You have to think they'll never play an audience like this again… (tute wrapup)

Well, attempting to coordinate several programs and blogging during the already jam-packed NHC Summer institute proved more difficult than I thought. We did have enough bloggers there to have our own minyan, though, so I’m hoping that in the coming days, we’ll hear a little more from their perspectives.
(Updates: TheLastTrumpet chimes in with his perspective. Plus, ZT takes a moment away from destroying Gellman’s Lieberman piece to post his shabbas roundup, and part II. TheWanderingJew started a new blog and has three posts on the ‘Tute. sounds like i’m not so crazy to be missing it right now)
But going back to my Wendesday post, some really fantastic highlights to touch upon, including a concert/dance party with VA’s Vulgar Bulgars that, without having seen Golem’s extremely well received show, I would still say rivaled their skills, energy, and Old World revival/New World twist.
General Anna put together an awesome Sanhedrin discussion on Ethics and Jewish communal practice. Gathering 20 different sources from Shmot to Talmud to the Conservative Law committee and the AJC, we planned to tackle several questions. Because of the great wealth of sources, we really only tackled the first question as to whether a Jewish retreat should select a conference center that has ethical labor, environmental and business practices (at the exclusion of some of the community) or go with the place that’s more affordable for the whole community (that has busted unions and uses large agribusiness). I was really surprised at how people were able to dive into the sources and personify them. Brent Spodek shepparded us through the discussion quite admirably, as he did with our excellent afternoon class.
Thursday night I emceed this year’s Coffee House, which was full of great performances, including LastTrumpet kicked us off with a little Steve Earle, we had a bluegrass trio come together, Adam Gordon embody some of the Minnesota Rebbe, Shamirpower rock some funky rhymes (that I hear were penned in Yerushalayim at a Corner Prophets event) over a Gindi beat, and yours truly as part of Better Jews with Beards… rock a jazz Yedid Nefesh, Poretsky Guest Artist Andrea Hodos doing a great movement piece, Julia Appel, Benj Kamm and Charley Beller making some great music, and KungFuJew delivering a very impassioned Letter to Judaism that brought down the house (rumor has it he may put it out for us to see). We also had some funny skits, including a visit with the 4 headed Ringer Rebbe, and Monty Python revisit with Harpo and Uhl. With next year’s Institute less than 51 weeks away, I’d start thinking about what you want to perform. And special knowledge to Uhl, Harpo, and Desh for helping making it happen on tech.
Friday night services are the only time the whole Institute davens together, and this year’s services were beautifully lead by Benj Kamm, Emma Kipley-Ogman, and Kelly Beller. The tent worked well for services, somehow being both more available to the outdoors than the giant Field House gym used last year, and yet with much better acoustics. And demonstrating our pluralism, musical instruments were invited to participate from the beginning of services through Lecha Dodi. Most people that I spoke to afterwards seemed to really welcome the addition (full disclosure: I was playing my sax, so people might not have felt like telling me was the best way to go). There were many that were moved to dancing, and I felt like we welcomed the Shabbas queen right.
After dinner, I went over to the poetry reading which was hosted by our Jewish poetry teacher Phil Terman. With a whole class swelling the ranks of an established event, we had 50 people crowd into a small Franklin Pierce classroom for the open room. No mic, and we were close enough together that we didn’t need one anyway. some great pieces by members of the class and other people from the institute that wanted to share. I read three pieces, and I’ll be putting them up over at the Riot Act. In the rumor mill, there may be a 2006 Institute Poetry compilation in the works. Phil did a great job both with our class, and with facilitating the reading. I hope he continues to come back to the Institute.
Saturday afternoon, Andrea Hodos’s Moving Torah class performed several pieces from their work during the work. I’m biased a bit, as Knucklehead was part of the performers, but I thought their interpretations of receiving the Torah were thought-provoking. Really interesting ideas on being ready and holiness.
After saying goodbye to Shabbas with the community, we danced into the tent… to find a four person klezmer juggernaut ready to greet us for the week. Some of us were familiar with the Bulgars, having seen them and spent time with them at the NHC’s Chesapeake retreat in March, where they forever earned my love by starting our contradancing class with a bluegrass version of Union Maid. The energy exchange on saturday night between the Bulgars and the havurahniks was palpable. Imagine two hours of the most intense, vibrant simcha dancing you’ve ever seen… then multiply it by two, and put it in a tent with grass floor and a lakeview. Despite having a smaller set up than i’d usually like to see (clarinet, violin, bass, and drums), the Bulgars put out a big sound that bathes the room in klezmer goodness. They masterfully contolled the vibes in the room with changes in mood, mixing up the tempo, with sad wails and joyous shrieks. Whether delivering vibrant versions of classics or their own delicious recipes, the Bulgars definitely delivered the goods. I still hope that the next time they plan an NHC event, we’ll actually get a chance to jam with them, as we have some pretty fantastic musicians usually in attendence. And I’m sure that as much a joy as it was for us to have them, they had to love the frantic dancing in the tent, as the Institute community was ready to let its (occasionally considerable) hair down and boogie.
As I sadly rejoin the rest of the world after an incredible week plus in New Hampshire, I just want to commend everyone that made this year’s Institute such a great time, including our illustrious co-chairs. Mazel tov on a job well done.
For people who want to have conversations about building grass roots jewish communities, and for folks just looking to have a week full of knowledge, music, and fun, start thinking about saving a week of vacation for next year’s Institute.

2 thoughts on “You have to think they'll never play an audience like this again… (tute wrapup)

  1. Son, I got you covered in the update. And yes, I do want to see them, I just have mad love for the Bulgars and thought they put on a serious set saturday night.

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