Nisht Geferlach Klezmer Band brings Eastern-Europen Jewish

On Sept. 14, JSC hosted the Nisht Geferlach Klezmer Band. Drummer Avram Patt translated their name– literally, “Not dangerous,” and more colloquial, “Not so bad, not so good,” or, “Relax, it won’t kill you.”

Patt switched from drums to front man, singing in Yiddish. He translated the comical lyrics to a famous wedding waltz– “If it is fated for you to have a loved one, there’s nothing you can do,” he said before singing them with his authentic, strong-accented voice. It was clear he grew up in a Yiddish speaking household. “You can kick and scream,” he continued, “Since the creation, this is how it is.”

The band is rooted in the Eastern-European Jewish tradition. The klezmer-style music came to the United States in the late 1800’s and became influenced by and influential to music and performance art in the 1920’s.

Patt’s occasional translation gave knowledge, but the songs were really felt via the music. The note progressions and voice inflection seemed to travel from mountaintop to valley, bringing listeners from scene to scene.

Eventually, a few JSC students moved up to the front to shake their caboose. Patt thanked the brave souls for breaking the ice. Clapping seemed the more comfortable audience participation, which grew loud and fast during celebratory tunes. There were occasional woos and laughs in response to the kazoo.

Part-time JSC faculty Steven Light played the trumpet. Next to him, Kathy Light played the clarinet. At times the two instruments harmonized, at times they seemed to converse and bounce off one another. Behind the wind instruments, Pat focused on the snare drum, a few cymbals, and occasionally a bass drum. Rick Winston played a shiny, red accordion.

The most unique sound was the high-pitch, cartoonish cries from Light’s trumpet. He used various filters that changed the instrument into another voice entirely. They were nasally and winey in the same fashion as the kazoo; they carried a story that was felt even if not completely understood.

It was clear the musicians listened to their melody closely, often with eyes closed. Perhaps they quietly critiqued, or perhaps they were soaking in the stories they’ve been telling for nearly 25 years.

Winston is the owner of Montpelier’s Savoy Theater. He’s responsible for bringing the band together, and has worked with Steven and Kathy Light as a part of the Fyre and Lightning Consort. Their medieval/Renaissance music is one of many endeavors over the years.

Kathy and Steven have shared their musical passion through various teaching positions. Patt has been involved in the public transportation/human services fields; He’s managed a local electric–utility co–op. He’s been involved in Bread and Puppet Theater, and like Winston, has toured solo.

One of the most beautiful moments was when fellow band mates sat to watch Winston play a solo. The accordion’s electric inhale/exhale was hypnotizing, both musically and aesthetically.

Nisht Geferlach played songs about a Rabbi who likes dancing with musicians more than his rabbinical duties, about a father who ends up yelling at the band playing his daughter’s wedding, and about wild nights in Odessa.

Over their 80-minute performance, the band told deeper stories too. They highlighted a song written by members of the Jewish resistance living in WWII ghettos. Nisht Geferlach could become melancholy, slow, almost sounding haunted at times.

They livened up the stage with a wedding medley that incorporated tapping feet, their bopping heads, and the occasional kazoo. The musicians were stoic yet bouncy, and at times they seemed one with their instruments.

Kathy’s shoulders moved with her clarinet fingers, her eyebrows would dance too. Patt seemed to listen to every note, slowly moving his leg when he wasn’t singing/drumming. Winston’s head moved slowly and methodically, then faster, smirking, his body almost following his instrument. It was obvious that they shared a deep connection with their music– the instruments and culture alike.
To find out more, Nisht Geferlach’s recent album, “The Best of the Klez” is available for purchase through iTunes or at