Friday, August 27, 2010

Klezmer Music in The Abuhav Synagogue in Tzfat

From May to say the end of October the weather 'forecasts' here in Israel are pretty boring. Creative weather reporting consists of 'hot', 'temperatures hotter than normal for the season', 'seasonably hot', 'a small drop in temperature' and these last few weeks we have been hearing the phrase 'extreme heat'. Now certain parts of the country, like our hometown of Rehovot, can have 80% humidity and on an 'extreme heat' day just walking across the street can produce the sensation of walking through a hot mist. On days like those Rehovot folk dream of  being the hilly areas like Jerusalem and the Gallil where we think it's better because the humidity is lower.
To escape the humidity and because we love the views and the music we booked a zimmer in Tzfat (or Safed, if you prefer). A zimmer (from the German word for room) is a room or small apartment, usually attached to a home which can be equipped with a bath or shower and sometimes a fancy 'jacuzzi' and some kind of kitchen corner usually with a fridge. Fortunately ours was air conditioned because humidity or no, it was HOT.
In recent years, Tzfat has become famous for hosting a Klezmer Festival where over three evenings there are over 100 performances in eight spots in the historic section of the city. Thousands of people sit on plastic chairs or the stone steps of amphitheaters and enjoy traditional Jewish music.Besides the festival itself, Giora Feidman  (who has done more than anyone to popularize and revitalize the genre) has been organizing master classes in clarinet. He invites master musicians from around the world and students come and learn from them. In the evenings there are free concerts which are open to the public. These are less formal and include performances by the master virtuosos as well as the students.  This year we visited Tzfat when the master classes were being held. 
On Friday afternoon there was a 'Kabalat Shabbat' (welcoming the sabbath) concert in the Abuhav Synagogue. The synagogue is named after Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav, a 15th century Spanish rabbi. and was built to resemble Spanish synagogues incorporating kabbalistic symbols into the design. It was recently refurbished. It was an amazing experience. The musicians played lovely traditional shabbat music in various arrangements. At one point some of the women musicians came up to the balcony where I was sitting and continued playing along with the musicians playing downstairs. It gave new meaning to music-in-the-round! 
After having spent the morning exploring the old Jewish quarter and visiting the city's first cheese factory this concert was the perfect way to prepare for a really restful Shabbat in this beautiful city. 
Below is a clip of Chanan Bar-Sela who is one of the moving forces behind the Klezmer Festival and the master classes and concerts. The man getting his picture taken with the talented musician is the mayor of Tzfat. 

1 comment:

FF14 Gil said...

After having invested the morning hours discovering the old Judaism one fourth and viewing the town's first dairy products manufacturer this show was the perfect way to prepare for a really relaxing Shabbat in this wonderful city.
FF14 Gil
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