Alicia Svigals, a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, is a composer, vocalist and the world’s foremost klezmer violinist, who almost singlehandedly rescued that fiddle tradition from the brink of extinction with her recording Fidl. She was an NEA MacDowell Fellow in 2014, an honor for first-time fellows of “extraordinary talent.” She was also a 2014 fellow at LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture in NYC, and received the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s 2013 New Jewish Culture Network commission for her original score to the 1918 silent Pola Negri film The Yellow Ticket. She is currently working on the score to a feature film based on Gertrude Stein’s novella Brewsie and Willie, and is collaborating with author Sarah Schulman on a musical based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s novel Enemies, A Love Story.
Svigals has taught and toured with violinist Itzhak Perlman, who recorded her compositions with the Klezmatics; she has also composed for the Kronos Quartet. She’s been featured in Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues at Madison Square Garden with Phoebe Snow, Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, and Brooke Shields; and Osvaldo Golijov was commissioned to create a work for her and clarinetist David Krakauer (then a fellow bandmember in the Klezmatics) entitled Rocketekiya , recorded on the Milken Archives label and performed at Merkin Concert Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
In Svigals’ band the Klezmatics, she created contemporary Jewish music that combined the Yiddish tradition with a postmodern aesthetic and progressive worldview. She co-led and toured with the band for seventeen years, recording albums which reached the top ten of the world music charts. With them she composed music for theater, dance and film: for Tony Kushner’s A Dybbuk, first produced at the Public Theater in NY, and his work-in-progress It’s an Undoing World, for filmmaker Judith Helfand’s A Healthy Baby Girl, and for poet Allen Ginsburg and Israeli singer Chava Alberstein. Alicia’s multi-media event The Third Seder,featuring Tony Kushner, artist Neil Goldberg and the Klezmatics was presented by La Mama and by the Jewish Museum in New York , becoming the model for Michael Dorf’s Third Seder events. Alicia and the Klezmatics recorded two albums with violinist Itzhak Perlman, both featuring her compositions; they became the best-selling folk albums of all time, and the project was the subject of PBS documentary In the Fiddler’s House. They performed with Perlman on David Letterman, and at Radio City Music Hall, Tanglewood, and Wolf Trap.
Ms. Svigals plays and writes music in many genres, and she’s recorded on projects from Avraham Fried’s Avinu Malkeynu to the soundtrack to the L-Word. She wrote string quartet parts for singer Diane Birch’s debut, Bible Belt, and played Indian-style violin on Gary Lucas and Najma Akhtar’s Rishte. She’s appeared in stadiums with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, recorded for John Cale’s Last Day On Earth and the Ben Folds Five’s Whatever and Ever Amen, and John Zorn’s Cobra. She composed an Americana soundtrack to Judith Helfand’s documentary The Uprising of 1934 with singer Peggy Seeger, arranged string quartets for singer Debbie Friedman at Carnegie, provided original music for choreographers Risa Jaroslow, at Lincoln Center, Naomi Goldberg at the Ford Theater in L..A. Her album Vodkazak, produced by Chabad rabbi Zalman Goldstein, feature her klezmer interpretations of Hasidic Nigunim, a rare production from that community featuring a female artist. Svigals original live music accompanying author Thane Rosenbaum’s readings from his novel the Golems of Gothem (with characters based in part on her!) was presented by a number of venues including the 92nd St. Y in NYC.
Svigals also writes and lectures on Jewish music and culture.
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