Pianist and composer Jeremiah Klarman revel in Jewish and gospel music

Jeremiah Klarman is a musician musician. The 28-year-old pianist and New England Conservatory (NEC) graduate is a mainstay of Temple Emanuel’s Shabbat Alive, a Friday night service celebrating prayer with music. On a given Friday night, Klarman can be found at the keyboard in what he described as “happily praying with my fingers”.

Modest and unassuming Klarman recently spoke to JewishBoston about his music career, the breadth and depth of his musical tastes, and his love of gospel music. At the NEC, Klarman majored in composition while focusing on contemporary improvisation with Hankus Netsky as a mentor. “We could talk for days and days about the difference between improvising and composing, but I also think they’re very related,” Klarman said.

Netsky conducted the NEC Jewish Music Ensemble, of which Klarman was a member during his five years at the conservatory. Netsky is also a master of klezmer music and introduced Klarman to the genre. At Netsky’s suggestion, Klarman attended KlezKanada, an intensive week of Yiddish arts, and KlezKamp, a week of celebration of Yiddish music and art. He described this period as a wonderful immersion in Yiddish culture. “I was fortunate enough to study with Hankus,” Klarman said.

Klarman came to play at Temple Emanuel in 2008 at the age of 15. During his tenure, he saw the temple introduce live music into its vacation services. During this first service in 2013, Klarman and a flautist accompanied the temple choir. Live music during services was not without controversy – some devotees were uncomfortable playing instruments on Shabbat, while others supported the idea of ​​underlining the prayer with live music. . Ultimately, Klarman and his temple mentor, Cantor Elias Rosemberg, organized four musical services the following year. The initiative was successful and nine services featuring live music are in the works for the coming year.

However, it is Shabbat Alive that inspires Klarman. During the summer holidays or on a Shabbat morning, Klarman is aware that “I am there to support and accompany, as opposed to someone who is on the same level as the singers,” he said. “But when I play Shabbat Alive, it’s with a band and I feel the excitement of the band and the singers. I’m not as aware of how much I’m playing. It’s just a blast, and I love it.

In 2017, Klarman was appointed Artist in Residence at Temple Emanuel. He works closely with Rosemberg in the arrangement of music as well as in the composition for the liturgy. In 2018, Rosemberg asked him to put the “Prayer for Israel” to new music in honor of the country’s 70th anniversary. For the temple’s signature concert, “Hanukkah Happens”, Klarman enjoyed rehearsing with the musicians. Among the many lessons he learned from Emanuel is that his work is not a performance. “We are all in the same boat,” he said. “I’m behind the keyboard connection, and it’s a great feeling. “

Klarman got his first glimpse of gospel music at Temple Emanuel’s annual Project Manna concert, and the experience was eye-opening for him. The concert is an interfaith initiative in which the temple joins the Massachusetts Avenue Baptist Church. Other choirs, both Jewish and Christian, also participate. The event has been going on for three decades. “We bring down the house at these concerts,” Klarman said. “At the end, all the participating choirs sing together. One year it was the gospel song ‘Total Praise’, and it was the first time I heard it. Klarman also recalled that after another concert, he spontaneously jammed with one of the church groups. “I went to the piano and we all started playing at the same time,” he said. “It was one of the funniest experiences of my life.”

Klarman frequently watches online services run by black churches in New York City. He learned many gospel songs in the hope of performing more regularly with gospel music. “I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be amazing if I could play music for a church where there is a lot of gospel and preaching? A place where I could support the preacher or play under them? It sounded like a dream, ”he said.

That dream came true last month for Klarman as he browsed the job postings. He saw a notice for a church musician in Lowell. He applied for the position at New Bethel AME, and to his delight, he was selected. “It’s not a big congregation like Emanuel, but they have a lot of energy,” he said. “I learned all these gospel songs. It helps me to have my ears and to be able to pick things up in the keys that people sing. Klarman added that his work at the church is “like an improvised collaboration. Temple Emanuel and New Bethel have different beliefs and practices but share the same feeling and energy. New Bethel welcomed me and it’s so wonderful.

As for his creative practice, Klarman admitted that his perfectionism can hinder his work. He remembers that as a teenager he produced more effortlessly. Nowadays, the muse is more accessible when it is in charge of writing a play. He said he didn’t have an exact process or routine. “I’m not someone who sits at the same time every day and just writes,” he said. “When I write, I listen to music or I play something to put me in a good mood. In general, I will cover other instruments, including guitar, violin or drums. I will also play my ideas on a small piano and activate my recording application.

One of Klarman’s notable accomplishments during the pandemic was to set Psalm 121 to original and resplendent music. The result is a stunning piece featured in a music video in which Klarman plays various instruments and sings against the backdrop of images associated with COVID-19.

The psalm famously begins: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills, whence my help will come.” My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Some commentators have speculated that the Psalm was originally a traveller’s prayer for pilgrims on their way to the Temple in Jerusalem. The last lines of God’s protective care – “The Lord will keep your coming and going and your coming in, from now and forever” – give credence to this theory. However, coupled with Klarman’s magnificent musical presentation, the Psalm has become the perfect balm for these trying times.

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