Klezmer Ensemble Methodology

Based on their experiences of setting up and running the Michael Kahan Kapelye (a klezmer ensemble) in the Music Department at The University of Manchester, Ros Hawley and Richard Fay are exploring the theme of appropriate world music methodology. The klezmer ensemble was a voluntary endeavour initially (spring 2011) but it since become an assessed option within the Ensemble Performance module of the Mus.B. programme. Its developing modus operandi needs to be understood in the context of this c21st klezmer ensemble located in a conservatory-type department where world music has only recently developed a profile. Further, the ensemble is not, as yet, part of the local Jewish cultural communities, and nor is it fully linked to the local klezmer scenes (although it has performed for a Chanukah celebration at the Manchester Jewish Museum.

Ensemble rehearsal / development time is in short supply and this leads to tensions between, on the one hand, the time-intensive desire to teach and learn by ear and, on the other, the time-constrained schedule for building up a repertoire and the foundation of klezmer knowledge needed if the ensemblists are to make informed decisions about what and how to play for their assessed performance. The Michael Kahan Kapelye is now in its fourth year, and, from observing and reflecting on the experiences so far, Richard and Ros believe that the ensemble acts as a space for students to develop on many levels. Thus, the ensemble provides them with an opportunity to learn about, and be immersed in, a different musical tradition and its associated cultures. Further, in order to create the final assessed performance, students develop communication and interactive skills through learning to play by ear, exploring melodic macro and micro improvisation, constructing ensemble arrangements and in the understanding and performing of a range of roles within the ensemble. All of these areas of development enable the ensemblists to develop both creative interests and insights and a sense of their own musical identity. The potential and enthusiasm is all there – their only frustration is time!


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