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Klezm’Or’Ami’m Celebrates Thirty Years

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By Win Loria

Klezm’Or’Ami’m (which translates into “klezmer musicians from Congregation Or Ami” celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year.

The late Alan Smith founded the group in 1994 as a study group but we just couldn’t keep such a good thing to ourselves…and before we knew it, we were performing to enthusiastic audiences!

We enjoy performing to new audiences unfamiliar with klezmer as well as to those who are familiar with this genre of music.

Klezmer is dance party music with a Jewish soul. It started in Eastern Europe in the 19th century when small groups of wandering musicians – usually clarinetists, trumpet players and violinists – traveled from village to village, playing for both Jewish and non-Jewish events and audiences.

Klezmer arrived in America beginning in the early 1900s and adopted a few of the elements of its new homeland, most notably, the piano. Klezmer went on to influence early jazz.

 

See the photos of Klezm’Or’Ami’m over the years including one with Gov. Ralph Northam at the Executive Mansion.

 

The opening of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” is a straight klezmer riff for clarinet. “When the Angels Sing” is based on a classical klezmer tune called “A Quiet Bulgur.”

Over the years, nearly 30 different musicians have played in the band. Klezm’Or’Ami’m has and continues to include both Jewish and non-Jewish members.

Members have included congregants of nearly every synagogue in Richmond and from the ages 13- 70+.

The band has performed as far east as Norfolk and as far west as Roanoke and Lynchburg.

In a future issue of the Reflector an article will be published focusing on some of the notable accomplishments of the band and some of its members, both past and present.