Ellen Kushner's radio program "Sound and Spirit" had a couple of Jewish themed shows recently.
The first was titled "The New Klezmorim" and "follows Klezmer from its earliest days of cross-fertilization with Balkan Gypsy dance music, to America and its meeting with African-American Jazz, and on into the 21st century as new Klez bands hit fusion with a techno bang. We'll also use Klezmer's journey to explore what it means to be a Jew in a changing world."
The second was titled "The Golden Dreydl: A Klezmer Nutcracker for Chanukah" and presents "an award-winning family entertainment featuring the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, as interpreted by Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, with original story and narration by Ellen Kushner. Together, they have created a brand-new retelling of an old tale: Sara is a little girl with a problem: she hates the annual family Chanukah party! But when a mysterious party guest gives her the gift of a golden dreydl, Sara is catapulted into a magical world of demons and fools, sorcerers and sages."
I used to live in Boston and got to see Shirim play pretty regularly. I never got to see them do the Golden Dreydl, but I've got a copy of their album. It's wonderful, funny disc. I highly recommend it as away to confuse and amuse your Christian coworkers at the annual Christmas party. Step 1. Commandeer the stereo. Step 2. Slip in the disc. Step 3. Watch merriment ensue. I've done this a bunch of times to great effect.
Anyway, for those who haven't listened to it before,
"Sound & Spirit is a weekly series of hour-long radio programs exploring the human spirit through music and ideas. ...Sound & Spirit weaves history, myth, and spiritual traditions together with music to take listeners on a journey around the world and through the ages. With subjects ranging from pilgrimage to family relationships, Shakers to Buddhists, and births to funerals, there is always something new to explore. "As long as there are human topics, there will be topics for our shows," says Ellen Kushner. "People from every culture and every generation have always marked their life experiences with rituals, stories and music."You get the idea. I honestly haven't listened in a long time, but will make a point of checking out these shows. My problem is that my local NPR station doesn't play it and, while they do put the shows on line, they don't podcast them. That means I can only listen while sitting in front of my computer, which doesn't work well for me. Anything with people talking is too distracting for work time. Oh well. I'll figure something out.
Hat tip to Ari at Klezmershack for posting a link to Sound and Spirit.