NWSS Cockney-Yiddish Concert


This article is being written “the day after the evening before” under pressure because of a very tight publishing deadline. The idea for this event came about during a meeting of the NWSS Social Group several months ago. It was suggested by Jen Jankel who had come to learn of Katsha’nes through her work with JMI. As a group we had already made the decision to give the synagogue a brief rest from the Annual Supper Quiz for 2017 but were really struggling to come up with an innovative replacement as a main fundraiser for the year.

Boy, what an inspired suggestion by Jen…….and to be honest, not without some degree of trepidation and nervousness from other members of the Social Group.

Katsha’nes are a group of four musicians (all ladies), vocalists, storytellers and historians who perform London’s Cockney-Yiddish music-hall repertoire. http://www.katshanes.com/ 

Ticket sales were somewhat slow in the beginning but increased dramatically in the preceding two weeks such that on the night the audience numbered 110 even including a couple of quite young children. We managed to attract quite an eclectic mix of attendees, including some non-Jewish people and others from surrounding Jewish communities. However it was very pleasing to see that the audience was mainly from the NWSS Community.

We spent a considerable time during the day preparing the synagogue hall for the event including taking delivery of some very impressive stage lighting kit and also some enhanced audio kit. Thank goodness for the invaluable help of Roger Sinclair without whom we would have been totally at sea. The seating was arranged theatre-style and the ladies performed from our very own stage.

Our band of volunteers included, Ros and Ray, Gill, Elise, Kay, Carlene & Stephen and Kay covering functions such a selling raffle tickets, running the bar, providing security and looking after our guests. We also had the invaluable help of Sandra and her two assistants providing all of the food which was available both before the Concert and also at half-time.

And now to the Concert itself. This was divided into two sets of 45 minutes and consisted of songs performed in a mix of Yiddish and English telling stories of religious tension, immigrant integration and assimilation, social pressures and even a hint at sexual dalliances. As the evening went on, the level of audience participation increased but above all there was just wonderment at the skill and artistry of the four musicians as they managed the keyboard, saxophone, violin and drums. The content of the evening was a surprise to many audience members but I do honestly believe that by the time of the end of the final number (greeted by a standing ovation and calls for “more”) the majority were won over by the four performers and their undoubted talents.

An evening to remember for sure and an example of how the NWSS Social Group will continue to push the conventional boundaries in their pursuit of both entertaining the Community and raising valuable funds for NWSS. We shall also continue our tradition of making a donation to the Sam Beare Hospice from the proceeds of the evening.

Over the past few months we have lost some members of the NWSS Social Group for a variety of valid reasons – if you have the time and energy to do so please join us and help NWSS to continue to be a fun and interesting community. Please contact me through the Synagogue Office!

Alan Gallant on behalf of the Social Team

And because you were wondering what ‘Katsha’nes’ means, it’s Yiddish slang for ‘Silly Questions’.