Voice of Ashkenaz

Take part in the Yiddish Summer Weimar festival, one of the most intense learning experiences among Yiddish cultural events worldwide…

Singer Sveta Kundish Credit: Xenia Mushkat

Singer Sveta Kundish
Credit: Xenia Mushkat

The Yiddish Summer Weimar Festival for me is a place where I grow as an artist and a person, where I meet the best teachers and artists in the field of klezmer music and Yiddish song, where I create my own musical projects,” says Sveta Kundish. “It’s a place of inspiration and deep learning.” She is dedicated to a variety of Jewish music styles: born in Ukraine, Kundish began studying music when she was seven and continued her musical training in Israel. She holds a BA in musicology, studied Yiddish music in Nehama Lifshitz’s master class and graduated in 2011 from the Prayner Konservatorium in Vienna. Today, she is enrolled at the Cantorial School at the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam. The Yiddish Summer Weimar introduces the soprano as a “rising-star singer,” and she is one of the soloists featured in the festival’s opening concert, “The Voices of Ashkenaz.”
The title of this year’s Yiddish Summer Weimar, Bobe Mayses, looks back to a sixteenth-century Yiddish verse romance, the Bovo-Buch by the Renaissance scholar Elia Levita, which relates the chivalric adventures of the hero Bovo d’Antona. This romance, first composed in 1507, soon became one of the most popular works of Jewish secular literature and remained so over the next five hundred years. While in Yiddish, bobe is an affectionate name for grandmother, and mayse means tale or story, the term bobe mayse, however, probably derives from this very book. It is only fitting to start this year’s festival with a music project that reinterprets a shared tradition of Yiddish and German folksongs as part of a rich cultural matrix.

A turning point

For the past 15 years, the Yiddish Summer Weimar Festival (YSW) has brought Yiddish culture to this historic site of German Classicism. Evolving from summer klezmer workshops conducted by the international klezmer band Brave Old World, the program has developed a reputation for being one of the most intense learning experiences among Yiddish cultural events worldwide. Every year, artists, scholars and participants from two dozen countries meet at festival events and workshops over a period of several weeks, and many of the dedicated students who returned year after year have become teachers; for example Janina Wurbs, one of the leading experts on Yiddish language and culture of her generation. She has a special knowledge of different Yiddish dialects. “For many of the participants, including myself, the YSW workshops with Alan Bern became a turning point in our lives, both professionally and artistically,” she says.
The 2016 festival program, which is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, includes a conference on “Historically Informed Performance Practice,” figure theatre performances and a dance piece; “Gilgul” plays on the tradition of modern stage dances based on a Yiddish vocabulary of movement. The musical director of Brave Old World, Alan Bern, serves as the Artistic Director of YSW and has from the very beginning aspired to a high standard, seeking a deeper understanding of Eastern European Jewish expressive culture based on the shared cultural traits of all European cultures.
He and his team are in tune with today’s Jewish landscape, and one of this year’s highlights is a Yiddish Song concert in the Jewish Culture Center of Erfurt, home to a 750-member-strong
Jewish community.

Yiddish Summer Weimar takes place from July 10-August 12, with a Festival Week featuring program highlights from August 1-6. For further information, see:

Photo Credit: JVG

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