Klezmer Festival, Day 1

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Yesterday I helped Becca learn how to successfully shrink movies recorded with her camera, including an overview of the fundamental concepts of digital video encoding. It was a bit frustrating for a while, since Apple's QuickTime encoder seemed to think that her movies contained no audio track and MEncoder's Mac OS X wrapper is just generally rough around the edges. But we eventually figured out how to produce a file that balanced size and quality and compatibility. Afterward, she rewarded me with lunch at the Canaan Gallery where a couple of her friends work. We enjoyed sandwiches and quiche and a mango milkshake, while Ashira entertained us endlessly, snatching at everything within reach and blowing bubbles into her water bottle with a straw.

In the evening, the first night of the annual Klezmer Festival began. If you don't know what Klezmer music is, think of the sound track to "Fiddler on the Roof" and you'll have the idea. Lots of violins and accordions and clarinets in minor keys and either jaunty or schmaltzy rhythms. The name is a Yiddishized form of the Hebrew "Kley Zemer", meaning "song instruments", and Israelis tend to pronounce the word with three syllables like the original Hebrew instead of the two-syllable pronunciation I've observed among English and Yiddish speakers. I was given to understand that, unlike previous recent years, this year's festival would feature only actual Klezmer music instead of a mix of all sorts of Jewish music.

There are stages set up in the various public squares found around town, and most every stage is surrounded by clusters of vendors' booths which sprang up overnight like mushrooms. Spaces normally used as parking lots have been transformed into open-air oriental markets hawking wares ranging from comestibles to cheap flashing bits of plastic to apparel to tattoos to cell phones. Lots of local residents take advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunity by setting up amateurish tables on their doorsteps to sell cotton candy or popcorn or whatever else they can. I visited each stage in turn, listened to about one musician on each stage, and browsed the merchants. I didn't trouble myself to learn the names of the performers that I saw. The last stage I visited was the one right in front of Avraham and Rebecca's house, and after a truly excellent violinist finished his set the fireworks display started. It lasted for about 15 minutes, and my favorite parts were the blasts that left a gold glittery cloud lingering for about five seconds after the initial colorful burst.

When I got home, one of my neighbors was selling hot, home-cooked, Indian-style food by her front door. The pizza and beer I'd picked up by the first stage I'd visited hadn't quite filled me up, so I got a dish full of lentil soup, saffron flavored rice, potatoes, and a cup of chai.