It’s probably best to start with the question, “What is Klezmer”?

Historically, Klezmer is the musical tradition that arose from the wedding music of the Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe. To listen to, think folk music with the mysterious sounds of Eastern European modal melodies that make you want to get up and dance. Nowadays, klezmer is associated with Jewish (or Yiddish) heritage and cultural identity; the music reminds many Jewish people of their parents, grandparents, or long-gone relatives.

So, with that in mind it normally comes as quite a surprise for people to find out that not one member of our six piece band is actually Jewish!

We – L’chaim Kapelye (“L’chaim” means “to life” in Yiddish, popularised by the song of the same name from Fiddler on the Roof) – began as one of the numerous cohorts of klezmer musicians from the University of Manchester in recent years. This unusual upsurge in popularity of klezmer has been primarily due to the dedicated klezmer performance module that began five years ago. The course teaches the musicians about the craft of playing the music, whilst setting it within a wider context of its historical origins and even the traditional dance steps.

From bar/bat mitzvahs to weddings to klezmer ceilidhs or creating jingles for Jewish Hour on Salford City Radio, these experiences have been afforded to us because, amazingly, we have been welcomed into the community of another faith. Forming links early on with the Manchester Jewish Museum, we have played for the past four years at the annual Chanukah celebrations. This relationship has led us to another project, which is by far the biggest that we have undertaken.

The project, entitled Amid the Mirk over the Irk, is a three part concert series that explores the imagined musical meeting of two migrant communities who lived either side of the river Irk in Manchester in the 1900s – the Jewish and the Irish. The idea that snatches of music from each community might have drifted across the water, finding themselves revived and fused in a new Irish-Jewish musical form, is the concept of these concerts. We were asked to represent the Jewish migrants and are beyond privileged to be playing alongside the pin-ups Mike McGoldrick, Dezi Donnelly and Angela Durcan, who are representing the Irish migrants. Fusing bulgars with reels, slip jigs with horas and hornpipes with khosidls, it’s a fusion that still takes us by surprise and keeps us at the edge of our seats. We don’t know what is about to happen next!

Klezmer in Manchester has grown a huge amount over the past few years. It has been amazing to be a part of that development and watch our relationship with our audience members also grow. It became apparent very early on that this relationship was more than just enjoyment of the music. Our unconventional beginnings in Klezmer seem to resonate extremely deeply with the Jewish community. We can’t be sure why, but we feel that it is because others outside their community (us, in this case) are finding value and enjoyment in something which is rooted in their identities, which in turn allows them to rediscover their own Jewishness.

We are hoping that these Jewish-Irish fusion concerts will do even more to bring together different communities through music and widen what is possible when two amazing traditions of music are brought together.



Jewish and Irish Fusion, Documentary Premieres and The New Face of L’chaim Kapelye

It has been a little while since our last update on here and we are really excited to let you know about our new plans and direction as we have undergone some dramatic changes!

A little recap will probably be helpful at this point – We (L’chaim Kapelye) met in our second year at Uni on the Klezmer course where we were the Michael Kahan Kapelye. After this year we relinquished this name to the new cohort of musicians undertaking the Klezmer course and so our 7 member set up then became the L’chaim Kapelye. After graduating, as mentioned in a previous post, we all followed a serious of rather eclectic routes including further education, accountancy training and for our trombonist George – training to qualify for the Marines.

We are over the moon to say that George got accepted into the Marines and began training in September. Our last gig together was this Summer at our first headline show in London at the Jamboree in Limehouse, East London. We played the classics old and new and the night was incredible. You are a brilliant musician and an amazing friend George, and we already miss you and wish you the best of luck!


As a result, I want to introduce L’chaim Kapelye in their new 6 piece format which was showcased this Christmas at the Chanukah concerts at the Manchester Jewish Museum. Alongside our own changes, it was great to see the University’s new training group – the newly formed Michael Kahan Kapelye – play their first gig. On top of this, two previous Michael Kahan Kapelyes were also playing at the concert in their new formats demonstrating the incredible growth of Klezmer within the city!

So, now the new year is here we have probably one of our biggest ever announcements to make: this March L’chaim Kapelye will be part of the first of its kind 3 gig series at the Manchester Jewish Museum. 

This concert series has been years in the planning because of its ambitious angle that is to create a night of Jewish and Irish musical fusion. In order to accomplish such a feat, we we are honoured to announce that joining L’chaim will be world famous Irish musician Michael McGoldrick alongside his band mates Dezi Donnelly and Angela Durcan. 

640 mike mcgoldrick.jpg

But why such a fusion? Well, back in the day (say 1880s-1900s), by the Valley of the River Irk on the Western and Eastern bank lived these two different Irish and jewish communities.  Their differences in languages, cultures and religions meant they probably kept largely to themselves but, imagine, amid the polluted mirk in which they lived and worked, what if they’d caught snatches of melody drifting across the Irk? Maybe some were curious to follow the sounds and cross to the other side. Imagine what music might have ensued.

These two communities – though very different – shared the immigrant experience of leaving home (the shtetl and the bog) behind, driven from their rural and small-town home-worlds for the industrialised deprivations and opportunities of Cottonopolis. Over time, both peoples prospered, and both, through their participation in the life of the city, became important Mancunian communities. The musics of such Jewish and Irish communities – though very different – also share some similarities. Both are modal, heterophonic, dance-oriented oral traditions, and the fortunes of both have waned then waxed over the years. So, imagine if, a century or more ago, some musicians had ventured from Angel Meadow to Red Bank …. what would have transpired and what might it have sounded like?

This is exactly what will be explored in the concert series with Mike and band representing the Irish immigrants, and yours truly – L’chaim Kapelye – representing the Jewish immigrants.

mirk over irk 2.jpg

There is even more to announce that our own ethnomusicology loving entrepreneur Ellie Sherwood has gained funding alongside another Manchester alumni and Klezmer player Robert Foot, from the O2 Think Big projects to create, direct and produce a documentary about Klezmer in the city and the documentary will be premiered at the matinee concert on Sunday 6th March. 

So what are you waiting for?!?!

The concerts are….

Thursday 3rd March (7.30pm, doors & bar open at 7pm)

Sunday 6th March (2.30pm, doors & bar open at 2pm)  — including film premiere of new documentary on the development of klezmer in Manchester and what it means to those involved

Sunday 6th March (7.30pm, doors & bar open at 7pm)

The Venue is….

Manchester Jewish Museum, 190 Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, M8 8LW (10 minutes walk from Manchester Victoria Station and next to Manchester Fort Shopping Centre)

T: 0161 834 9879/

And the Tickets are…. £10 available via Quaytickets — 0843 208 0500 (details on the What’s On events listings on the Museum website, online booking via the weblink).


L’chaim Kapelye for your Valentine…?!

This February the 14th you might have been spending some quality ben-and-jerrystime with your loved one, or been one of the many who resorted to Netflix and ice-cream in an anti-valentine celebration. But how about having L’chaim Kapelye in full force to celebrate this romantic day with your newly wed? That is exactly what happened last Saturday as we came to celebrate the wedding of Simon and Louise in an unforgettable way.

So while love is in the air, I thought I’d use this post to look into the rituals and traditions that accompany a Jewish wedding. Marriage is an extremely important event within the Jewish community and over time, the traditions and rituals that accompany this ceremony have evolved and changed. These traditions and ritualsScreen-Shot-2012-04-28-at-6_45_18-PM can vary between the different Jewish denominations but those that appear throughout consist of holding the wedding under a Chupah (a canopy with no walls), sharing glasses of wine between the bride and groom for symbolic purposes, the exchange of rings between the newlyweds to symbolise that they are now fully man and wife and the Ketubah (the marriage 8edee6f9e1c990688f9e4ec7d8d48d7dcontract) being read by the rabbi and signed by the couple. To conclude, The Seven Blessings (Sheva Brachot) are recited over a second glass of wine and when finished, the glass is placed on the floor and the groom stamps on it which is believed to symbolise the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Simon and Louise’s wedding more closely resembled the rituals of the Ashkenazi Jews and this is where L’chaim Kapelye came in. As the glass was smashed, the guests shouted ‘Mazel Tov’ and we dived into the most energetic gig of our lives!

We discovered that one of the defining Jewish rituals is to perform ‘The Chair Dance’, this is exactly what is says on the label – a dance on chairs! The bride and groom are hoisted into the air on chairs to the sounds of “Hava Nagila” as friends and family dance around them in circles as the couple are probably fearing for their lives!

Have a look here…

Disclaimer – This is not Simon and Louise! Rights belong to

What comes next is the dangerous part though – the Mitzvah Dances. This is when the guests at the wedding are obliged to entertain the bride and groom and for Louise and Simon, I can confirm they succeeded…

Table cloths transformed into trampolines as people were catapulted into the air from a number of different directions. The table cloths suddenly doubled as skipping ropes being hurled around at an extremely high velocity. The final display had the guests form a circle around an individual who was lying on the floor, somebody then jumped over this person and proceeded to lie down next to them. The next brave guest then jumped over the both of them and also proceeded to lie down alongside them. This continued until there were about 6 fully grown men lying next to each other on the floor, covering a length of what looked like well over two metres. At that point it was decided that the jump was impossible so the dancing continued to the sounds of more Horas, Bulgars and Freylekhs.

We would like to wish you all a Happy Valentine’s day from L’chaim Kapelye and a huge congratulations to Simon and Louise, we wish you happiness and joy in your new life as husband and wife, MAZEL TOV!


‘Papirosen’ is finally here!!

Months of hard work have gone into rehearsing, designing and recording and we are thrilled to announce that our debut EP is ready.

Papirosen features 5 tracks, three of which were recorded on our recent visit to M.A.R.S studio and the last two tracks are taken from the Chanukah concert played at the Manchester Jewish Museum in December.

The title track of this album, Papirosen, is a traditional Bulgarian folk tune that entered the folk tradition long ago and has evolved into several different forms including doinas, rollicking dance-band klezmer versions and even an argentine tango (check it out on YouTube!). The story tells the tale of an orphaned boy selling cigarettes on the street corner and freezing in the rain. It is a song that features a haunting melody line, powerful imagery and truly portrays this child’s struggle. The translation of the chorus below depicts the desperation of this boy trying to make any money he can to save him from a terrible fate.

“Buy my cigarettes!
Dry ones, not wet from the rain
Buy real cheap,
Buy and have pity on me.
Save me from hunger now
Buy my matches, wonderful ones, the best,
and with that you will uplift an orphan.
My screaming and my running will be for naught.
Nobody wants to buy from me-
everyone laughs and makes fun of me.”

Herman Yablokoff


The live tracks are two are our favourite pieces. Der Heyser Bulgar is performed by clarinettist Dan Mawson and is a tune that came to our attention through the great klezmer clarinettist, Natfule Brandwein. Rumour has it that Natfule Brandwein, nicknamed ‘Nifty’, used to play with his back to the audience to conceal any of his finger movements from potential klezmer spies! This was only one aspect of his eccentric personality, on occasions he was also known for wearing plugged-in Christmas lights as part of his costume and his extensive perspiration one night caused them to short-circuit, almost electrocuting him. I don’t think Dan got that sweaty in this performance thankfully. Our other track was written for us by our beloved mentor Richard Fay. The full title of the piece is “In Remembrance of Lost Worlds”. It is a beautiful piece that we have been playing for a long time so having it feature on our first ever release made a lot of sense to us. We have also dedicated Papirosen to Richard Fay as a thank you for all the incredible work he has done, if it wasn’t for him we most certainly wouldn’t be playing Klezmer.

Track order:

  1. Papirosen
  2. Happy Nign
  3. Di Zilberne Khasene
  4. Remembrance (Live)
  5. Der Heyser Bulgar (Live)

The EP can be bought online for £4 here and a physical copy by bought by e-mailing here. Physical copies cost £5 + p&p.

Klezmer for Chanukah

On Sunday 7th December 2014  Manchester Jewish Museum hosted a 5 band strong Klezmer concert to celebrate Chanukah.

Chanukah begins on the 16th of December and lasts for 8 days. It’s the festival of light and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and of spirituality over materialism.

L’chaim Kapelye was joined by Fermishte Klezmer Band (previously Michael Kahan Kapelye), Michael Kahan Kapelye (new line up!), Hard Times Kapelye and Manchester Simcha Quartet.

It was a lively evening with a wealth of klezmer music and musicians, like nothing the jewish Museum had ever seen before! The evening finished with a full 5 band encore of Mazletov with musicians and audience alike standing and dancing in the aisles. It was a brilliant evening and potentially the start of a very important era of Klezmer music in Manchester.

5 band gig 1 An unusual pre-gig preparation technique from our Clarinettist Dan and Bass player Lucie….

We also want to take this opportunity to wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah!! George designed us all as lego figurines…

   LEGO_PostcardBack row: Pippa, George, Dan, Lucie. Front row: Hat, Ellie, Jemima

Recording our Debut EP ‘Papirosen’

 We are extremely excited to announce that our debut EP entitled “Papirosen” will be availiable very soon!

Papirosen EP coverArtwork by Sam Gee

Last weekend L’chaim Kapelye set off to chilly Oxfordshire in order to spend the weekend rehearsing in preparation for our debut EP recording on the Sunday.

The intense day of rehearsal started at 11am and finished at 10pm. Although utterly exhausted the band felt ready for the next day in the studio. From our previous studio recording experience at SSR, we were much better prepared for how gruelling the whole process is. Trying to get a perfect take isn’t impossible, but becomes a lot more difficult when you’re mic’d up and there’s a red light flashing in the room. However, with the aid of sandwiches and chocolate, it all went to plan with huge thanks to Martin Atkinson of M.A.R.S studio and Hector and Moyra Wells who hosted the weekend.  We are very pleased to say that discussions concerning our debut album are well and truly underway!

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L’chaim Kapelye on tour… (kind of)

If you happened to visit Prague this Summer, you might have caught LCK giving our international debut in the city’s Jewish quarter. Most members of the band were on tour with the University of Manchester Symphony Orchestra – alas not strictly a L’chaim tour, but the opportunity to perform certainly did not escape us.

The Jewish Quarter in Prague, known as Josefov, is located between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River. Its torrid history dates from the 13th century, when Jewish people were ordered to vacate their disparate homes and settle in this one area. Over the centuries, more and more Jews from all over Europe came to Josefov. On top of this, the inhabitants of the Jewish Quarter, or the Prague Jewish Ghetto as it also became known, were forced to endure structural changes meaning that many houses were flattened so the layout of the streets could be remodelled. Fortunately, most of the significant historical buildings weren’t destroyed and today remains the best preserved complex of historical Jewish monuments in the whole of Europe.