Heartland Klezmorim Plays Great Lakes Folk Festival This Weekend

Friday, August 11, 2017, 10:15 am
Sarah Spohn

Above (L-R) Heartland Klezmorim members David Klein, Will Metz, Chris Hamilton, Susanne Garber, Drew Howard, and Ben Godoshian


The Great Lakes Folk Festival (GLFF) brings music, dance, demonstrations, art, stories, food and creative cultures from all over the globe to East Lansing. It will take place this weekend in downtown East Lansing, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 11-13.

Produced by the MSU Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Program, the GLFF’s musical lineup includes blues, bluegrass, Celtic and more, including ukulele strums, community singalongs, and polka, Cajun and gypsy dance instructions. Four stages and a 2,400-square-foot dance floor await area residents

East Lansing area band Heartland Klezmorim’s main goal is to get festival-goers out on that dance floor during their performances on the GLFF Dance Stage Friday at 6:15 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.

The band has been performing together for eleven years, after David Klein (trumpet, cornet) met Sue Garber (violin, viola) in 2006 at the Yiddish arts workshop, Klezkamp. Then Ben Godoshian (percussion), Drew Howard (banjo, mandolin, dobro), Chris Hamilton (bass), Will Metz (saxophone), and Andy Callis (accordion) joined. Performing with varied backgrounds of musicians, Klein said each member brings something different to the group.

“Whether it is playing in a symphony, jazz, rock, blues, folk and lots of other music, it all comes together in our performances,” Klein said. “We play a wide range of music from the Yiddish/klezmer world that includes folk music, virtuosic waltzes, and jazz from 1930’s swing to contemporary jazz.”

The group has acted as the pit band for the Lil’ Darlins Vaudeville Show, and accompanied the silent films for the Capital City Film Festival, as well as playing jazz and folk festivals. Members of Heartland Klezmorim have ties to the East Lansing area, as teachers at the MSU Community Music School and Marshall Music. Education and maintaining the arts within higher learning is an important cause for the band, which is also hosting a hands-on learning session apart from their sets.

“We are going to be presenting a klezmer workshop at noon on Sunday,” Klein said. We have presented klezmer workshops before and we really enjoy passing on information about klezmer.”

The music itself is of an enthusiastic celebratory kind, which pulls many listeners to the front and center of the dance floor.

“Our approach to the music is always remembering that klezmer music is about celebrations, bringing people together for a joyful event,” Klein said. “It can be very powerful and a lot of fun to perform as well as to listen. Klezmer fell out of popularity during the late 1940’s and skipped a few generations … Since we also perform rarely heard music from the Yiddish theater, our repertoire is very exciting and audiences enjoy all of the different sounds.”

There will be two sets played, and basic dance steps will be taught to the audience members, encouraging crowd participation. Klein invites the entire community to join in on the event.

“We hope everyone in the community will be able to enjoy the Great Lakes Folk Festival,” Klein said. “This festival showcases an incredible wide range of music with many great musicians from around the world. There will be lectures and demonstrations to help everyone learn about the music and arts being presented at the festival.”