FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
Celebrates Four Decades of Sharing the “Joy of Klez”
40th Anniversary Concert at Old Town School of Folk Music,
in Chicago, Sunday June 4, 2023 at 2:00 PM and 5:30 PM
(Second Show Added)
Meet more than twenty musicians and vocalists performing on 6/4/2023: click here for bios.
Chicago, IL—The Beatles were together for almost eight years. Gilbert and Sullivan’s partnership lasted twenty-five years. And in 2023, Maxwell Street Klezmer Band celebrates 40 years of bringing the “Joy of Klez” to Chicago and the world. With twenty musicians and singers from around the country flying in for a lively musical reunion, this concert will be a retrospective of the band’s 40-year career as well as a premiere of new music.
In 1983, Lori Lippitz, a vocalist and guitarist from Evanston, Illinois, put out the word to local musicians that the Midwest needed to join the Klezmer Revival, which was burgeoning on the East and West Coasts. The name that she chose for the band–Maxwell Street Klezmer Band–tips its fedora to Chicago’s Sunday lively morning market, established in the late 1800’s by newly-arrived Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The Maxwell Street Market remains a place in the memories of many Chicagoans.
Over the past 40 years, the band has released five albums and collaborated with different genres such as classical music with Chicago Sinfonietta, and folk music with singer-songwriter Rabbi Joe Black. Whilethey have played at Carnegie Hall, with Lyric Opera of Chicago, and at festivals in London, Munich, and Vienna, the band’s mission is to restore the lost art of klezmer music to its rightful place at Jewish celebrations. “We are restoring a link in the chain of our heritage that was broken in the Shoah,” says Lippitz, referring to the Holocaust by its Hebrew name. “Every one of our performances is really a celebration of that culture that we will never lose,” she adds.
The band has even played for three generations of celebrations in single families (a wedding, then the bar/bat mitzvah of the wedding couple’s child, and then at the grown child’s wedding). “A shared life of simchas (celebrations)–you’ve been part of our lives, just as we’ve been privileged to be part of yours,” writes a grandmother who recently invited Maxwell Street Klezmer Band to play at a grandchild’s bar mitzvah. During the 40th anniversary concert, the band will be recognizing families who have hired them over the decades.
Of the original band, only Lippitz and Shelley Yoelin (clarinet, sax, flute) remain. Yoelin, who was nominated for CV Music Awards Best Jazz Instrumentalist in 2019, wrote the arrangements that gave the band its distinctive Chicago Jazz sound. Then in 1989, Alex Koffman, a graduate of the Music Conservatory in Minsk, Belarus, arrived in Chicago and met Lippitz at the band’s weekly gig at the Cafe Continental on Lincoln Avenue. First joining as the band’s keyboardist, then violinist, Koffman became the band’s musical director, composer and arranger, creating the band’s signature quirky, quasi-classical originals. Koffman and Yoelin will be creating new compositions specially for the anniversary concert.
Alex Koffman will be playing a violin from Violins of Hope at this concert. The violin is from a collection of 70 string instruments played by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust. Thes instruments have been painstakingly restored and are now in our area for cultural exhibitions, performances, and community education with a message of hope, resistance, resilience, and unity.
Koffman shares, "Violins of Hope is a unique collection of 70 string instruments which were recovered and rebuilt in Israel from the time of the Holocaust. This exhibit is continuously touring around the globe. I’ve been one of the lucky musicians who was given the honor of playing some of these instruments when the exhibit stopped in Chicago. Connecting to those perished souls who once played these instruments, helping these violins to sing again while feeling those musical vibrations in your own body is like reaching back in time and being part of history. This is an experience that will stay in my heart for the rest of my life!"
Although most of the band’s core members have been on board since or before the 1990s, the newest clarinetist, Bartek Warkoczynski, immigrated only four years ago, after leading his own klezmer band in Poland.
The band’s shows always feature Yiddish vocals. For this concert, Lisa Fishman, who recently played Yente the Matchmaker in off-Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish” directed by Joel Gray, will fly in from Los Angeles. Rabbi Joe Black, featured on the band's most recent album, will premiere a new song virtually from Denver. Other featured Maxwell Street vocalists will include Cantor Pavel Roytman, who has sung on stages across the US and Europe, as well as Bibi Marcell, Natasha Bodansky, Tanya Melamed, and Marcia Sterling. Lippitz will sing and emcee.
The Old Town School of Folk Music, whose stage has been graced by the likes of Pete Seeger, Joni Mitchel, Mahalia Jackson, Big Bill Broonzy, Steve Goodman and John Prine, hosted Maxwell Street’s 30th Anniversary Concert in 2013.
Since 1983 and still loyal to the cause, Lippitz, Koffman, Yoelin and the other musicians continue putting their stamp on the klezmer revival, playing with a schmear of folk music, a dollop of jazz, and a bissel of brassy Big Band and Broadway.
"The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band conjures joy from thin air while at the same time freeing the deep waters of the soul." - Rich Warren host/producer Emeritus WFMT Radio, Chicago
“The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band…A joyous celebration of music that was—and fortunately, still is.” - Studs Turkel, Author and Radio personality
Maxwell Street Klezmer Band 40th Anniversary Concert
Sunday, June 4, 2023
2:00 - 4:00 PM, followed by a second show at 5:30 PM
Old Town School of Folk Music,
Maurer Concert Hall, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60625
($36 General Public, $34 Members)
Ticket link: https://bit.ly/joyofklez40th
In the videos below, watch Maxwell Street Klezmer Band then and now:
Then: 1998, Carnegie Hall
Now: 2022, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts