Yiddish Preservationists Take Their Subject To The Stage

Michael Alpert and Ethel Raim perform as part of the An-sky Yiddish Heritage Ensemble. i i

Michael Alpert and Ethel Raim perform as part of the An-sky Yiddish Heritage Ensemble. Janina Wurbs/Courtesy of The Center for Traditional Music and Dance hide caption

itoggle caption Janina Wurbs/Courtesy of The Center for Traditional Music and Dance
Michael Alpert and Ethel Raim perform as part of the An-sky Yiddish Heritage Ensemble.

Michael Alpert and Ethel Raim perform as part of the An-sky Yiddish Heritage Ensemble.

Janina Wurbs/Courtesy of The Center for Traditional Music and Dance

The name of the An-sky Yiddish Heritage Ensemble doubles as its mission statement: The quartet of performers and researchers has built a repetoire of old Yiddish folk songs dating back 100 years to the shtetls of Ukraine, in hopes of keeping that music from disappearing. Michael Alpert, who sings in the group, says it's part of a revival of Eastern Eurpoean Jewish culture that's be going on for nearly 40 years.

"We often, these days, talk about Yiddish land — which is not a particular piece of territory, but it is all the places in the world where Yiddish culture survives and continues, and is both preserved and renewed and reinvented in a contemporary existence," Alpert says. "To me, these songs, they express everything that's in life and in our lives. Even though they may be very old songs, they still have a tremendous emotional content. They're new and meaningful to those of us that sing them."

Michael Alpert and fellow singer Ethel Raim recently spoke with weekends on All Things Considered about the genesis and motivation of the An-sky Ensemble. Click the audio link to hear more.

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