The fourth annual Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert featured the revival of interest in klezmer music, traditional instrumental music of the Jews of Eastern Europe. Heavily influenced by the existing folk genres in the area - e.g., Romanian, Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Gypsy - and traditional Jewish cantillation, klezmer was filtered through Jewish ears and consciousness. Immigrant klezmer musicians who came from Eastern Europe to America during the early 20th century found a ready market for their skills. Many large American cities had Jewish neighborhoods filled with large young families.Yiddish was spoken by the vast majority. The newly arrived klezmorim found work using the old repertoire at weddings, society, labor union, and synagogue functions. Those adept at reading music could also find employment in Yiddish theaters. American-born musicians began to perform klezmer music in the mid-1920s.
After 1960, however, klezmer music became dormant, awaiting rediscovery and revitalization through the efforts of the dedicated scholars and performers of the klezmer revival. Many of the revivalists, such as those who were featured in the Rinzler Concert, returned to Jewish music after serious careers in Anglo- American old time music. They have redefined the old music, lending a patina of artistry to the old, oncederogatory term klezmer, that had conjured up the image of a musical simpleton only capable of playing old Yiddish tunes poorly.
The 1998 Festival also celebrated Folkways at 50 through a series of concerts. Folkways Records was a touchstone of the early folk music revival through its support of many influential artists and its participation in many events. Its founder Moses Asch housed Sing Out! magazine during its early years; he recorded at the Newport Folk Festival; he published the recordings of generations of researchers and scholars - including some such as Ralph Rinzler who would eventually have a major influence on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Moreover, the philosophies of Folkways and the Folklife Festival were similar: to celebrate cultural diversity and human artistry; to provide an educational framework through which to understand cultural manifestations; and to encourage people to delve as deeply as they wish into the subject matter by providing substantial supplemental material - liner notes in the case of Folkways and program books and sign panels in the case of the Folklife Festival. Three 50th anniversary concerts included:
Music for children was one of the most influential parts of Folkways Records - many people heard their first Folkways record in a classroom. Moses Asch thought children should be exposed to good, authentic music from many cultural traditions. This concert celebrated not only the contributions of musicians who perform for children but the creativity of children themselves.
Folkways Founders/U.S. Postal Service Folk Musicians Stamp Concert
In 1998 the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp series commemorating four important figures in the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s: Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry, and Josh White. All four artists recorded for Moses Asch. To honor these men who played prominent roles in both Folkways and 20th-century American music, musicians whose styles have been strongly influenced by them performed at an evening concert.
Heartbeat: Voices of First Nations Women Concert
Because most traditional Native women's music is performed in private settings - in their homes or during tribal ceremonies - very little of this music has been heard outside the women's own communities. Some of the artists featured on a new Smithsonian Folkways recording of Native women's music were featured in a concert that celebrated both the release of the album (itself an outgrowth of a 1995 Festival program) and the half- century that Folkways Records and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings had been introducing wider audiences to community-based music.
Henry Sapoznik was Curator of the Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert, and Kate Rinzler was Coordinator. For the children's matinee and Folkways Founders concerts, Anthony Seeger and Amy Horowitz were Curators and Ivy Young was Coordinator. For Heartbeat: Voices of First Nations Women, Howard Bass and Rayna Green were Curators.
The Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert was made possible with support from The Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds, the Ruth Mott Fund, Friends of the Festival, and Kate Rinzler. Support for Folkways at 50 came from BMI (the American performance rights organization), the United States Postal Service, M.A.C.E. (Mississippi Action for Community Education), Global Arts/Media Foundation, P.A.C.E.R.S. (Program for Academic and Cultural Enhancement of Rural Schools) Small Schools Cooperative & Community Celebration of Place Project, KOCH International, Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History, TRO, The Richmond Organization, Columbia Records and Sony Music Entertainment, Michael Asch, Walter Beebe and the New York Open Center, Andrew Dapuzzo and Disctronics, David Glasser, Charlie Pilzer, and Airshow Mastering, Inc., Judith DeMaris Hearn, Ella Jenkins, Richard Kurin, Mark Miller and Queens Group, Inc., Microsoft Corporation/ Media Acquisitions Department, Arnold L. Polinger, Razor & Tie Entertainment, and The Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds.