History of Maxwell Street Klezmer Band


Maxwell Street Klezmer Band

Writer and historian Studs Terkel, said of this band, “The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band is a joyous celebration of music that was—and fortunately, still is.”

In the 18th century, Jewish and Roma musicians crisscrossed Eastern Europe, playing for weddings and other celebrations. The unique musical style that emerged from this cross-fertilization of Chassidic and gypsy folk styles is called “klezmer,” a Yiddish word meaning “folk musician.” The Fiddler on the Roof—he was a klezmer!

In the early 20 th century, Jewish refugees fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe arrived at America’s shores. Many of them continued to play their traditional music, adding the jazz style and instruments popular at the time. Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, which is named after Chicago’s famous Jewish marketplace, revives this blend of Old Country and Big Band music that has been captured on recordings from the 1920s- 1940s. Audiences of all backgrounds are delighted by Maxwell Street's high-energy performances that glow with warmth and humor.

Founded in 1983 by Lori Lippitz, Maxwell Street has played at Carnegie Hall and toured Europe. The band marked its 30th “Bandiversary” at The Old Town School of Folk Music in 2013. The band was featured in 2014 with The Lyric Opera of Chicago in the world’s first klezmer opera (“The Property”). In 2015, they performed with Chicago Sinfonietta in a classical klezmer composition created for violinist Alex Koffman (“Klezmer Rhapsody” by Ilya Levinson) at Chicago’s Symphony Center. In 2016-2017, the band toured its new show ("The Whole Megillah: The Story of the Yiddish Theater") in Florida and other states.

Maxwell Street has five commercial CDs. As part of their grassroots mission, the band directs three community klezmer bands and the Junior Klezmer Orchestra. They are also the founder of the interfaith ensemble, The Salaam-Shalom Music Project.

As the folksinger and actor Theodore Bikel said, “These are fine musicians…they care about the music. And when they care—I care.”

 

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