Unique band with a Rossland twist gets "Heavy" for the museum

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
July 20th, 2011

The music scene in Rossland is about to get heavy. We’re talking Eastern European heavy–straight out of the old world Jewish neighborhoods of the 19th century and onto the hillside gazebo at the Rossland Museum. Yes, next Thursday, get ready to dance as a sextet of Kootenay musicians come together for the one, the only, Heavy Shtetl.

  Launched in the early 2000s, the band has been playing for roughly six years. They have recorded two albums, played numerous festivals, weddings, and bar mitzvahs as they introduce listeners, often for the first time, to their unique blend of Klesmer and jazz. Initially drawn to Klesmer music as an accordion player (an instrument which lends itself well to minor keyed music such as Klesme), Catherine McGrath, met David Feldman, a violin player. From there the band began to form around them in a serendipitous fashion as musical performance was born in a Baker Street meeting.   “Dmitro Woychuk [sax and clarinet player], met McGrath when they were both busking on Nelson’s downtown strip and decided to join forces. Anneke Rosch on trombone and trumpet and John Deeley on upright bass joined the group in 2006 and in short order their old-world instrumentation, sweet vocal harmonies and infectious odd-ball time signature beats began to make audiences move from the inside out.  Finding a unique niche, the group began to see a regular following in and around Nelson and the Kootenays as they set off on the tour circuit for two summers with the help of a Columbia Basin Trust touring grant. Recently, the addition of two Rosslanders to the lineup has taken things to a new level.  In 2010 Michael Gifford (organizer of the Joe Hill Coffeehouse) took over the baseline with his tuba. Most recently, following the addition of Ben Johnson on drum kit and dumbek, new Rosslander Nicola Everton sat in on clarinet. Shortly after Everton arrived in the Kootenays, after a long stint playing clarinet for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, she sat in when current saxophonist and clarinetist Dimitro was out of town (and looking towards retirement).   While Everton loved the opportunity to get outside of her classical roots, the band was equally happy to have such an accomplished musician join their ranks.  “Dimitro’s strength is traditional music that was his forte. My interest was more In Klesmer,” explained McGrath. “When we formed with Dimitro in the group we played a lot more Dixieland. With Nicola in the band we lean more towards Klesmer-type music and are what the original Heavy Shtetl was intended to be in the first place. We’re really excited about playing with Nicole. It’s just amazing. We’re honoured and privileged to be playing with her. It’s been marvelous.”  Adding yet another element to the band that already sings and harmonizes in five different languages has been the crowd pleasing dance and dance lessons incorporated into their show. At next Wednesday’s performance at the Rossland Museum Slava Doval will be on hand and teaching listeners a host of different circle dances and Balkan steps. Interspersed between dance lessons the band will launch into some purely instrumental works “to give people a chance to rest a bit. It’s pretty energetic some of it,” explained Nicola Everton.  If you’re unfamiliar with Balkan or Klesmer music, don’t worry: you’re probably not alone, just as you won’t be alone in enjoying the beats best described as a “Ham-bur-ger, hot-dog, ham-bur-ger hot-dog” -esque rhythm.  “There is not much of really anything else much like us around here,” explained McGrath. “The closest thing to us around this area would be like the To Kill a Mockingbird Orchestra or Bessie Rap when she gets together and does stuff with people, but we’re all really unique within that world too.”  “That this isn’t the sort of band you’re going to hear every day,” cautioned McGrath, adding “Most people don’t know what to expect from us, but end up perhaps surprised at how much they enjoy it. Of course if you have seen us, but haven’t seen us with Nicola, you’re in for a treat as well.”  Heavy Shtetl plays Wednesday July 27th at 6:30 on the Rossland Museum grounds. The concert is a fundraiser for the museum. Tickets are $18 per adult or $36 per family and are available at Rossland Pro Hardware and the Museum. There will be a BBQ starting at 5:30. Bring your own lawn chair or blanket. Concert goes rain or shine.

Categories: Arts and Culture

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