Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



Goys and many highly assimilated Jews think Yiddishe Cup plays primarily for Orthodox Jews.  Not true.  We play mostly for non-Orthodox Jews.

But we do play the occasional Orthodox Jewish gig.

Some of these gigs go NYC-style, fast-talking, cell-phones-beeping-everywhere frenetic.  You’re in Israel but without the jet lag.

We play mostly OrthoRock tunes at Orthodox affairs.  OrthoRock isn’t klezmer.  It’s rock with liturgical lyrics.  A classic OrthoRock tune is “Moshiach” (Messiah).  Another is “Chazak” (Strength).  These two tunes — plus a hundred others, some of which are popular only for a month or so– are the standard OJ (Orthodox Jewish) repertoire.  Yiddishe Cup doesn’t learn the new tunes frequently enough.  (We don’t get many OJ gigs either.)

The Orthodox families who hire Yiddishe Cup are typically left-wing Orthodox.  Left-wing, here, means on the liberal end of ritual observance.  The client might request, for instance, American rock and roll toward the end of the party.

Yiddishe Cup’s most right-wing gig was for the get (divorce decree) rabbi.  We played a Purim tish (table gathering) at his house.  All black hats and beards.  The rabbi’s drosh (speech on a liturgical text) was in Yiddish.

My Conservative rabbi, when he heard about the get gig, couldn’t believe I’d been in the get rabbi’s house.  He had never been in there.

Yiddishe Cup knows the rabbis the rabbis don’t.

Cleveland is large enough that Jewish denominations typically don’t party and pray together.  If you want a mishmash of Jews in the same room, go to a smaller town, like Akron, Ohio.   In Akron, the Orthodox and non-Orthodox will mix it up.  It’s a matter of survival.  Small numbers.  You’ll see every kind of Jew but Jews for Jesus at an Akron Jewish gathering.

Musicians, take note: Don’t play “Hava Nagila” at an Orthodox simcha (celebration). Too goyish.   Nevertheless, at one Orthodox wedding, the mom’s sister repeatedly requested “Hava Nagila.”  I said no.  Then some yeshiva buchers (students) from New York asked me for the song.  I said, “Are you trying to embarrass the band?”

“No, we heard you’re a klezmer band and we’d like to hear it.”

The mom didn’t want it.  Again, the mom’s sister said play it.  Again, the buchers said play it.  The mom finally relented.  We played it.

The buchers danced with ruach (spirit) to the tune.  “Hava Nagila” is originally a Hasidic nign (wordless melody) from Hungary.  It’s a great tune.
1 of 2 posts for 12/2/09.  Please see the next post too.

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1 Shawn Fink { 12.02.09 at 1:06 pm }

There are a few certainties at every “Orthogig”:

1. The Ba’al Simcha [the person paying the bills] will invariably inform someone in the band (never the actual bandleader) that: “One of the bride’s third cousins, twice-removed, is in from New York, and he used to play drums (it’s ALWAYS drums) with a popular band there, and we’d like him to sit in with you.”

In reality, that cousin actually once played third-seat triangle in his first-grade elementary school band, and then bought a drum set in college, which he played once. He never has ANY real drumming ability.

2. A wedding guest will work his way onto the stage to sing with the band, never in the same key in which the band is playing, shouting unnecessarily into the microphone, and pushing the lead singer out of the way. This person has no more (and often less) talent than the cousin on drums in #1.

3. A group of revelers will stand around after the band has finished each dance set, singing loudly to encourage the band to start another dance set right back up again.

4. No less than 65% of the attendees will approach the band mid-set to ask one (or more) of the following questions:

a) “Can’t you turn it down?!?”

b) “Do you know the “Anniversary Waltz,” and would you play it for my wife’s best friend’s next-door neighbors, who are here and celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary in 5 months?”

c) “Which way to the restrooms?”

d) “Hey, remember me, I sat in on drums with you a few years back at my cousin’s wedding. Any chance I can do it again tonight?”

e) “What’s the guy on the clarinet’s name? I think I went to high school with him.”

f) “Do you know what the entree is and when they’re serving dinner?”

5. At least a dozen very self-impressed guests (typically young yeshiva bochurs) will approach the band to ask if you happen to know the latest song by Lipa, MBD, Sheweky, Avraham Fried, the Yeshiva Boys Choir, etc., because all the bands in New York are playing it.

A polite “no” will result in a comment from the bochurs that they don’t know why they even bothered coming to such a backwards place as Cleveland, since the band is out of touch, the dancing is shvach [weak], and the caterer didn’t serve the right single malt scotch.

6. No sooner has the band played a 10-minute rendition of a semi-recent “hit” by Lipa, MBD, Sheweky, Avraham Fried, the Yeshiva Boys Choir, etc., and moved on to another song in the dance set, than a guest will demand the band return to the previous song and play it again. This is often accompanied by encouraging the other guests to sing the previous song over the current song.

7. As the band is packing up after another lengthy simcha (with lousy band plates for dinner), one of the ba’alei simcha [people paying the bills] will thank the band, complimenting their “spirit” and adding that, “It’s too bad you didn’t know the song that my wife’s husband’s best friend’s kid’s chavrusah [study-partner from Yeshiva] requested, that was the kallah’s [bride’s] favorite song. Oh well, at least the other songs you played were ok…”

2 Shawn Fink { 12.02.09 at 1:08 pm }

PS – I was on that “Hava Nagilah” gig Bert referenced, and I was able to buy us a few moments of peace by convincing the bochurs that I was so frum (religious) that I didn’t know the words to “Hava Nagilah.”

Not sure who blew my cover.

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