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Friday, Apr 29 2016 | 02:26
Image: 1603324 Songs about love, jealousy, war, the Torah, socialism, dancing girls,
affairs, player pianos - rescued treasures of semer, the last Jewish label
standing under nazi rule.

A Golden Age of Jewish music almost forgotten - the songs captured in 1930s‘ Berlin
by Hirsch Lewin on his Semer label. The Semer Ensemble brings this astonishing
music back to life with critically acclaimed concerts and their first album, recorded
live at the Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin, in November 2015.
1920s Berlin, a Golden Age of Jewish music and musicians. In this milieu we find
Hirsch Lewin, formerly a forced laborer conscripted to Germany from his native
Vilnius during World War I. After the war, Lewin decides to remain in Berlin, finds
work in a bookstore, and eventually starts his own business: the Hebräische
Buchhandlung (Hebrew Bookstore), Grenadierstrasse 28. The year is 1930.
In the midst of Berlin‘s immigrant center, the Scheunenviertel, Lewin sells books
in Hebrew, history books, children‘s books and more, prayer shawls, candles and
other religious items. His speciality: gramophone records! In 1932, Lewin creates
his own label, „Semer“. One year later, the Nazis come to power, forbidding Jewish
musicians to perform in non-Jewish settings. Semer becomes a Noah‘s Ark for Jewish
musicians who have nowhere else to go. For five years, Lewin makes recordings at
a feverish pace, creating a precious time capsule of a world facing annihilation. On
November 9, 1938, SA hordes attack the Hebräische Buchhandlung, demolishing
stock and store, including 4,500 recordings and 250 metal plates. The memory of
the Semer label falls into oblivion for the next 60 years.
Fast forward. From 1992-2001, musicologist Dr. Rainer E. Lotz travels the world to
track down the Semer recordings. Miraculously, he is able to recover and restore
almost the entire catalogue. In 2012, the Berlin Jewish Museum Berlin commissions
New Jewish Music luminary Alan Bern to create new interpretations of the archival
recordings. Bern puts together a world-class ensemble of musicians from all ends
of his musical world - America and Berlin, the old generation and the new. Bern:
„It‘s amazing, but 80 years after the destruction of this culture there is once again a
critical mass of musicians in Berlin able to take on a project like this.“
Drawing amply from this new wealth of Berlin talent and backed up by jazz master
Martin Lillich on bass, the ensemble brings together two of the most prolific
pioneers of Jewish music - Lorin Sklamberg and Paul Brody - with four leaders
of the new generation of powerful performers - Daniel Kahn, Sasha Lurje, Mark
Kovnatskiy and Fabian Schnedler.
For three years, Semer Ensemble expands and develops the Semer repertoire on
successful tours throughout Europe. In November 2015, the ensemble records
„Rescued Treasure“ over three nights live in concert at the Gorki Theater Studio in
Berlin. The result captures the special energy of a live performance on a lovingly
made, studio-quality recording.

The Semer Ensemble‘s depth and virtuosity can and does match the
entire breadth of Hirsch Lewin‘s original Semer label recordings. Its fresh
interpretations and provocative, contemporary arrangements open a time
tunnel between 1930s Berlin and today‘s New Jewish Music: Berlin cabaret,
Russian folk songs, Yiddish theater hits, operatic arias and cantorial music are
just a small sample of this remarkable repertoire.
With all-out energy and all-in commitment, the Semer Ensemble brings an
almost forgotten world back to life, not in only critically acclaimed concerts but
on record as well: The Semer Ensemble‘s debut album, recorded at the Maxim
Gorki Theater in a series of intimate exclusive concerts in November 2015, will
be ready for release in spring 2016.

01 Ich Tanz‘ Und Mein Herz Weint
02 Scholem Baith
03 Simchu Bi Jeruschalajm / E‘Ise Pele
04 Die Welt Ist Klein Geworden
05 Kaddisch [Der Jüdische Soldat]
06 Das Kind Liegt In Wigele
07 Czárdas
08 Achenu Kol Bes Isroel
09 Jad Anuga
10 Lebka Fährt Nach Amerika
11 Im Gasthof Zur Goldenen Schnecke
12 Vorbei

All Songs Arranged By Alan Bern / Semer Ensemble

• All-star ensemble of renowned Yiddish musicians from Berlin and New
York with own established projects: Grammy winner Lorin Sklamberg,
Alan Bern, Daniel Khan, Sasha Lurje, Fabian Schnedler, Martin Lillich, Paul
Brody and Mark Kovnatzkiy
• Four lead singers
• Critically acclaimed live concerts / touring worldwide
• Fresh interpretations, re-workings and arrangements of works from the
almost extinguished Semer label catalogue
• Live recording in studio quality
• First recording at distinguished historic Gorki Theater Berlin after 70 years
• Great variety of genres: Berlin cabaret, Russian folk songs, Yiddish theater
hits, operatic arias, cantorial music Available from 10.06.2016
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