Chance Meeting Leads to Musical Collaboration: THE BRAIDED CANDLE PROJECT

January 14, 2016
By Christine Zheng

The Braided Candle Project is named after the Jewish havdalah candle, which represents distinctions between separate but intertwined entities of night and day, the Sabbath and the holy days, and consequently, the spiritual and material world. This project reflects this concept in the way that it marries two seemingly different traditions and instruments: Eastern European Jewish violin and Chinese pipa.

The performance, featuring Gao Hong, Steven Greenman, and the Carleton World Music Ensemble, synthesizes the many ornamentations, modes, and rhythms found in klezmer and Chinese music into one collaborative and spontaneous blend. Originating in the 17th Century, klezmer music is a type of East European Jewish folk music played during weddings to greet and entertain guests and honor the bride and groom at the wedding table. It thus involves not only a listening repertoire, but also a dance repertoire that reflects the joy and celebration of Jewish weddings. The concert will consist of some Jewish pieces with Chinese folk accompaniment, and Chinese pieces with Jewish accompaniment, many of which were composed by Hong and Greenman. There will also be an interactive piece in which Greenman and Hong improvise a piece based off of a theme from nature chosen by the audience.

The story of how Steven and Gao Hong first met quite coincidentally parallels the whimsical and spontaneous nature of their collaboration. Gao Hong and Steven were both performing and leading workshops in their respective genre of music at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in the summer of 2011 in East Lansing Michigan. While at a discussion panel, the two musicians, who before the panel had never met, were asked to improvise a piece together, since they both played string instruments. The success of this initial collaboration was the start of a wonderful relationship between the two musicians.

Greenman spent this past week at Carleton teaching the World Music Chamber Ensemble a master class on a klezmer dance piece and a Yiddish vocal number. Students learned about phrasing, ornamentation, and style specific to the klezmer tradition, as well as a wedding dance and proper Yiddish pronunciation. This repertoire will also be featured in the concert.