Caturday felid: World premiere of “Hili and Cyrus”

September 13, 2014 • 4:04 am

I am extremely honored to present reader Carol Piller’s polka/klezmer composition (and performance) in honor of Hili and Cyrus. But I will let her explain the origin. First watch the video: an original piece of music accompanied by slides of our favorite cat and her canine staff.

A few years ago, I started writing my own piano music to play in ballet classes. It’s a lot of fun, but I’m always looking for ideas to inspire a new piece of music. Cats, my own and those of friends, have been one of my favourite sources. The story of Hili and her introduction to Cyrus was irresistible. I started this piece when Jerry was in Poland, but didn’t quite get it finished until last week.

Since it was to be in honour of Hili, I started thinking about Polish music; mazurkas and polonaises and such but my first musings just didn’t feel right. That is, until it turned into a polka! Then it took off. Shortly thereafter, I realized that the polka had taken on a decidedly Klezmer feel. Once it went Klezmer, then I had to add a slow hora on the beginning. This section has Cyrus barking in the background, (a la Vivaldi) and a plaintive melody on top (should be played on violin or clarinet) then it launches into the quick hora/polka representing the delicate interplay between Jerry and the cat and the d*g. You can make up the rest of the story.

I was in an Isreali folk group for many years and we played many styles of music, but the Klezmer music was the most fun for the orchestra. Accordion, violin and clarinet are common and are often attempting to imitate the voice and use many special effects to imitate weeping, laughing and various inflections of the Yiddish language. The Klezmorim were virtuosic performers and the music is full of joy, sorrow, vitality, humour and theatre. I am not Jewish, but am lucky that the ensemble I belonged to was very welcoming and more interested in love of music than the culture you were born into.

There are lots of great Klezmer groups out there. Here us just one example by Beyond The Pale. This video of ‘Oy I Like She’ demonstrates so much of what is wonderful about this music.

26 thoughts on “Caturday felid: World premiere of “Hili and Cyrus”

  1. This is a lovely composition. I am sure that Cyrus and Hili are honored.
    Well, Hili probably accepts it as her due, but even she must approve of such a beautiful and clever piece.

  2. I don’t know much about klezmer except that I like it. And that I also like a lot of the music from the late ’20s/early ’20s. Then I learned that there’s a klezmer component to Rhapsody in Blue.

    Nat Shilkret, whose output was huge, was a contemporary of Gershiwin’s. He isn’t nearly as well known now, probably because he led the Victor house orchestra, and I think is seen as merely covering a lot of contemporary tunes. But if you listen to some of them, like two favorites, Zulu Wail and Georgia Pines, and particularly compare them to other generally lame contemporary versions, I think it’s easy to understand why Nat Shilkret sold so well. These two YT’s, BTW, are put up by a Polish MD who seems to be very fond of this musical era, too. I think his photo montages are brilliant.

            1. When Goodman and the Duke battle, we all win!

              …but I should add a note: Benny didn’t actually play on the one I posted…let me see if I can find anything with him actually playing, not just waving a stick….


              1. You’ll be glad to know I’m having flashbacks now!
                Another fun Klezmer clarinet fact is that some performers played with their backs to the audience to keep others from stealing their licks and tricks!

            2. I’m thinking we might not have any recordings of Benny doing straight-up Klezmer, but it’s almost guaranteed he did his own fair share of weddings and bar mitzvahs before he made it big.


  3. Wonderful tribute to the Dobrzyn duo! Oy I Like She was also great fun. Accompanying for ballet classes is a very special skill. I have a hunch that the music you compose is a joy for the dancers. Made me want to dig out my old pointe shoes and dash off to class—a certain disaster at my age. 🙂

  4. Bravo! As a pianist and songwriter, I am equally inspired by Jerry’s commitment to evidence supporting our natural universe and this fabulously creative slide show and music! Kudos on a job well done!

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