The Renewal and Reflection of Eternal Echoes

By James David Jacobs   |   Monday, September 17, 2012
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Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot
Violinist Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot (photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco, courtesy of Sony Masterworks)

The Jewish High Holidays, beginning with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and extending through Yom Kippur, is a time of celebration, reflection, and renewal. This year those qualities are deepened through the release of Eternal Echoes - Songs and Dances for the Soul on Sony Classical.

Three living legends came together to create Eternal Echoes: the renowned classical violinist Itzhak Perlman; Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, who keeps the ancient cantorial tradition alive from his pulpit at Manhattan's Park East Synagogue; and Hankus Netsky, a pioneer in the revival of klezmer music. Their musical common ground finds its roots in the Ashkenazi tradition, the Jewish culture of Central and Eastern Europe.

Full schedule of features:

A Dudele

Shoyfer Shel Moshiakh

Romanian Doyne



Like Yiddish, the language common amongst the Jewish populations of Eastern Europe, the musical language of the Ashkenazi is a fusion of modern European and ancient Middle Eastern styles. It expresses the full range of human emotions, from exuberant joy to deep introspection to heart-wrenching sorrow.

Those emotions come through in the music the same way they exist in life itself, occupying the same space almost simultaneously: the harmonies switch constantly from minor to major, the rhythms from straightforward to syncopated, and a tune that starts out slow and sad is likely to end fast and happy.
As Hankus Netsky, the founder of the Klezmer Conservatory Band and the Contemporary Improvisation Chair at the New England Conservatory explains, "I liken it to the blues. When Jews prayed, they cried. We have a word, krehts, meaning to groan - like the blues have a moan or a wail. The Jews have a sobbing kind of feeling, even when they're happy. That's why this music is universal."

Eternal Echoes orchestra

Hankus Netsky and ensemble at the Eternal Echoes recording session (photo by Antonio Oliart Ros)

You’ll hear that on Eternal Echoes, which brings in yet another dimension: a tune that starts out with a solemn prayer frequently ends in a joyous dance. While many traditional cantorial melodies and klezmer dance tunes have common folk sources, the connection between them has never before been made this explicit.

Netsky, the album's musical director, freely admits that bringing together different strains of Jewish music is an "agenda" of his and is in line with his idea that klezmer is not just a re-creation of music from the past, but a "living tradition."

Join me for conversations with Itzhak Perlman and Hankus Netsky, along with excerpts from Eternal Echoes, all this week on Classical New England. See the schedule and listen on-demand above, and to purchase Eternal Echoes, visit ArkivMusic.

A Misuse Of Freedom

By Kerry Healey   |   Tuesday, September 14, 2010
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Last week, three iconic American freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press — collided in a nightmare scenario that could well still lead to the loss of American lives.

The self-styled Rev. Terry Jones' irresponsible threat to burn copies of the Quran at his tiny church in Jacksonville, Fla. was withdrawn at the eleventh hour after pleas from General Petraeus and the White House. But Jones’ selfish stunt has inflicted real damage to America's reputation for religious tolerance, and makes achieving peace in Afghanistan even tougher.

Neither should we allow one American to twist our freedoms into a Gordian knot that prevents us from showing America's true values to the world.

America must never be so intimidated by the threat of terrorism that we curtail our fundamental freedoms.  But neither should we allow one American to twist our freedoms into a Gordian knot that prevents us from showing America's true values to the world.

Several things went wrong with the handling of the Jones case.  Let's consider freedom of speech.  Jones certainly has a right to express unpopular views if they are true.  But now it seems that the Quran-burning threat was merely a dangerous publicity-seeking ruse.

When Jones’ false threat spawned violent demonstrations in five countries, it crossed Oliver Wendell Holmes's famous line of falsely shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater.  Jones’ speech may not have deserved constitutional protection after all.

Jones also fundamentally misused freedom of religion. 

Freedom from religious persecution is the bedrock on which this nation was founded.  But the exercise of religious freedom comes with a duty that requires each religion to see to their own knitting.  Tolerance is required, not just from the government but from ordinary Americans like Mr. Jones.  He showed none.

The most serious questions in the Jones case are reserved for the media.  Jones has a right to express his views, but no inherent right to be heard by people in Indonesia and Afghanistan.  The media chose to blitz the obscure Jones’ ravings around the world as if he were an American leader or a celebrity spokesperson for religious hatred.

In truth, Jones deserved no attention beyond a footnote in the Jacksonville Times.   Thanks to the media, one bigoted man and his 50 parishioners were allowed to become the face of 300 million Americans to the Muslim world.  The media needs to question whether creating incendiary fodder for talk radio justifies the magnification of an ant like Jones, tarnishing America's reputation and risking our soldier’s lives. 

Freedom of the press exists to preserve democracy, not to entertain us.

Scenes From a Parish

By James Rutenbeck   |   Tuesday, September 14, 2010
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When a young, irreverent priest arrives at Saint Patrick Parish in Lawrence, Mass., he discovers the unexpected — boiling ethnic tensions in a changing working-class community.

Filmed over four years,Scenes from a Parish follows the wildly diverse personal stories of Father Paul O’Brien and his unruly flock — longtime Irish-American parishioners and recent immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, and Cambodia — as they struggle to hold on to faith in the face of desperate circumstances.

God in America: Exploring Religion in Our Public Life

Monday, September 20, 2010
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How has religious belief shaped American history? What role have religious ideas and spiritual experience played in shaping the social, political and cultural life of what has become the world's most religiously diverse nation?

For the first time on television, God in America, a presentation of American Experience and Frontline, will explore the historical role of religion in the public life of the United States. The six-hour series, which interweaves documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews with religious historians, will air over three consecutive nights on PBS beginning Oct. 11, 2010.

>> Watch the full series

Three Faiths, One God: Judaism, Christianity, Islam

Monday, December 24, 2012
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The Suicide Plan

Friday, November 9, 2012
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