One of the most anticipated performances of this year’s Boston Jewish Music Festival is this Thursday’s sold-out multimedia performance piece, “The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book,” composed by Bosnian-born, Los Angeles-based classical accordionist Merima Ključo. She will be introduced by “People of the Book” author Geraldine Brooks, who will join Merima for an after-performance conversation.
The story behind the “Sarajevo Haggadah” is really remarkable. What was it about its history that drew you to it?
I have always been fascinated by the “Sarajevo Haggadah.” Not only because of its amazing and fascinating history, but also because it reminds me of my own life and the “exodus” I experienced. I was forced to leave my own country under the strangest and heaviest circumstances. The Haggadah in its journey suffered transformations that make it even more special by giving it a richer history that reflects its passage through different cultures.
Like the Haggadah, I also travel around the world. With every journey I get a new “scar,” both for the positive and the negative. But I keep my dignity. Traveling enriches me through different circumstances, and I share culture with others through my music.
About four years ago, a good friend gave me a wonderful present—Geraldine Brooks’ “People of the Book.” I was inspired by this amazing book and became obsessed with the idea of a project that would musically and visually follow the Haggadah’s journey from Spain to Sarajevo. But the realization of this specific project didn’t happen until I was invited to develop the project at a residency at Yellow Barn, one of the most wonderful international centers for chamber music.
I am honored and proud that “The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book” is commissioned by the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s New Jewish Culture Network, a league of North American performing arts presenters committed to the creation and touring of innovative projects. This specific commission opened so many possibilities for the realization of the project.
This performance is a multimedia one. Have you ever done anything like this before?
I collaborated on many multimedia projects with the wonderful Israeli composer and director Daniel Landau, and in different theater productions that also had multimedia elements. I wrote and performed music with Tamara Brooks for Theodore Bikel’s one-man show, “Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears.”
I’d love to hear a little bit about your experience at Yellow Barn. How long were you there for this project?
The Yellow Barn is the most wonderful and extraordinary international center for chamber music. It’s definitely the best place for musicians to develop their projects. This is my fourth time here. My first residency was in October 2010. I was their faculty member during the 2011 summer season, and my first residency for this project was in October 2013. I’m finishing up my second residency for the project this week.
You’re an international concert accordionist. What composers wrote pieces for the accordion?
There’s only contemporary repertoire for the accordion, so you have to love contemporary music if you want to be a concert accordionist. The instrument didn’t exist in the time of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart or other big classical composers. But luckily amazing contemporary composers, like Sofia Gubaidulina and Luciano Berio, wrote for the accordion, and more and more composers today are writing for the instrument.
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