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This article was prepared for the February 18, 2004 issue of U.S.
1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
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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