When I hung out flyers announcing the formation of my first klezmer band twenty-five years ago, people would ask me, "klezmer what?". The picture looks very different today, as a music which was previously known among Jews of Eastern European origin has become a part of the international soundscape. The notion of a klezmer band being included among the world music ensembles offered by music schools and departments has been long in coming. It wouldn't be until the early to mid-1990s that college students would begin to found klezmer ensembles. The IC Klezmorim were formed around 1999 at the behest of Professor Peter Rothbart, eventually becoming an Ithaca College School of Music-supported student ensemble offered for chamber music credit - one of the first of its kind in the country. What had begun as a roots-seeking movement by musicians largely of Jewish origins has become one further piece in the mosaic of the student's understanding of the musics of multicultural America and of the world. Students get involved in world music ensembles at a variety of levels: they may spend a semester or two in the ensemble before passing on to another style, or they may become hooked, remaining in the group for the duration of their education - some even going on to perform the music professionally. The range of styles represented on this recording shows the breadth of the music now understood to be "klezmer": it not only comprises the instrumental repertoire performed historically by klezmorim (professional Jewish instrumentalists; tracks 1, 4, 7, and 9) but, in its broader sense, now includes genres as disparate as Yiddish folk songs (tracks 2, 3 and 6), music of the Yiddish theater and vaudeville (tracks 2 and 8), and the "Yinglish" comedy music of Mickey Katz (track 5) - not to mention the songs in Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Modern Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish, as well as original compositions influenced by all of these genres and by numerous external styles (world music, jazz, popular music, art music, etc.) which may be found on numerous contemporary klezmer recordings. The IC Klezmorim's approach to instrumentation and arranging is similarly eclectic, introducing less typical instruments such as synthesizer, electric guitar and French horn and the use of recording studio mixing effects, next to more familiar instruments such as clarinet, trumpet and trombone. "Hawaiian Gardens" represents a snapshot of a fruitful period in the life of the IC Klezmorim, brought about by the presence of two particularly engaged students, trombonist Ryan Zawel and clarinetist Will Cicola - in conjunction with coaching sessions with myself and other experts in the field such as violinist Steven Greenman.
Dr. Joel E. Rubin
ethnomusicologist and clarinetist
University of Virginia