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Music of Eastern Europe & Bulgaria at Boston Court

June 5, 2010

Anthony Shay and Leona Wood founded the Aman Folk Ensemble in 1964, a group that performed Eastern European and Middle Eastern music and dance. Shay has three doctorate degrees, including one in ethnomusicology and is a professor at the Claremont Colleges; the late-Wood headed the Middle Eastern section.

Trudy Israel is one of five current Nevenka members who danced in the Aman Folks Ensemble. “I danced with Aman for a little more than 8 years,” she says. “And in 1976, Nevenka grew out of the Ensemble. Some of us had become a little too old to dance, or we had careers and children, so Nevenka was born to focus solely on singing. And as world music took off several years ago, we began meeting young women after performances who wanted to join because of their love of world music.”

 The group is now 15 women strong. With an exception or two for illness, they will perform in Boston Court’s main theatre on Sunday, June 6. “We’ll sing about 25 of the world’s most beautiful and interesting songs,” says Israel. “Each is in a foreign language: Bulgarian, Turkish, Greek, and so on. We’re also including four Roma pieces.” The term ‘gypsy’ is no longer used, having been replaced with “Roma,” Israel, who also directs the group, notes. “I think Roma music is the most exciting music in the world. Harmonies are outrageous because they often use second intervals [two adjoining full notes, such as C and D together], and call for ‘metal’ voices, or singing from the chest instead of the head.”

Nevenka members, who all are based in Los Angeles, study with foreign language tutors to master the words and phrases they sing. And, in August, Nevenka travels to Bulgaria. “We’ve been invited to sing for Tzvetanka Varimezova’s 50th birthday party. Tzvetanka is an ethnomusicologist at UCLA and her husband is a very famous bagpipe player in Bulgaria. She’s our sponsor and very well known in Bulgaria. Groups from Denmark, France, San Francisco and elsewhere will be there, too. Each will sing for her on their own, then all of the groups will get together to sing – a chorus of about 60 women.”

$18 general admission (no children under age 3 please).  Tickets available at the box office, by calling 626-683-6883. Boston Court 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Sunday June 6, 7pm.

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