October 28, 2018
4:00pm to 6:00pm
Zellerbach Theatre | Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19104

In a world premiere, one-night-only special event, 11 extraordinary women will be breathing contemporary life into the centuries-old tradition of Eastern European Jewish folk music this fall, as the Philadelphia Folklore Project presents SOUL SONGS: INSPIRING WOMEN OF KLEZMER, Sunday, Oct. 28 at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Showtime is 4 p.m.

Tickets for SOUL SONGS: INSPIRING WOMEN OF KLEZMER are $29-$49 and on sale now at or by calling 215.898.3900. 

The brainchild of fourth generation klezmer musician and concert artistic director Susan Watts, SOUL SONGS: INSPIRING WOMEN OF KLEZMER was created from the world-renowned trumpeter’s concern for the future of her art and appreciation of every individual involved. After all, Watts represents the youngest generation of an important klezmer dynasty reaching back to the Jewish Ukraine of the 19th century, and beginning with her great-grandfather, bandleader, composer, and cornet-player, Joseph Hoffman. The Hoffman family played for generations of Philadelphia-area Jewish weddings and parties, and their music became part of a distinctly Philadelphia klezmer repertoire. Watts is the sole living purveyor of the family’s traditional klezmer-style trumpet sounds, which have electrified Jewish American audiences in and around Philadelphia for decades.

“’Soul Songs’ is about the old and new intertwined,” says Watts, a 2015 Pew Fellow. “It is future provoking, intuitive, grass roots. ‘Soul Songs’ is about these women’s musical journeys, their artistry and their discernment to use the force of adversity to their gain. It is the klezmer of today and a prelude to future possibilities for the art and the communities it nurtures.”

SOUL SONGS: INSPIRING WOMEN OF KLEZMER will feature new compositions, written and performed by three generations of women who bring contemporary meaning to this traditional Eastern European Jewish folk music form. Watts has assembled a stellar group of “Inspiring Women of Klezmer,” including violinists Alicia Svigals, Cookie Segelstein and Deborah Strauss, pianist Marilyn Lerner, clarinetists Zoe Christiansen and Ilene Stahl, trombonist Rachel Lemisch, accordionist Lauren Brody, flute player Adrianne Greenbaum and bassist Joanna Sternberg.

Each artist’s work brings a distinct approach to innovating within the recognizable framework of the centuries-old genre — connecting folk elements of Baroque music to klezmer, for example, integrating Northern Bulgarian music, or using texts that reflect on female experience.

While in Philadelphia, the artists will perform a concert, teach a master class, and participate in a panel discussion on how emergent klezmer is being shaped. The discussion will be led by Dr. Emily Socolov. 

Working with Watts to fully realize her vision of “Soul Songs” as a true stage spectacle is Jenny Romaine, the highly acclaimed New York-based performer, director and puppeteer, who is the music director of the OBIE/Bessie Award winning free outdoor traveling circus, Circus Amok.

“For the Philadelphia Folklore Project, this initiative is an investment in the visionary brilliance of Susan Watts,” says Selina Morales, director of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. “The Folklore Project has presented Susan Watts and her mother, Elaine Hoffman Watts, in concert several times over the years. We even produced a documentary, Eatala: A Life in Klezmer, about Elaine ─ and featuring Susan. For decades we've witnessed Susan's virtuosic repertoire, and when we sat down and asked her what she imagines in her musical future, this project began to fall into place. Our work here is supporting Susan as she develops and manifests her vision for the innovative future of klezmer music, as composed and played by women.”

For more insight into the Soul Songs project, click here

This uniquely rousing performance is made possible with support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.