New Years Eve at Theater J

Our normal New Years Eve is spent at home, but this year, we had dinner at our house with 8 of our friends, and trekked down to Theater J (were I found an extraordinary parking space) for a 10:00 New Years Eve special show and post-show party.

The theater seats about 260 and it looked like there were at least 200 in attendance, so I thought that pretty good for a pricey late evening. It was an older crowd, so we fit right in. In addition to our 8 friends, there were a few others we knew, but most were strangers (including the dapper dressed man who poured confetti on us, which is now all over house and car).

The show featured the Serendipity 4. I don’t know that it’s a real group, but it’s composed of Theodore Bikel (guitar and vocal), his wife Tamara Brooks (piano), Shura Lipovsky (vocals) and an extraordinary Bosnian-born accordianist named Merima Kljuco. It was an evening of relaxed Eastern European (for the most part) folk music, sung in Yiddish, Russian, Bosnian, Greek, and Ladino, with a little French, English and Hebrew thrown in.

Lipovsky sang well, I like Brooks’ sense of rhythm and accuracy on the keyboard, and you certainly can’t complain about 84 year old Bikel. You could listen to him perhaps forever without tiring.

But the real treat was Kjuko. Trained in Sarajevo, Rotterdam and Bremen, she did things with the accordian that I simply have never heard done before.

She accompanied perfectly, but she was able to work her accordian (she and the accordian actually looked like they were part of the same organisim), with an extraordinary sense of rhythm, she was able to coax sounds out of it as if she were in charge of sound effects, from storms to railroad engines and so on, and she could use it as a percussion instrument, tapping out intricate patterns at the same time as she was playing the melody, and the harmony, and carefully controlling the airflow. She also played a Bulgarian folk song (after giving a short introduction on the complexities of Bulgarian folk music) in 11/8 time, and if you think that is an easy rhythmic pattern to maintain, just you try it.

Afterwards, also I stayed away from the tables, there were both sweets and snacks set out, and soft and hard drinks, a big screen TV turned on to the Times Square celebration, and a well thought out track of dance music (with no one really dancing) to end the evening. I don’t think it was going to be too late a crowd. Only the hard core was left when we departed at about 12:30, and they weren’t very hard core.


2 thoughts on “New Years Eve at Theater J

  1. The disappointing thing is that I tried to find Merima Kljuco on YouTube and similar music sites, and couldn’t. What she did was simply extraordinary. As Bikel said, shaking his head after the Bulgarian piece, “sometimes I wonder”.

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