Performers

Zog Nit Keynmol Collection

Click on the performer’s name to read bio and then click on the player’s arrow to listen a music clip.

By Ilan’s Photos (Flickr), via Wikimedia Commons

Khave Alberstein

1947 –

Calling someone her country’s greatest singer would be a huge compliment to most performers. In the case of Khave Alberstein, however, it only tells a small part of the story. Alberstein is undoubtedly Israel’s most accomplished singer

Alberstein is Israel; her development as an artist mirrors Israel’s development as a country; her growing pains are Israel’s growing pains. Alberstein and Israel are even the same age – both turn 50 – and they both share a tiny but powerful stature. But Khave Alberstein sees herself as much as a singer of the world as just a singer of her beloved Israel. “Even though I have lived in Israel nearly my entire life, I am constantly questioning my place in the world,” said Alberstein. “Maybe this searching comes from being an artist, maybe it comes from being a Jew. I’m not really sure.” This bittersweet tension between the national and the universal is most evident in all of her recordings. From tender love songs to defiant songs about peace and oppression. There are prayerful songs celebrating the beauty of the human form and more melancholy songs about loss, poverty, and solitude.

Alberstein released “The Well” , an album of Yiddish poems she has transformed into folk songs, with the renowned klezmer group the Klezmatics. “In Israel, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone today composing and singing in Yiddish,” said Klezmatics lead singer Lorin Sklamberg. “Some people still see Yiddish as the language of soft Jews who can’t protect themselves.

But Khave understands the joy and depth of the language.” Yiddish was the mother-tongue of Alberstein’s family in the small town in Szczecin, Poland, where Khave was born. Her family moved to Israel when Alberstein was only 4-years-old, but Khave says she has never totally lost the feeling of being a stranger. “No matter where I am, even if it’s in my own country, I feel like a bit of a guest,” she said. “People can appreciate this today, because they move around so much. Every country you go to in the world is filled with so -called foreigners.” Since the very first time she ever sang in public – a four-song set, which included songs in French, Spanish, Yiddish, and a gospel standard in English – Khave Alberstein has been a performer of “World Music.”

Chava Alberstein, born in Szczecin, Poland, moved to Israel with her family in 1950. She grew up in Kiryat Haim.

In 1964, when she was 17, she was invited to appear at the Hammam Nightclub in Jaffa. She sang four songs accompanied by herself on guitar and her brother Alex on the clarinet. The program was broadcast live on the radio. After a guest appearance on Moadon Hazemer, recorded on Kibbutz Beit Alfa, she signed a recording contract with CBS. Early in her career, she appeared at the Amami Cinema in Haifa’s Neve Sha’anan neighborhood. Haaretz columnist Neri Livneh describes her as “a little slip of a thing in a blue youth movement shirt, her face covered by huge glasses”.

Alberstein was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces in 1965, and became one of many Israeli artists to rise to stardom by entertaining the troops.

Alberstein has released more than 60 albums. She has recorded in Hebrew, English and Yiddish. In 1980, Alberstein began to write and compose. Most of the songs on her album Mehagrim (Immigrants) are her own work. Alberstein’s husband was the filmmaker Nadav Levitan, who wrote the lyrics for her “End of the Holiday” album. In 1986 she wrote music for Levitan’s film Stalin’s Disciples. Levitan died in 2010. Her songs have been included in a number of multi-artist collections, among them “Songs of The Vilna Ghetto” and “The Hidden Gate – Jewish Music Around the World”.

Theodore Meir Bikel

1924-2015

Born 1924 in Vienna, Theodore Bikel was thirteen when he and his parents left Austria for Palestine. Fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German with a respectable command of English and French, he intended to study and eventually teach comparative linguistics. But the pull of the theatre was stronger and he joined the internationally famous Habimah Theatre in 1943 as an apprentice actor. A year later he became one of the co-founders of the Israeli Chamber Theatre (the “Cameri”).In 1946 Bikel entered London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from which he graduated with honors two years later. It was also at this time that he began to develop a serious interest in the guitar and folk music.

But he was first to make his mark as an actor. Sir Laurence Olivier was so impressed with Bikel’s performance in several small London theatre productions that he offered him a role in his production of A Streetcar Named Desire starring Vivien Leigh. Bikel soon took over the second male lead, Mitch, in the play.

From Streetcar on, Theodore Bikel’s career was been illuminated by superior stage and screen portrayals. In London he won acclaim playing the Russian Colonel in Ustinov’s The Love Of Four Colonels and on Broadway his roster of memorable performances includes Tonight In Samarkand, The Rope Dancers, The Lark and the original Broadway production of The Sound Of Music in which he created the role of Baron von Trapp. Nationally he starred in a number of other plays, including tours of Zorba and Fiddler on the Roof. After having played the role of Tevye over 2,000 times since 1967 Bikel’s Tevye continues to garner the highest praise from audiences and critics nation-wide whenever he repeats the role.

Theodore Bikel was co-creator, co-author and co-star of a new show entitled Sholom Aleichem Lives, performed in early 1997 in various Florida theatres.

Among Bikel’s most well-known screen roles are the Southern Sheriff in The Defiant Ones (1958) (for which he received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor), The African Queen (1951), The Little Kidnappers (1953), My Fair Lady (1964), The Blue Angel (1959), The Enemy Below (1957), The Little Ark (1970), The Dog of Flanders (1958), I Want to Live (1958), The Russians Are ComingThe Russians Are Coming (1965), See You in the Morning (1989), Shattered (1991), Crisis in the Kremlin (1992), Benefit of the Doubt (1992), and Shadow Conspiracy (1996).

In these and numerous other roles Bikel’s flexibility of characterization is amply demonstrated: A Chinese crook, a Scottish police officer, an American university dean, A Russian submarine skipper, a Czech MVD officer, a Jewish refugee, a Greek peanut vendor, a Hindu doctor, an Austrian nobleman and a Hungarian linguist, among others.

Mr. Bikel also appeared in opera productions: La Gazza Ladra, Philadelphia Opera Company (1989); The Abduction from the Seraglio, Cleveland Opera Company (1992), Ariadne auf Naxos, Los Angeles Opera Company (1992), and Die Fledermaus, Yale Opera Company (1998).

Bikel, who has starred in virtually every top dramatic show on television in the United States as well as in Canada and England, was repeatedly nominated for “Emmy” awards and received an Emmy in 1988 for his portrayal of Harris Newmark, one of the early immigrant pioneers of the West Coast.

As an author and raconteur, Bikel wrote and starred in NBC-TV’s The Eternal Light, for CBS-TV’s Look Up And Live and ABC-TV’s Directions. His 90 -minute television special One Night Stand and his weekly radio program At Home With Theodore Bikel enjoyed national syndication. The author of Folksongs And Footnotes (published in the Sixties and about to be re-issued), Bikel was a frequent contributor to various journals and publications. His autobiography entitled “Theo” was re-released in 2002 by University of Wisconsin Press.

An American citizen since 1961, Theodore Bikel lived in California. He is divorced and has two sons, Robert and Daniel, who live in Los Angeles and Westchester, NY, respectively. He has one grandson, Wolfram, born May 2007.

One of the world’s best-known folk singers and a founder in 1961 of the Newport Folk Festival, the multi-faceted entertainer maintained an active concert schedule throughout the United States and abroad, with some 50 to 60 concerts per year, performing alone or with large symphony orchestras. He recorded 16 albums for Elektra Records, an album of contemporary songs for Reprise Records entitled A New Day, in addition to cast albums of The Sound of Music and The King and I as well as a children’s album For the Young and Silent No More, an album of Soviet Jewish freedom songs smuggled out of the USSR. In addition, he participated with various groups in recorded projects such as The Fifth CupThe Passover Story and The Chanukkah Story.

Theodore Bikel made many audio recordings of books-on-tape both contemporary and classics, among them the two latest Herman Wouk novels The Hope and The Glory, as well as Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. He also recorded the Tevye stories of Sholom Aleichem, all of the above for Audio Renaissance as well as Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s “O Jerusalem.”

Active for many years in the civil rights movement, Bikel was also an elected delegate to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. He formerly held the position of Senior Vice President of the American Jewish Congress, he served as President of the Actors’ Equity Association (1973-82), as a Vice President of the International Federation of Actors (FIA), (1981-1991), as a Board Member of Amnesty International (USA), and, by Presidential appointment, as a member of the National Council on the Arts (1977-82). He also was the President of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (4A’s).

In addition to the many honors and awards he received over the years, Theodore Bikel was awarded honorary degrees of Doctor of Fine Arts from the University of Hartford in 1992, Doctor of Humane Letters from Seton Hall University in 2001 and Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College in 2005.  On July 4, 2006 in Moscow, Russia, The World Union for Progressive Judaism conferred upon Theo the title of MAGGID.

Theodore Bikel was a Renaissance Man, a concerned human being who works in the arts. He viewed his work and his life in terms of survival. “I am engaged in an anti-Phoenix crusade. Many people these days insist that their birth was like the birth of the Phoenix; suddenly one day they sprang out in middle of the desert, without memory or parentage.” Bikel maintained that was quite impossible. “You must explore your roots in the past in order to pinpoint your place in the present or to be entitled to a future. It doesn’t work any other way.”

To define versatility is to capture the essence of Theodore Bikel. For, in his own words, he was not a “specialist but a general practitioner in the world of the arts.” This is reflected in his multiplicity of talents: Bikel the actor on stage, screen and television; Bikel the folksinger and guitarist; Bikel the author, lecturer and raconteur; and Bikel the activist and arts advocate.lectured.

Bikel died of natural causes on the morning of Tuesday July 21st 2015 at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, publicist Harlan Boll announced.

Source: https://www.theodorebikel.com

Adrienne Cooper (September 1, 1946 – December 25, 2011) was a Yiddish singer, musician and activist who was integral to the contemporary revival of klezmer music.

In addition to her work as a Yiddish singer she was the assistant director at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, program director for the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, and executive officer for programming and executive officer for external affairs for the Workmen’s Circle.

She co-founded Klez Kamp. She was a member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice’s Board of Directors until the summer of 2011, when she was diagnosed with cancer. Cooper won the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Award from the Jews for Racial and Economic Justice in 2010, as well as KlezKanada’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Yiddish Arts and Culture.

She died of adrenal cancer at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan on December 25, 2011, aged 65.  She had been diagnosed in July 2011 and underwent surgery in August 2011.

Cooper is survived by her daughter, Sarah Mina Gordon, a vocalist and co-leader of the band “Yiddish Princess”, as well as her mother, two brothers, and her partner, Marilyn Lerner, a pianist-composer.

A memorial service was held on the morning of December 28, 2011, at Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek, California. The service was followed by a graveside funeral at Oakmont Cemetery in Lafayette, California. A memorial service in New York City was held on January 1, 2012 at Congregation Ansche Chesed. Shiva was held at Cooper’s daughter’s apartment in New York City.

A Kholem/Dreaming in Yiddish, A Concert in Tribute to Adrienne Cooper has been organized for December 22, 2012, at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York CIty. More than 50 Yiddish and klezmer musicians and global colleagues are slated to perform songs that Adrienne taught, sang, and recorded – these include the Klezmatics, Michael Wex, Shura Lipovsky, Dan Kahn, Theresa Tova, Zalme Mlotek, Eleanor Reissa, Wolf Krakowski, Michael Alpert, Michael Winograd, Sarah Gordon.

Internationally recognized as one of this generation’s stellar performers and teachers of Yiddish vocal music, Adrienne Cooper appears on concert, theater, and club stages around the world.  Her singing has been featured on some twenty recordings as well as on film, TV and radio.

From Carnegie Hall to the famed Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, from Moscow to Jerusalem, she has mesmerized audiences and worked at the heart of the klezmer revival scene, defining a wholly original  interpretation of Yiddish song.  She has performed and recorded with The Klezmatics, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass AllStars,  David Krakauer, Zalmen Mlotek,  So-Called, The Three Yiddish Divas,  Marilyn Lerner,  Michael Winograd, Alicia Svigals and Mikveh,  Greg Wall’s Unity Orchestra, Joyce Rosenzweig,The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, Kapelye, and performance artists Jenny Romaine and Sara Felder. Cooper is co-creator of groundbreaking works of Yiddish/English music theater – including the critically acclaimed “The Memoir of Gluckl of Hameln (with Jenny Romaine and Frank London/Great Small Works Theater),” “Ghetto Tango” (with Zalmen Mlotek),  and “Esn:  Songs from the Kitchen” (with Lorin Sklamberg and Frank London).  Recent projects include her multi-media concert experience “Every Mother’s Son:  Jewish Songs of War and Peacemaking “ featuring animations by Israeli visual artist Mor Erlich, and composer Marilyn Lerner’s revolutionary bilingual song cycle “Shake My Heart Like a Copper Bell: On the Poetry  of Anna Margolin.”

Cooper’s  inspired innovations in music and culture production have been recognized by awards, grants and commissions from University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center and UCLA, The Jewish Museum,  United Synagogue,  the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National and New York State Endowments on the Arts, the New York Council for the Humanities, and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.  She is the recipient of Klez Canada’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Yiddish Arts and Culture.

Source: Wikipedia and http://www.adriennecooper.com

Gevolt

Gevolt is an Israeli metal band, founded in 2001. The band is known as the pioneers of Yiddish metal. They were the first band who combined traditional Yiddish music with metal.

The band was formed in Israel in 2001 by Anatholy Bonder (vocals), Yevgeny Kushnir (guitars), Oleg Szumski (drums) and Max Mann (bass guitars). In 2005 Marina Klionski (violins) joined.

In 2006, Gevolt self-released their debut full-length album Sidur in Russian language. After the release Oleg Szumski left the band and was replaced by Vadim Weinstein, and Dmitry Lifshitz (synths) joined the band.

Gevolt started recording of their second album in 2005, and released the 2-track promo single “Yiddish Metal” in 2007. In this single the band changed their concept and started singing in Yiddish, covering classic Yiddish songs.

In 2008 Sidur had a US/Canadian re-release by Renaissance Records/Koch Entertainment Distribution. At the same time Marina Klionski left the band and Gevolt had two violinists, Anna Agre and Eva Yefremov. Anna Agre left the band after a year.

In 2009, Yevgeny Kushnir left the band and was replaced by Michael Gimmervert.

In 2010, Max Mann left and was replaced by Mark Lekhovitser.

In February 2011, Gevolt released their second full length album, AlefBaseAlefBase, the first metal album fully with Yiddish lyrics, was released to positive reception and received media coverage in Die WeltJerusalem Post, and The Forward.

In 2012, Mark Lekhovitser left Gevolt.

In 2013, Michael Gimmervert left the band and new guitar and bass players Vadim Raitses and Anton Skorohodov joined.

In 2013 the band performed at Folk-Fest Israel on one stage with Korpiklaani and Týr.

Gevolt released a Nu Klezmer Metal single “Khokhotshet” was released in March 2015.

Vadim Raitses and Anton Skorohodov left after releasing the single “Khokhotshet” in 2015.

In 2016, Gevolt had a mini tour in China where it performed in two major events, Taihu Midi Festival and Dream Sonic Festival. For this tour the band formed a new line up with the return of Michael Gimmervert and including Alex Zvulun (Bass), Marianne Tur (Violin), and Dror Goldstein (Drums).

Shimon Israeli was a pioneer of the Israeli theater and Israel’s first “chansonneur” – performing his own songs.

This recording was prepared by “The Yitzhak Katznelson House of the Ghetto Fighters” at Kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot, Israel, in cooperation with the Vilna Organization of Haifa.

The kibbutz was established in 1949 by rennants of the Holocaust, survivors of the ghettos and concentration camps of Eastern Europe, fighters and partisans, among the leaders of the Jewish underground Resistance Movement in occupied Poland.

The Ghetto Fighters’ Museum offers a unique message and a unique perspective on the difficult historical and educational issues that arise in the teaching and study of the Holocaust.

The study of Jewish resistance in all its forms offers contemporary youth an inspirational model and a more accurate perspective on events that took place during the Holocaust, has proven to be an educational approach that is not only age-appropriate but also encourages students to continue to learn about the Holocaust as they mature.

The publishing house of The Ghetto Fighters’ House has published hundreds of books, research and reference volumes, memoirs, photo collections, historical anthologies and supported the recording of Ghetto songs.

Zog Nit Keyn Mol, recorded by Shimon Israeli and The CBS Israel Orchestra in the mid 60’s is a sample of what “The House of the Ghetto Fighters” do in order all of us can preserve in our memory and celebrate the defiance and bravery of the ghetto fighters and Jewish partisans.

The Ghetto Fighters’ House is dedicated to the memory of the poet Yitzhak Katznelson, a friend of the Halutz Underground in the Warsaw Ghetto perished in Auschwitz in May 1944.

Sherm Labovitz

Drop your hat and Sherm Labovitz might sing; he loves to! From childhood on, never professionally, but in varying venues of student, salesman, professor, author, lifetime social-activist, husband, father and grandfather–he sang! Responding to requests–and at times to commands–from relatives, friends, students and colleagues. Performing at simchas and celebrations, memorials and funerals, at meetings and demonstrations, in a prison cell or in a classroom, he would sing! In the late 1950s, a most beloved founder of the Sholom Aleichem Club, Max Rosenfeld, cajoled Sherm into singing his first Yiddish song, accompanied by Sherm’s wife Pauline, to a most enthusiastic audience at one of the club’s monthly meetings. Pauline, Sherm, Max and his wife Rose became a foursome in “A Bunch of Beads,” “Bread and Schmaltz,” and “The Family Revisited.”

Recently, it was suggested to Sherm Labovitz that he might record a collection of Yiddish songs. Sherm turned to Bob Freedman for advice and assistance. Bob and his wife Molly are the curators of the Jewish Sound Archive at the University of Pennsylvania. The Archive is the result of over forty years of collecting and cataloging more than 28,000 tracks of Jewish music. Freedman’s informed cooperation had a significant on the final selection of songs found in this disc, and he helped produce the liner notes. Freedman recommended Alexander Botwinik “the best person in the Philadelphia area” as accompanist and Yiddish coach. Botwinik, a Yiddish instructor at the University of Pennsylvania, and with years of piano experience, helped enable a passionate performance that respects the beauty and musicality of Yiddish and captures the joy and pathos of the Jewish experience.

Violinist, Marvin Weinberger was for its first 10 years, the featured fiddler with the original Klezmer Conservatory Band.

“The singing of Sherm Labovitz in his CD Mayn Oytser: Gems of Yiddish Art and Folk Songs is wonderful. I have been listening to it over and over again and will return to it. Some of the songs are old vintage, others are more recent, but Sherm sings all of them with a magnetic haunting nostalgia that makes one listen to them over and over again. Dan Ben-Amos, Professor of Folklore, University of Pennsylvania.

“Mayn Oytser, the new CD of Yiddish art and folk songs [by Sherm Labovitz] is indeed a treasure of Yiddish songs. Mellow, melodic, and fresh, this collection brings new life to old and new classics.” Dr. Katherine Hellerstein,
Lecturer in Yiddish, University of Pennsylvania

Nehama Lifshitz

1927 – 2017

 

Jan Peerce

1904 – 1984

Jewish American tenor, born in New York City on June 3, 1904 as Jacob Pincus Perelmuth. Jan Peerce grew up in the New York City streets, and attended De Witt Clinton High School and Columbia University. Like so many others of his generation, he had taken violin lessons, and his first regular money was earned by playing the violin in public. As part of the program he would also sing popular songs, and the discovery came almost accidentally that he had an extraordinary voice.

An engagement followed as tenor soloist with the Radio City Music Hall company. Its radio broadcasts and stage programs embraced light classical music and great moments of opera, and Jan Peerce soon had a nation-wide following. Concert engagements came, and then a sudden and extraordinary leap to fame. The great conductor, Arturo Toscanini, heard Jan Peerce and found him to be the tenor he had been looking for to sing the leading roles in his broadcasts and recordings of opera and choral works. The recordings that followed these broadcasts are among the outstanding musical legacies of our time. Soon the “living” operatic stage beckoned in San Francisco and then New York.

Jan Peerce made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera Company on November 29, 1941 singing Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata. He was hailed by the critics as the “All-American successor to the ‘greats’ of opera’s almost extinct ‘Golden Age.'” He has since become a celebrated name in the world’s musical centers, and in 1956 made a sensation in Moscow as a musical “cultural exchange” ambassador, being the first American to sing with the famed Bolshoi Theatre opera. He was pressed to return not only to sing but also to teach a master class. Peerce died December 15, 1984 in New York.

The Polish Army Orchestra

Polish ArmyIn September 1939, World War II began. Only two weeks later, on September 19, the Red Army entered Vilna, known as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” and soon incorporated it into the Soviet Union.On June 24, 1941, the Germans occupied Vilna. As the Germans were sweeping east toward Moscow, they instigated their ruthless oppression and murderous Aktionen in the communities they occupied.

In December 1941, there were several meetings between the activists decided to resist. Since the Germans had the ghetto surrounded, the only way out was through the sewers.

Original LabelOnce in the forests, the fighters created a partisan division and performed many acts of sabotage. They destroyed power and water infrastructures, freed groups of prisoners from the Kalais labor camp, and even blew up some German military trains.

This is a Treasure Saved
It is ironic that The Polish Army Orchestra, recorded this version a few months before they exterminated the Jewish survivors who returned to Poland after the Holocaust.

Yiddish version:

English version:

Paul Robeson

1898 – 1976

Paul Robeson was an acclaimed 20th-century performer known for productions like ‘The Emperor Jones’ and ‘Othello.’ He was also an international activist.

Who Was Paul Robeson?

Born on April 9, 1898, in Princeton, New Jersey, Paul Robeson went on to become a stellar athlete and performing artist. He starred in both stage and film versions of The Emperor Jones and Show Boat, and established an immensely popular screen and singing career of international proportions. Robeson spoke out against racism and became a world activist, yet was blacklisted during the paranoia of McCarthyism in the 1950s. He died in Pennsylvania in 1976.

Early Roles: ‘All God’s Chillun’ and ‘Emperor Jones’

Robeson made a splash in the theater world as the lead in the controversial 1924 production of All God’s Chillun Got Wings in New York City, and the following year, he starred in the London staging of The Emperor Jones—both by playwright Eugene O’Neill. Robeson also entered film when he starred in African-American director Oscar Micheaux‘s 1925 work, Body and Soul.

‘Show Boat’ and ‘Ol’ Man River’

Although he was not a cast member of the original Broadway production of Show Boat, an adaptation of an Edna Furber novel, Robeson was prominently involved in the 1928 London production. It was there that he first earned renown for singing “Ol’ Man River,” a song destined to become his signature tune.

‘Borderline’ to ‘Tales of Manhattan’

In the late 1920s, Robeson and his family relocated to Europe, where he continued to establish himself as an international star through such big-screen features as Borderline (1930). He starred in the 1933 movie remake of The Emperor Jones and would be featured in six British films over the next few years, including the desert drama Jericho and musical Big Fella, both released in 1937. During this period, Robeson also starred in the second big-screen adaptation of Show Boat (1936), with Hattie McDaniel and Irene Dunne.

Robeson’s last movie would be the Hollywood production of Tales of Manhattan (1942). He criticized the film, which also featured legends like Henry FondaEthel Waters and Rita Hayworth, for its demeaning portrayal of African Americans.

‘Othello’

Having first played the title character of Shakespeare‘s Othello in 1930, Robeson again took on the famed role in the Theatre Guild’s 1943-44 production in New York City. Also starring Uta Hagen, as Desdemona, and José Ferrer, as the villainous Iago, the production ran for 296 performances, the longest-running Shakespeare play in Broadway history.

A beloved international figure with a huge following in Europe, Robeson regularly spoke out against racial injustice and was involved in world politics. He supported Pan-Africanism, sang for Loyalist soldiers during Spain’s civil war, took part in anti-Nazi demonstrations and performed for Allied forces during WWII. He also visited the Soviet Union several times during the mid-1930s, where he developed a fondness for Russian folk culture. He studied Russian, as did his son, who came to reside in the capital city of Moscow with his grandmother.

Yet Robeson’s relationship with the U.S.S.R. became a highly controversial one, his humanitarian beliefs seemingly contrasting with the state-sanctioned terror and mass killings imposed by Joseph Stalin. In the U.S., with McCarthyism and Cold War paranoia looming large, Robeson found himself contending with government officials looking to silence a voice who spoke out eloquently against racism and had political ties that could be vilified.

Fueled by the misrepresentation of a speech the actor made at the U.S.S.R-backed Paris Peace Conference in the late 1940s, Robeson was labeled a communist and was staunchly criticized by government officials as well as some African-American leaders. He was ultimately barred by the State Department from renewing his passport in 1950 to travel abroad for engagements. Despite his immense popularity, he was blacklisted from domestic concert venues, recording labels and film studios and suffered financially.

Star Athlete and Academic

When he was 17, Robeson earned a scholarship to attend Rutgers University, the third African American to do so, and became one of the institution’s most decorated students. He received top honors for his debate and oratory skills, won 15 letters in four varsity sports, was elected Phi Beta Kappa and became his class valedictorian.

From 1920 to 1923, Robeson attended Columbia University’s Law School, teaching Latin and playing pro football on the weekends to pay tuition. In 1921, he wed fellow Columbia student, journalist Eslanda Goode. The two would be married for more than 40 years and have a son together in 1927, Paul Robeson Jr.

Robeson briefly worked as a lawyer in 1923, but left after encountering severe racism at his firm. With the encouragement of Eslanda, who would become his manager, he turned fully to the stage.

Early Years

Paul Leroy Robeson was born on April 9, 1898, in Princeton, New Jersey, to Anna Louisa and William Drew Robeson, an escaped slave. Robeson’s mother died from a fire when he was 6 and his clergyman father moved the family to Somerville, where the youngster excelled in academics and sang in church.

Biography and Later Years

Robeson published his biography, Here I Stand, in 1958, the same year that he won the right to have his passport reinstated. He again traveled internationally and received a number of accolades for his work, but damage had been done, as he experienced debilitating depression and related health problems.

Robeson and his family returned to the United States in 1963. After Eslanda’s death in 1965, the artist lived with his sister. He died from a stroke on January 23, 1976, at the age of 77, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A Lasting Legacy

In recent years, efforts have been made by various industries to recognize Robeson’s legacy after a period of silence. Several biographies have been written on the artist, including Martin Duberman’s well-received Paul Robeson: A Biography, and he was inducted posthumously into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2007, Criterion released Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist, a box set containing several of his films, as well as a documentary and booklet on his life.

Source: Paul Robeson Biography – The Biography.com, March 16, 2018

Rebecca Wave

In the last years of her long singing and songwriting career, Rebecca Wave brgan exploring the rich heritage of Jewish song.

From singing folk songs on the front porch while her father played an old guitar, she progressed to years of piano and cello lessons, stage and choral singing and playing recorder on the roof. She found herself with guitar in hand at 23, singing songs that percolated up from the flood plains and tidepools of her life. After a long period of traveling the country with various cats, dogs and people, and working a stunning variety of day jobs, Rebecca has stayed in Santa Barbara long enough to raise two children and record three albums. Her style has been influenced by (almost) every genre: classical, pop, jazz, rock, folk, alternative, gospel, yiddish, blues, r&b, world music, techno… What has emerged is a direct, passionate voice with a lot to say about grief, joy, confusion, clarity, love and lust. Melodies as simple as a childhood dream or complex as an extended jazz riff deliver lyrics that cut to the heart.

Although no yiddish was spoken in her home, her childhood was full of music from many cultures and eras, awakening a lifelong love of music in all its forms.

John A. Sonquist

1931-2017

Chances are that if you went to hear classical music in the last 50 years in Santa Barbara, you would have either run into John A. Sonquist or heard him play. His enthusiasm for creating venues for people to share chamber music was insatiable. He could arrange music for any configuration of instruments and voice. His astonishing collection of music and his unique arrangements (30 boxes!) were donated to the Santa Barbara Music Society to form the core of a lending library for young musicians.

John was born in Elmhurst, Illinois, to J. Albert and Clare Sonquist. He started playing piano at age 4 and was a local child virtuoso. His father died when John was a child, and his mother went to work as a riveter, leaving John responsible for taking care of his little sister. His uncle, Dave Sonquist, a visionary in the co-op movement and a musician, took John under his wing, encouraging him to study piano and prepare for college. Uncle Dave was the director of Circle Pines Center, a recreational co-op in rural Michigan. The summer he was 16, John went to Circle Pines, and his life changed forever when he met Hanne Deutsch — who would become his wife of nearly 60 years.

Both John and Hanne went to the University of Chicago, studying the Great Books curriculum. Living in married student housing, they put themselves through school calling square dances. John was a conscientious objector. His alternative service was from July 1953 to May 1955, serving as a recreation coordinator at Manteno State Hospital. John went on to earn his PhD from University of Chicago, becoming a pioneer in computer applications in social science in the 1950s.

After directing Computer Services of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan in the ’60s, mid-career, John felt his calling was academia, and he joined the sociology department at UCSB in 1970 as an associate professor. He designed a unique array of courses dealing with computer use and social impact, dubbed “Sonquist Tech,” which covered themes ranging from introductory concepts to computer simulations and artificial intelligence. His key work in multivariate analysis is still used today.

An avid musician, John played chamber music actively through his life. After his retirement in 1991, he organized and played in festivals, coordinated the noon concert series at the library, and served on the board of the Piano Club of Santa Barbara and statewide chamber music societies. He could be found every season enjoying the Music Academy of the West master classes and concerts by Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and Camerata Pacifica, and at UCSB Arts & Lectures. He also performed and recorded with musicians in Santa Barbara.

John’s curiosity and scholarship combined with his talent and passion were shared with musicians around the state. On his 60th birthday, Hanne rented Hahn Hall, and all of his musical friends performed concerto grossi. John reciprocated with one of the Mozart piano concerti. For his 70th birthday, a large array of professional and amateur musicians played a concert in his honor at a large local church.

John’s taste in music was wide ranging and included classical, baroque, jazz, folk, international — you name it. His humorous rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” shared with a wide variety of people either at the Sonquist annual holiday open house or, if you were lucky, just because, inspired many young pianists to try to imitate it with their own version laced with the styles of Brubeck and Rachmaninoff, among others. In the last six-plus years, he organized concerts and the Vocalizers, a singing group at Valle Verde — where he lived and had many dear friends — and accompanied several soloists and duos.

John and Hanne fostered community wherever they were — UCSB, Starr King Parent-Child Workshop (where Hanne was the director for more than 25 years), the Quaker and progressive communities, and music circles. Their three children, Eric, Catherine, and Kristin, grew up surrounded by folk music, political action, art and literature, and community. As a family, they went to Washington, D.C., and New York to march for civil rights and peace. Together, John and Hanne devoted much of their lives to supporting peace, social justice, and human and civil rights.

John felt a strong commitment to serving the progressive community. Many Santa Barbara events could take place because John provided the PA system or technical support. His penchant for “having the right tool for the job” made his contribution behind the scenes irreplaceable. (His children remember that when each bought their first car, he spent hours teaching them how to tune it themselves, including providing the toolkit necessary to do so!) He studied nonprofit governance with the same thoroughness and curiosity that he studied everything — in order to contribute at the highest level. John served as a boardmember of the local chapter of the ACLU for over two decades.

In more recent years, John served as a pianist and music director for Live Oak Unitarian Congregation and became a dedicated member, developing a special community of friends, especially after Hanne died in 2009.

John Sonquist leaves a legacy of integrity, curiosity, dedication, joy of music, and bear-hugs with his son Eric Sonquist (wife Anita, children Jessica Sonquist and Zoe King, and Zoe’s husband Bryan and baby Grayson); and his daughters Catherine Sonquist Forest (husband Will and children Kelsey and Owen Forest) and Kristin Firrell (husband Graham and child Scarlett Peterson and her husband, Preston); and a tightly knit extended family.