West Philadelphia Orchestra gears up for Purim Party 2018

West Philadelphia Orchestra wants you to dance the night away at their 2018 Purim Party. | Provided

Don’t have plans for Purim 2018 yet? Then you should mark your calendar for West Philadelphia Orchestra’s (WPO) Purim Party at World Cafe Live on Thursday, March 1.

Kicking off at 8 p.m., the night will be filled with music, dancing and World Cafe Live’s extensive menu of beer, wine, cocktails and bites.

“We’ve thrown Purim parties before in various contexts,” says Larry Goldfinger, clarinetist for WPO. “Once or twice we played a huge Purim party at Zahav restaurant, we’ve played Purim parties at Jewish community centers and the for past two years we’ve had our Purim parties wrapped into our weekly Tuesday Balkan Dance Party at Franky Bradley’s. So it’s something we’ve tried to do every year.”

Not Jewish? Not a problem, because Purim parties welcome everyone to dance the night away.

“Purim is about celebration, community, and is meant to transcend religious boundaries,” Goldfinger says. “It’s technically an atheistic holiday, as far as the liturgy is concerned. It’s just based on a story about an ancient event. Klezmer bands in Hungary used to go all over town, from house to house, with the whole community following  — Jews and non-Jews alike — all night on Purim. We pride ourselves on creating a celebratory atmosphere wherever we go, and our music comes from both secular and Jewish traditions.”

In case you’re not familiar, klezmer is a type of music that originated with the Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe. It’s celebratory in nature and the name comes from two Hebrew words: “kley,” which means vessel and “zemer,” which means melody. According to Goldfinger, there will be plenty of it to enjoy along with some modern mashups.

“On Thursday we’ll be playing a traditional klezmer style specifically to facilitate traditional dancing —those whirling rings of humanity united hand in hand,” he says. “We’ll still play our weird mash-up versions of klezmer tunes,  like ‘The Rabbi’s Dance’ combined with ‘Woo Hah (Got You All in Check),’ so our fans who come expecting to get their booty shake on won’t be disappointed either. We also have some original songs for the occasion, including a Yiddish drinking song specifically for Purim.”

The evening will feature two sets: one from The Philly Klezmer All-Stars and one from WPO, and each will last about an hour. Two featured klezmer artists for the party are Susan Watz and Dan Blacksberg.

“Philly’s klezmer legacy is way bigger than most people recognize and no one embodies that legacy more than trumpeter Susan Watz. Her grandfather’s xylophone graced many hit klezmer records from the ’20s and ’30s, and her mother was the fantastic drummer, Elaine-Hoffman Watts, who passed away last year. Susan’s trumpet sound captures another time, feeling and dimension, and it is wondrous to hear,” Goldfinger notes.

“Trombonist Dan Blacksberg is a younger generation klezmer musician who tours the world playing and teaching klezmer. Dan knows the tradition inside out, but he’s also been involved in some of the most innovative Jewish music projects of the last 10 years,” Goldfinger adds.

If you go:
Purim Party 2018
Thursday, March 1
8 p.m., $15
World Cafe Live
3025 Walnut St.

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