- LABEL:PIRANHA RECORDS
- TYPE: BAND
- GENDER:MALE, FEMALE
- INSTRUMENTATION:INSTRUMENTAL, VOCAL
Alan Bern – piano, accordion, musical director
Founding director of Brave Old World, The Other Europeans & Yiddish Summer Weimar. Also performed with the Klezmer Conservatory Band, The Klezmatics, Kapelye, Itzhak Perlman, Guy Klucesvek, to name but a few. Born in Bloomington, Indiana in 1955, living in Berlin since 1987. Bern has an M.A. in philosophy and a D.M.A. in music composition and is the founder, driving force and director of Semer Ensemble.
Lorin Sklamberg – voice, accordion
Hailing from California, the founding member of The Klezmatics – his singing often described as transcendental – turned to Yiddish music in his teens. He went on to become one of the most famous singers of the genre and – being openly gay – a considerable force in developing concert formats successfully bringing together both Yiddish music and the gay lifestyle.
Daniel Kahn – voice, accordion
Based in Berlin, the American is the leader of Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird. The band was founded in 2005, has released four successful albums to date and is known for its special mix of Klezmer, radical political views and Punk attitude.
Sasha Lurje – voice
The versatile singer from Riga, Latvia, is a permanent cast member at Maxim Gorki Theater, where Semer Ensemble was first staged in 2012 and shall now be recorded. She also leads her own band ForShpil, working the Yiddish repertoire with a special emphasis to use the traditional sounds for contemporary content.
Fabian Schnedler – voice, electric guitar
After his studies in Yiddish and German literature, theatre studies and ethnomusicology, the young German attended drama school Ernst Busch and finally turned to Yiddish Song. He is a permanent cast member at Gorki Theater, together with Alan Bern co-developed Semer Ensemble and divides his time between a proper handful of performance, teaching and education engagements at Jewish Museum Berlin.
Mark Kovnatskiy – violin
Based in Hamburg, Mark Kovnatskiy is a leading Klezmer violinist and composer, teacher of Jewish dance, and music director of the international Jewish music festival Yiddish Fest Moscow. He leads his own ensembles, the Hamburg Klezmer Band and the European World Music Ensemble, guests with a variety of Ensembles worldwide and teaches at festivals from North America to the former Soviet Union.
Paul Brody – trumpet
Born and raised in San Francisco, Paul Brody studied Classical trumpet and composition and arrangement as defined by Third Stream music. Based in Berlin since the early Nineties, he divides his time more or less equally between Jazz and Klezmer – with an ever present ambition to fuse the two genres, particularly in his own projects Sadawi, The Detonation Orchestra and Tango Toy.
Martin Lillich – basello
Having started his career with a classical education, double bass, bass and basello player Martin Lillich from Bad Boll in Southern Germany then went on to almost any other field there is – from Jazz through Fado, Flamenco and Turkish to Klezmer. Apart from actively playing – active ensembles at the moment Berlin 21 and Rasgueo – he always taught bass playing, before at Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler and international Sommerakademie für Jazz Berlin, now at Global Music Academy in Kreuzberg.
- Alan Bern (piano, accordion, music director)
- Daniel Kahn (voice, accordion)
- Fabian Schnedler (voice, electric guitar)
- Lorin Sklamberg (voice, accordion)
- Mark Kovnatsky (violin)
- Paul Brody (trumpet)
- Sasha Lurje (voice)
Songs about love, jealousy, war, the Torah, socialism, dancing girls, affairs, player pianos – rescued treasures of semer, the last Jewish label standing under nazi rule.
A Golden Age of Jewish music almost forgotten – the songs captured in 1930s‘ Berlin by Hirsch Lewin on his Semer label. The Semer Ensemble brings this astonishing music back to life with critically acclaimed concerts and their first album, recorded live at the Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin, in November 2015.
1920s Berlin, a Golden Age of Jewish music and musicians. In this milieu we find Hirsch Lewin, formerly a forced laborer conscripted to Germany from his native Vilnius during World War I. After the war, Lewin decides to remain in Berlin, finds work in a bookstore, and eventually starts his own business: the Hebräische Buchhandlung (Hebrew Bookstore), Grenadierstrasse 28. The year is 1930.
In the midst of Berlin‘s immigrant center, the Scheunenviertel, Lewin sells books in Hebrew; history books, children‘s books and more; prayer shawls, candles and other religious items. His speciality: gramophone records! In 1932, Lewin creates his own label, „Semer“. One year later, the Nazis come to power, forbidding Jewish musicians to perform in non-Jewish settings. Semer becomes a Noah‘s Ark for Jewish musicians who have nowhere else to go. For five years, Lewin makes recordings at a feverish pace, creating a precious time capsule of a world facing annihilation. On November 9, 1938, SA hordes attack the Hebräische Buchhandlung, demolishing stock and store, including 4,500 recordings and 250 metal plates. The memory of the Semer label falls into oblivion for the next 60 years.
Fast forward. From 1992-2001, musicologist Dr. Rainer E. Lotz travels the world to track down the Semer recordings. Miraculously, he is able to recover and restore almost the entire catalogue. In 2012, the Berlin Jewish Museum Berlin commissions New Jewish Music luminary Alan Bern to create new interpretations of the archival recordings. Bern puts together a world-class ensemble of musicians from all ends of his musical world – America and Berlin, the old generation and the new. Bern: „It‘s amazing, but 80 years after the destruction of this culture there is once again a critical mass of musicians in Berlin able to take on a project like this.“
Drawing amply from this new wealth of Berlin talent and backed up by jazz master Martin Lillich on bass, the ensemble brings together two of the most prolific pioneers of Jewish music – Lorin Sklamberg and Paul Brody – with four leaders of the new generation of powerful performers – Daniel Kahn, Sasha Lurje, Mark Kovnatskiy and Fabian Schnedler.
For three years, Semer Ensemble expands and develops the Semer repertoire on successful tours throughout Europe. In November 2015, the ensemble records „Rescued Treasure“ over three nights live in concert at the Gorki Theater Studio in Berlin. The result captures the special energy of a live performance on a lovingly made, studio-quality recording.
The Semer Ensemble‘s depth and virtuosity can and does match the entire breadth of Hirsch Lewin‘s original Semer label recordings. Its fresh interpretations and provocative, contemporary arrangements open a time tunnel between 1930s Berlin and today‘s New Jewish Music: Berlin cabaret, Russian folk songs, Yiddish theater hits, operatic arias and cantorial music are just a small sample of this remarkable repertoire.
With all-out energy and all-in commitment, the Semer Ensemble brings an almost forgotten world back to life, not in only critically acclaimed concerts but on record as well: The Semer Ensemble‘s debut album, recorded at the Maxim Gorki Theater in a series of intimate exclusive concerts in November 2015, will be ready for release in spring 2016.