tunnel between 1920s Berlin and today’s New Jewish Music: Berlin cabaret, Russian folk songs, Yiddish theater hits, operatic arias and cantorial music are just a small sample of this remarkable repertoire.
Alan Bern (director, piano, accordion) Paul Brody (trumpet) Daniel Kahn (voice, ukulele, accordion) Mark Kovnatskiy (violin) Martin Lillich (bass) Sasha Lurje (voice) Fabian Schnedler (voice, electric guitar) Lorin Sklamberg (voice, accordion)
SEMER ReLOADED’s participation at KlezKanada is made possible in cooperation with the Ashkenaz! Festival.