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The Klezmatics: Woody Guthrie’s Wonder Wheel Tour
Mar 8, 2015 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm| $30
Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College continues its 60th Anniversary Season with an afternoon of joyous and uplifting music by the Grammy Award-winning Klezmatics on Sunday, March 8, 2015 at 3pm. Titled “Woody Guthrie’s Wonder Wheel Tour,” the program pays tribute to the great Woody Guthrie, one of the finest American lyricists of the 20th Century, featuring songs with lyrics penned by Guthrie during the time he lived in Brooklyn, set to music by members of the Klezmatics. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at BrooklynCenter.org or by calling the box office at 718-951-4500 (Tue-Sat, 1pm-6pm).
Flash back to 1940s Coney Island, where Woody Guthrie and his wife, Martha Graham dancer Marjorie Mazia, settled into the raucous, polyglot life on Mermaid Avenue. Their house was a joyous intersection of two worlds, where regular visitors like Pete Seeger and Leadbelly mingled with the rich tapestry of Yiddish culture. Guthrie’s mother-in-law was legendary Yiddish poet and activist Aliza Greenblatt, who discovered in Woody a kindred spirit of words and idealism. Deeply inspired by the culture of his newfound Jewish life and family, he produced hundreds of lyrics rich with spirituality, wordplay, fatherly tenderness, and a passionate belief in the human fight for peace and justice. These Coney Island-wrought lyrics add a less-known urban dimension to a man seen as the avatar of dustbowl ballads. But, like thousands of his songs, they were left unrecorded.
Half a century later, Guthrie’s daughter Nora was in discussion with members of the Klezmatics (who were performing at Tanglewood), talking about her father’s legacy and the enormous amount of writing he did while living in Brooklyn. Nora realized that she had found the perfect artists to bring her father’s Coney Island songs back to life. With her blessing, the Klezmatics began to set over two dozens of Woody’s lyrics to music.
The result, seven years in the making, was Wonder Wheel, a record that Nora describes as “just as my father would have wanted.” Set to music filled with Eastern European, klezmer, Latin, Celtic, Afro-Caribbean, and folk flavors, Woody’s lyrics take on a universal life of their own, a life enriched with the Klezmatics’ own gusto and flair. It is easy to see why Nora Guthrie entrusted them with her father’s overlooked treasures — the album was honored with a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
An extension of the project, “Woody Guthrie’s Wonder Wheel Tour” also features acclaimed Celtic vocalist Susan McKeown and multi-instrumentalist Boo Reiners.