If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably aware that Philly’s got an eclectic and vibrant music scene. You also probably know that the Philadelphia area is home to a diverse and active Jewish community. The two intersect in Philly’s long history as home to a unique brand of klezmer, the contemporary term for Eastern European Jewish folk music.
The sher is an Eastern European social dance for four couples–a cousin to the Western European quadrille and the American square dance. This dance, and an accompanying set of tunes, were brought over by Jewish immigrants from what was then the Russian empire in the early 1900’s. Philly quickly developed its own unique set of tunes, the Philadelphia sher medley, to go along with the dance, which was extremely popular in the Jewish community for many years. (Other American cities, such as New York and Chicago, also developed their own sher medleys.)
By the late 1960s, the sher wasn’t as popular as it once was; the Jewish community had more or less moved on to Israeli dancing and American pop music. Though it hasn’t been as visible in recent decades, the sher has still been played and danced at Jewish summer camps and klezmer-revival events like KlezKamp.
The Simcha Band of West Philly’s Reconstructionist synagogue, Kol Tzedek, is spearheading a project to bring this lively dance and melody back to regular performance in the Philly Jewish community. Check out the full description of the project’s methods and goals here.
This blog will contain news about events at which the sher will be played; video and audio clips of performances; info on the history of the sher and klezmer in Philadelphia; and educational resources for all who are interested. You can subscribe via email by clicking the button in the upper right-hand corner. Check back soon for some audio updates from Chanukah 2009 and the introduction of new bloggers!