‘Songs of People Other People Don’t Like So Much’ is a newly created and first-time collaboration of singer/songwriter/accordionist/novelist Geoff Berner and actor/singer/movement artist/director Luisa Muhr. Being part of the Klezmer and Yiddish music and performance scene, in the US, Canada and Europe, Geoff and Luisa first met at the renowned KlezKanada music camp where they spent many hours singing together.
‘Songs of People Other People Don’t Like So Much’ has been created out of the necessary of producing political work in times that need it. You will get to to hear the voices and stories of the “underdogs” of our society, mostly of the ones who work for others, but sometimes even of the ones in charge… Join us, listen, engage, and enjoy!
Luisa Muhr is a professional actor, singer/vocalist, movement artist, director, educator and co-founder/co-artistic director of FENGARI Ensemble. She was born and grew up in and around Vienna, Austria, and has lived in Montreal, Canada, until moving to her permanent home in New York City.
Luisa performs in English, Yiddish, and German. She is particularly interested in working as an interdisciplinary artist, which she has done most of her life and is convinced by the importance of each discipline informing the other. Vocal ability and movement are her strengths and finding a way to combine music, dance and theater has been the main focus, especially of her most recent works. Luisa is currently helping to design a project under Meredith Monk and the House Foundation to help teach Monk’s work in different local communities.
Luisa has a background in experimental, puppet, Yiddish, movement-based, and musical theater, where she has performed in ensembles and as a solo artist in numerous roles and plays abroad and at Off and Off-Off Broadway venues. Recent credits include: COCKPIT, Dolores, A Monument to Oscar Lopez Rivera, Empire Travel Agency, The Jazz Singer, Richard III, and Andorra.
Recent working collaborations include: The Bread and Puppet Theater (under Peter Schumann), Marisa Michelson’s Marigold Chor Ensemble, Full Moon Choir, Woodshed Collective, The Alchemical Theater Laboratory (with Carlo Altomare (The Living Theatre)), The Box Collective.
As a singer she performs and has performed not only in the US, but in Europe and Canada, as a solo artist and as part of vocal ensembles, in Yiddish and English. Believing in the importance of spreading the Yiddish language through ancient songs, Luisa’s most recent Yiddish solo project was called “Yidishe Lider”, a mix of Yiddish traditional songs.
In June 2015 Luisa founded the Theater and Performing Arts company FENGARI Ensemble together with her artistic partner James Leaf. Since then Luisa has starred in Dolores by Edward Allan Baker at the Playroom Theater and Steve Bellwood’s COCKPIT (formerly known as The Specials) at the Balcony Theater, which she also co-directed together with James Leaf. Luisa and James also directed and put together the show The Wedding of the Waters in Buffalo, New York, produced by The Friends of the Buffalo Story, an interdisciplinary work, where Luisa was also the Musical Director, Choreographer, and Vocal Coach.
As a director and teacher Luisa has directed several plays around the world (Austria, South Africa, Canada, and the United States) and has worked as a Performing Arts Teacher (acting, singing, dancing) for Stagecoach Theatre Art Schools in Montreal and the w@lz School in Vienna. She is currently the theater instructor at Bedford Stuyvesant Collegiate Charter School, teaches German through Music at the United Nations International School (German School), and has also been a private acting and vocal instructor for several years.
Geoff Berner Offers a Compendium of Klezmer-Punk Strategies Against Despair
Singer/songwriter/accordionist/novelist Geoff Berner’s music combines klezmer (for the uninitiated, the folk music of Eastern European Jews), punk, political satire and Balkan dance rhythms. He writes sharp, literate songs that can make you want to weep, laugh, grind your teeth, or kick out a window. Often all at the same time. A lot of famous people have covered his compositions. Look it up.
“We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians” is his first original album in 4 years. He says that it’s “meant to be powerful cheering-up medicine that you don’t have to turn your brain off for.” In 2015 it made the German Critics Circle Year’s Best List.
Berner has built a serious cult following throughout North America and Europe, by touring relentlessly through thousands of bars, cafes and festivals. With his weirdly compelling stage presence, he has a strange ability to create fun chaos. He describes his typical audience members as “Odd, bookish people who like to drink. There’s a surprising number of physicists.”
Berner counts himself as part of the “Klezmer Bund” movement of makers of Radical Jewish Culture, artists like Daniel Kahn of Berlin, Psoy Korelenko from Moscow, and the rabble-rousing Jewdas group in London. The Klezmer Bund rejects orthodox and ultra-Zionist conservative notions of Jewish identity, and seeks to connect in an entertaining way with the deep roots of left-wing Jewish thought, in a way that’s accessible for everybody.
Berner’s first album in that vein, “Whiskey Rabbi”, was released ten years ago, giving him a nickname that stuck. This new album, recorded in Vancouver, Canada, features most of the musicians from his previous release, the award-winning “Victory Party”. It was produced by Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, from Montreal. Socalled is himself a superstar of radical Jewish culture. “As with Victory Party, there really was nobody besides Josh who could have made this album with me. His knowledge of both the recording studio and Jewish music is unmatchable.” Oriente Records of Berlin is the pre-eminent label in Europe for klezmer, and the Klezmer Bund, too, so it’s a natural home for this album. In Canada, “Bremen” is part of the exciting roll-out of Coax Records’ new roster of artists for both its recorded music arm and booking agency.
“We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians” is a reference to the old German folk tale about elderly farm animals threatened with death, who run away from their masters in the hope of achieving freedom and becoming Town Musicians. It’s an absurd tale of irrational hope and optimism in the face of horror, and that’s where the story connects with the songs on the album. “I would describe the record as a compendium of strategies against despair,” says Berner.
Some of the strategies offered include: Love, as in the song “I Don’t Feel So Mad At God When I See You In Your Summer Dress”; Redemption, as described in “Swing A Chicken 3 Times Over Your Head”, and pure Schadenfreude, as depicted in “Dance And Celebrate (The Misfortunes of People We Hate)”.
You don’t already have a record like this in your collection. Look for it at independent record stores everywhere, online, or at a Geoff Berner live show in your town, coming soon.