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This article was prepared for the February 18, 2004 issue of U.S.

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Kleztravaganza At Richardson

Joyful exuberance, poignant longing, and great musicianship collide

irresistibly in the music of Princeton’s own Klez Dispensers. The Klez

is one of two groups joining forces to help Princeton University

Center for Jewish Life (CJL) celebrate Jewish Awareness month with a

concert on Sunday, February 22, at 3 p.m., in Richardson Auditorium on

the university campus. After the show, the Klez will celebrate the

release of their latest CD, "The New Jersey Freylekhs." Sharing the

concert program are the Klezmocrats, an undergraduate band that is

carrying on the klezmer tradition at the university.

The Klez Dispensers began in 1998 as Princeton University’s official

student Klezmer band. Its members were students and graduate students

– mostly in science and technology. Since graduation, its members have

dispersed to jobs and graduate school, but they still make time to

perform throughout the tri-state area.

One of the founders of the group is clarinetist Alex Kontorovich, a

graduate of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School and member of

Princeton’s Class of 2002. Kontorovich, who also played alto and

baritone sax in Princeton’s student jazz ensembles, is in his second

year of graduate school in mathematics at Columbia University. He was

recently was invited to play with the world-famous Klezmatics music

group, filling in for their clarinet player at two New York City


The band members’ backgrounds are diverse and international, but have

put down roots in the area. Pianist Adrian Banner, who was born and

raised in Australia, began playing piano at three and completed his

PhD in mathematics at Princeton in 2002. He is now on the Princeton

faculty and has just completed a book on calculus, to be published by

Princeton University Press. Banner is engaged to the group’s violin

and mandolin player Amy Zakar, who joined the group after graduating

from Princeton. An organizer of Klezmerpalooza ’01, she teaches

strings at Princeton Day School. The couple plan an August wedding.

Trumpeter Ben Holmes and saxophonist Audrey Betsy Wright are Princeton

High School graduates. Holmes is a research assistant in psychology at

New York University. Drummer Gregg Mervine comes from Langhorne,

Pennsylvania, and studies music at the University of the Arts in

Philadelphia. Bassist Julian Rosse hails from Hopewell.

The group’s new album title, "New Jersey Freylekhs" is titled for the

Yiddish word for a joyful dance. "You can’t help but dance to

Klezmer," says Adrian Banner. "We always encourage people to get up

out of their chairs and dance at our concerts, though usually it

happens spontaneously anyway. At that point, all barriers are broken

down and the concert becomes a party."

"We’re like family," adds Mervine, "and our concerts have a family

feel to them because many people in our audience grew up with this

music. It’s in their bones. Sometimes people start singing the

melodies before we even play a note."

The month-long CJL" observance concludes on Tuesday, February 24, when

Daniel Libeskind, architect of the new World Trade Center, gives the

annual William G. Bowen / Stafford Little Lecture on "Building Places

from Memory. The lecture, at McCosh 50, is free and open to the


Kleztravaganza, Princeton University Center for Jewish Life,

Richardson Auditorium, 609-258-5000. $15 adults; $5 students. Sunday,

February 22, 3 p.m.

Daniel Libeskind, Princeton University Center for Jewish Life, McCosh

50, 609-258-3635. Free. Tuesday, February 24, 8 p.m.

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