Alexis Kune

Klezmer Masterclass

As well as giving private lessons, Alexis also organises music and dance workshops for various organisations, such as the Medem Centre in Paris, the Yiddish Cultural Centre in Paris, the Belfort Conservatory, the Music Together school, and various schools in the US.

The workshops are based both on developing musical technique as well as on interpretation and tradition. Workshop participants work with written music and with oral techniques, music, song and dance.

Alexis’ workshops are a combination of work on harmony and rhythm as well as feeling and the body, through dance and song (nigunim).

Mastering all these elements allows musicians to improve their playing in a group.

This is one of the principal reasons that Les Mentsh (the klezmer duo co-founded by Alexis) were awarded the Moïshe Beregowski Prize in 2007.

« The jury believes that Les Mentsh have maintained the oral tradition of learning and preserving klezmer music. We think that Beregowski would have particularly encouraged that aspect of their practice. »

Andréa Pancur, president of the jury, Moïshe Beregowski Prize.

Example of workshop programme, from the Yiddishland week held at Bréau, in the Cevennes (with Samuel Maquin – Les Mentsh)

The programme opens with an overview of the origins, the meaning and the evolution of klezmer music.

Klezmer is dance music, which was played in shtetls (Eastern European Jewish towns) during marriages and other celebrations.
Alexis will begin by teaching some simple dance steps for participants to begin to feel the rhythm of the music.

Ever since Alexis first took part in London’s Klezfest (in 2002) and in KlezKanada (in 2003), and began teaching dance moves (during Les Mentsh’s 2008 American tour), he has become increasingly aware how important it is for musicians to learn to dance; once they do they play klezmer quite differently, for klezmer music is first and foremost music to dance to, to feel the rhythm in the body.

Alexis also teaches singing to workshop participants, who learn to sing the tunes before they learn to play them, again in order to better understand the music.

During the workshop participants will listen to original klezmer recordings from the 1920s in order to get a feel for the music before it began to be influenced by jazz and other forms of 20th century music.

Workshop participants will work on the main klezmer scales and harmonies. Mastering these harmonies is an essential part of learning to play klezmer.

After this initiation, the participants will split into two groups, one to focus on melody, the other to focus on rhythm.

At the end of the workshop the group will again divide into groups - one intermediate, one advanced - according to ability, in order to gain experience of playing in a group. Samuel and Alexis will work with each group alternately.