Current members of the Tucson klezmer group include (from left) Jeff Holsen, double-bass, Jay Vosk, clarinet, Michael Fan, violin, and Matt Mitchell, guitar.

Ethnic folk music comes to the Arizona Senior Academy, courtesy of The Klezmopolitans, who will return for an 11:30 a.m. concert on Tuesday (July 24).

Founded in 1984 as The Borderlands Klezmer Band, the group changed its name to The Klezmopolitans to reflect the cosmopolitan additions to their core Klezmer repertoire. Current players include founding member Jay Vosk clarinet, Michael Fan violin, Matt Mitchell guitar, and Jeff Holsen double bass.

Klezmer music, traditionally performed at weddings and festive celebrations, originated in the Jewish villages of Romania and spread throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. The clarinet and violin, typically featured in Klezmer bands, can expressively imitate the vocal sounds of laughing and weeping. Over time, a variety of instruments have been added such as trumpet, trombone, accordion and string bass.

With the emigration of many Eastern European Jews to the United States around the turn of the 20th century, Klezmer music began to be influenced by the popular American styles of jazz and blues. The success of the popular musical, Fiddler on the Roof, with its Klezmer-style score, helped spur widespread interest in Klezmer music in the 1970s.

The Klezmopolitans enjoy playing at modern weddings as well as for all audiences that delight in danceable rhythms, modal melodies, ornamental flourishes, and instruments that appear to be having a party with each other. Their repertoire ranges from traditional Klezmer tunes and Eastern European and gypsy music to jazz standards, classical favorites and original compositions.

Jay Vosk is a composer and professor of music theory at Pima Community College. Matt Mitchell is an award winning virtuoso guitarist who plays with Hot Club of Tucson and the Tucsonics. Jeff Holsen and Michael Fan are members of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. Fan is also a composer in his own right.

Written by Leslie Nitzberg, Academy Village Volunteer

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July 24: Klezmopolitans Play Music That Laughs and Weeps
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