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For New Haven klezmer group, Dec. 25 is a day for music and dance

Nu Haven Kapelye
“From a Jewish perspective, there is not a lot going on in town on December 25th,” said David Chevan, bass player and leader of the klezmer group Nu Haven Kapelye (above) which will perform Christmas Day in Hamden.

In the famous “Saturday Night Live” short animated film, “Christmastime for the Jews,” as Christians retreat to their homes to celebrate Christmas, claymation Jewish people take to the empty streets to “finally see ‘King Kong’ without waiting in line, they can eat in Chinatown.

"They can crank Barbra Streisand on the streets they cruise, Christmastime for the Jews.”

“From a Jewish perspective, there is not a lot going on in town on December 25th,” said David Chevan, bass player and leader of the klezmer group Nu Haven Kapelye. “It’s not like we are going to sit around in red pajamas all day by a tree because we are Jewish. Sure, there are a few restaurants and movie houses open. But why not create something for the community to do on December 25th?”

What they created, back in 1998, was a Christmas Day concert of klezmer, the distinctive and traditional instrumental folk music of the Ashkenazi Jewish people of Central and Eastern Europe.

The group of Jewish musicians and singers in the New Haven area became the genesis of the Nu Haven Kapelye, a community-based klezmer big band and orchestra. The performers soon embraced the annual tradition of a klezmer concert for Jewish people in Greater New Haven. This year’s Christmas Day concert in Hamden, is the event’s 25th anniversary.

The purpose of the music, Chevan said, is to dance and celebrate, and he expects people coming to Monday’s concert will bring their dancing shoes.

“When you get people dancing, I feel very fulfilled,” Chevan said. “I feel like I’ve fulfilled the mission of this music, fulfilled the vision of this music, and it’s just so much fun to have that interaction between band and dancers.”

The concert is also a celebration of the release of Nu Haven Kapelye’s new album, “Nu Haven Style,” a collection of new arrangements of klezmer and Yiddish songs. The first track on the album, “Turetskaya,” is the oldest known recorded klezmer song, Chevan said.

The Nu Haven Kapelye performs Monday, Dec. 25, at 4 p.m.at the Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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