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UAlbany Jewish Studies Center Sponsors "Joel Engel: The Father of Jewish Folk Music"
September 28th lecture and performances of legendary composer of Eastern European Jewish music

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 13, 2006) -- The University at Albany Center for Jewish Studies and the Colonie Jewish Community Association will host a special public lecture and musical performance by accomplished pianist and ethno-musicologist, M. Rahima Hohlstein: "Joel Engel: The Father of Jewish Folk Music."

The performance will be held on Thursday, September 28, 7 p.m. at the William K. Sanford Town Library, 629 Albany-Shaker Road, Loudonville, N.Y. Light kosher refreshments will be served. The performance is free and open to the public, and all facilities are wheelchair accessible.

Called the father of Jewish national music by historian and scholar Irene Heskes, Joel Engel was the sustaining force of the Jewish Society for Folk Music in St. Petersburg, Russia from 1908 to 1918. Along with colleagues Pesach Marek and Saul Ginsburg, he collected folksongs from the Jewish population in the Pale of the Settlement, a small area of land on the western Russian borders, where 94 percent of the Jewish population was required to live. After a successful presentation to the Moscow Polytechnic Museum and the Imperial Ethnographical Society and at the encouragement of composers such as Balakierev, Engel helped to establish the Jewish Society for Folk Music. The society's purpose was, in part, to encourage musicians to use Jewish folk material and liturgical material in their compositions, establish a library of Jewish music, publish compositions, and organize concerts and lectures of Jewish music. Despite the historical and ethnological importance of Engel, he is generally unknown in the music world outside of Israel.

Engel arranged numerous folk songs for voice and piano, solo piano, and for violin and piano. What many consider to be his most ambitious composition was his incidental music to Shlomo Ansky's play, The Dybbuk. The original suite was written for string quartet, double bass and clarinet. The score parts were never published but Engel did publish his own arrangement of the suite for solo piano. Melodies from the suite can be traced directly to popular folk songs, which Engel collected in Jewish villages.

Hohlstein, the Bernard D. Arbit '42 Research Associate at the UAlbany Center for Jewish Studies, will discuss Joel Engel and his importance to the field of ethnomusicology. She will perform, with Gene Marie Callahan-Kern (soprano) and Leo Milman (violin), excerpts from The Dybbuk, "Fünf Klavierstücke, Op. 19" for piano; "Sommer-Skizzen, Op. 11;" and "Jewish Ballet Dance, No. 1." The performances will be followed by a question and answer period.

The lecture is part of the annual educational program endowed at the Center for Jewish Studies by the Colonie Jewish Community Association.

For further information, contact Yoel Hirschfeld at the Center for Jewish Studies at (518) 591-8514, or yoel@albany.edu, or the William K. Sanford Town Library at (518) 458-9274.

 


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