Local klezmer band makes beautiful music

by Lee Chottiner
Executive Editor The Jewish Chronicle

04.22.10 - 10:24 am

<i>Eastern Watershed Quartet: Phil Van Ouse, Lynette Garlan, R.J. Heid and Janice Coppola</i>The music of Eastern Watershed Quartet’s latest CD, “The Klez Dispenser,” will tug at the heartstrings of the most discerning klezmer listener.

The just-released 14-song package is klezmer in its most classical form. There’s little mixing of genres here; this is the music your bubbes and zaydes danced to at their weddings from Warsaw to Bessarabia.

Not bad for a band that doesn’t have a single Jewish musician, though clarinetist Janice Coppola is a music director at Temple Sinai.

Speaking for herself, “Klezmer music has an appeal to many a clarinetist,” said Coppola. But she noted that the other band members are classically trained musicians with strong backgrounds in Eastern European music.

Accordionist Lynette Garlan has studied with music teachers from the Balkans and Eastern Europe and arranged the Klezmer Koncerto for orchestra. Percussionist Ronald J. Heid, who teaches at Seton Hill University, has performed with the percussion ensemble Tempus Fugit through Germany, Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic. And tuba player Phil Van Ouse, a brass instructor at Washington & Jefferson College, performs with various folk ensembles.

Coppola said she was drawn to the “fascinating” history klezmer, which has subtle rhythmic and meter differences from other Eastern European music. She’s played in other klezmer bands and she’s traveled to a klezmer gathering in Canada to immerse herself in the music.

Eastern Watershed, which had its start as a Balkan music quintet, has been together for 10 years.

On “The Klez Dispensers,” Eastern Watershed’s music is generally upbeat. The quartet covers well-known melodies such as “Raisins and Almonds” and some a tad newer (“Play It Again, Dave” and “Sammy’s Dance Party”).

It’s a demonstration that klezmer music is alive and well in Pittsburgh. This is an album that belongs in your collection.

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at leec@thejewishchronicle.net.)

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