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Forty Years in Yiddishland: The Yiddish Book Center Celebrates the Klezmer Conservatory Band

AMHERST – On the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 24, the Yiddish Book Center will present “40 Years in Yiddishland: The Yiddish Book Center Celebrates the Klezmer Conservatory Band,” a video special celebrating the 40th  anniversaries of the Yiddish Book Center and the Klezmer Conservatory Band (KCB), two enduring institutions pivotal in spearheading the unprecedented international resurgence of Yiddish culture.  

The broadcast will feature Dr. Hankus Netsky, KCB founder and director, New England Conservatory Contemporary Improvisation Department co-chair, and former Yiddish Book Center Center vice president for education, Dr. Hankus Netsky, and Aaron Lansky, the Center’s founder and president. 

It will include a historical overview of the band’s history, along with exciting video concert footage from over the years, including excerpts from such acclaimed productions as A Jumpin’ Night in the Garden of Eden (1986), The Fool and the Flying Ship with Robin Williams (1991), and two PBS Great Performances specials, “In the Fiddler’s House” with Itzhak Perlman (1997) and “Rejoice” (2014), featuring the KCB along with Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. The program will present Netsky and Lansky in conversation with LA Times and NPR film critic Kenneth Turan, along with tribute greetings from well-known KCB collaborators, including Itzhak Perlman and Joel Grey.  

MacArthur Fellow Aaron Lansky is credited with not only single-handedly rescuing the rich world of Yiddish literature from its path toward near extinction in the mid-twentieth century but also with making that literature accessible worldwide through the massive digitization and translation projects he launched through the Yiddish Book Center. Multi-instrumentalist, composer, and scholar Hankus Netsky has been instrumental in transforming the once forgotten Eastern European Jewish instrumental genre known as “klezmer” into one of the most ubiquitous and widely recognized contemporary strains of world music. He is also credited with mentoring several younger generations of the music’s best-known practitioners. Their discussion will explore how forty years of activism has assured Yiddish literature and music an enduring place not only in the world of Jewish culture but among the world’s most cherished cultural traditions. 

The KCB and the Yiddish Book Center have been celebrating together throughout the histories of both organizations, beginning with the band’s appearance at the Center’s milestone events in Amherst as early as 1981 and continuing more recently with their performances as perennial headliners at the Center’s Yidstock Festival of New Yiddish Music. 

The 90-minute special will be presented live via Zoom starting at 2 p.m. and will also stream live on the Yiddish Book Center’s Facebook page. If you’d like to reserve a virtual seat in the Zoom audience, which will allow you to submit questions, registration is required.

Main Photo: The Klezmer Conservatory Band

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