A Tickle in the Heart (film & discussion)

Time and memory are woven through the captivating documentary A Tickle in the Heart, coming to Temple Sinai as part of the Saratoga Jewish Community Arts on Sunday, October 30, 7 p.m. 


An international smash hit and the world’s most popular film about klezmer music, it captures the story of the Epstein Brothers – Max, Willie, and Julius – klezmer legends on a joyous (and hilarious) international tour.


The brothers are natural performers, and their sense of life, music, and family as they tour through places they love – from Poland to Brooklyn to Florida – is as life affirming and intoxicating as the joyous music they play. There is a patented smoothness to the Brothers’ sound that epitomizes Jewish soul at its best.


Klezmer music, a traditional form of instrumental folk rooted in Eastern European Jewish culture, was thought all-but-extinct after World War II, abandoned after massive emigration to the U.S. But Stephan Schwietert’s winning documentary, A tickle in the Heart, found it alive and well in the 90’s in an unlikely place: a quaint, colorless Florida retirement community, home of the then living legends, the Epstein Brothers.


Klezmer is a fusion of Eastern European folk tunes with jazz and other influences. It was (and is) the preferred celebratory music of Eastern European Jewry around the world and has enjoyed a new upswing in popularity. In fact, it is popular in places and among groups far beyond its Gypsy/Jewish origins earlier in the 20th century.


The klezmer that grew so popular in America is very different from the simplistic Chasidic melodies that characterized much Israeli klezmer. In fact, the “American klezmer” inspired the music to Fiddler on the Roof.


“The klezmer followed in this film exemplifies something very American,” says Phyllis Wang, Coordinator of Saratoga Jewish Community Arts, “and, it is impossible for someone who has grown up Jewish in America not to immediately begin to dance around the floor or wistfully enter a reverie for family and events of an earlier time. However, it is not clear that a European hearing the music would feel that same sense of familiarity.”


Not only has klezmer become well enough known so that riffs from it are heard in a song by folk/country musician Emmylou Harris, but it is now quite fashionable in Germany, which is where this documentary was made. The Epstein Brothers formed one of the oldest klezmer bands who were still playing into the 21st Century.


This screening of A Tickle in the Heart is sponsored by Saratoga Jewish Community Arts, with a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York and can be seen on October 30, 7 p.m., at Temple Sinai, 509 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, followed by a panel discussion and dessert reception.  A $5.00 donation is requested. For reservations or information, please call 518-584-8730, option 2.