Klezmer Festival!

I was lucky enough to have a front row seat and plenty of light, so out came the sketchbook. How much happier could I be than to listen to amazing music while drawing the amazing musicians making said music?

Last night we heard the trio Veretski Pass play their Klezmer Shul, a beautiful piece of music that combines Jewish sacred and secular music of Eastern Europe (and maybe some “co-territorial” music from other cultures).

In a talk with the audience after, the fiddler Cookie Segelstien (oh, alright, she’s a violinist, if you want to reference her work in the classical world. As if being an amazing Klezmer fiddler isn’t enough) told us that there used to be, a long time ago, special shuls (houses of worship) dedicated to specific tradesmen. There were shuls for builders, and tailors, and, they think, there were shuls for musicians. Cookie said, “we asked the question, in that light, what kind of music would Klezmer musicians jam on?”

The music was terrific. It was haunting, and joyful, and all the things you’d expect from three amazingly gifted musicians mining the very roots of their musical souls. The Klezmer Shul is what happens when classically trained musicans cross over into folk music and create something new and wonderful.

I loved what I heard last night, but it was more academically inclined (not that this is a bad thing, mind you). It’s just that the kind of music in the clip below makes my heart dance. This video clip is pure Klezmer.

I’m hoping we’ll have some of this music in the house soon. My own fiddler has been away these last two days, attending Klezmer workshops at the KlezCalifornia yiddish Culture Festival at Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto. I would have loved to join in the fun, but I just can’t take on another hobby right now. But I’m hoping he brings home some tunes.

Reynard’s accordion

Reynard's accordion 2009 Margaret Sloan Watercolor
Reynard’s accordion
© 2009 Margaret Sloan Watercolor

The accordion has gotten a bad rap in this country, thanks to cheesy lounge lizard music and guys in glittery suits. But there are other sides to this instrument, facets that do not include champagne bubbles and Lady of Spain. Accordions have morphed into something new whenever a culture touched them.

I like accordion music, particularly music played on the button box. Particularly Irish music played on the button box (no surprise there), although I’ll take a good French Canadian reel too. English country music on the button box sounds great. And don’t forget accordion is a staple in  Cajun music.

It makes sense to me that a fox should play the accordion. And the fellow in this painting reminds me of a fox.

Raynard the fox was, in European folklore, a trickster, a shape-shifter, a magical animal. May Day seems like a day he is in top form.

I like to think of my Raynard  attracting fluffy white rabbits with his accordion, wooing them with a rockin’ reel or a seductive waltz on dry-tuned reeds and then…well, what he does with the bunnies when he catches them is best left to your imagination. I can assure you that my Reynard doesn’t bite their little heads off, and that they’re pretty happy to have been caught.

Anxiety and accordions

Last night I was waylaid by anxiety. You know the feeling: heart racing, mind jumping like a monkey shrieking at each imagined worse case scenario.

It felt something like this:

Colored markers on slick paper
Colored markers on slick paper

Well, I wasn’t actually feeling quite this armageddon-ish, despite world events cascading towards something scary in a most remarkable manner. Instead,  my anxiety was of a personal nature, stemming from the feeling of falling behind, of not painting enough, of not moving fast enough towards my goal, of being too lax, too lazy.

Part of this stems from late night reading of artist blogs, stories like Middle of Nowhere, about a toymaker in the UK, or Andrea Joseph’s sketch blog, that has lovely drawings in such a beautiful style. I admire these artists, and  they give me something to stretch for, to be sure, but also they make me feel so far behind.

So, since the bed was making me feel prickly and itchy, I got up at 1 a.m. and drew this fellow.

Accordion player number 1
Accordion player number 1

It’s my first pass at a painting I want to make of a Morris accordion player on May Day. However, this fellow looks too innocent. Too farmboy to play a diabolical instrument like the accordion.

This is better. I like his smirk. I like that he looks like a magician. The Morris dancers say they dance to keep the sun coming up on May Day. Some days I think it takes a magician to do that. I’ll start painting him this evening.

Accordion player number 2
Accordion player number 2