On the surface there is nothing immediately interesting in Rolke's photos - just a rickety porch, a wall, a place where a house once stood - but beneath the plaster, around the nearest corner, or in the air, there is a numinous aura vibrating. Rolke's photographs achieve their poignancy by depicting the absence from Poland of Chasidic life - an absence so intense and tragic that the sensitive person feels it as a presence. "We Were Here" is not just a lament for the missing. It is also a testimony to a continuing presence - we were here, and our presence will remain here forever. Our signs remain as guideposts, and if you can read them, we may meet together.
The exhibition of Rolke's photographs that first moved Jacek took place in the French town of Die as part of a festival, "Est-Ouest 2003", dedicated to Polish culture and art, during which Lautari also performed. The exhibition - movingly displayed in an old, round chapel outside the town itself - inspired us to express our thoughts and emotions respecting the presence/absence revealed by the photographs. While still in Die we improvised a concert that lasted many hours, during which we combined our accumulated experiences of Jewish music - acquired over several years. This outpouring from our musical hearts was more than a concert; it was a prayer, a meeting, a feast, a celebration to which everyone, the musicians and the audience, brought something - wine, bread, curiosity, reflection, memories, his or her entire heart.
We intend to continue the mystic encounter begun by us that night in France by again exploring the vanished Chasidic stetls of eastern Poland, with their now-almost-forgotten cementaries, and their empty synagogues overgrown with wild shrubs. The arrival from the USA of our friends and musicians Stefan Puchalski and Judith Bows, both of whom are Jewish, energizes our project and our fellowship.
The word "klezmer" comes from Hebrew words for vessel (kley) and song (zemer) which together mean a vessel for music, a transmitter of sound, or, more figuratively, a singing instrument. This is how we perceive our role in this project. We are vessels for this music, protecting and preserving it. Music is the medium, acting like a transparent liquid in which a drop of blood slowly spreads into the shape of a rose. It will be enough for us, the vessels, to be there and to recognize the time and place for our responsibility. The history of klezmer music is, in a sense, a soundtrack of the history of Ashkenazi Jews. Begun on the banks of the Rhine and developed in Central and Eastern Europe, like the expressive Yiddish language from which it cannot be separated, Ashkenazi culture continually enriched itself by absorbing and combining elements from the Polish, Ukrainian, Romanian, Lithuanian, Russian and Hungarian cultures that made up the ethno-geography of the northeastern European Diaspora.
We have again convened a group of klezmer musicians in order to make this journey with us through history and culture, to sing at the crossroads, and to make our effort at redemption, in other words, to make Tikkun. We will again show Tadeusz Rolke's photographs from "We were here". Surrounded by them, we will invoke the ecstatic spirit and play the joyful music of Chasidim, who were once an integral part of the cultural landscape of Poland.
Our musical encounters will conjure with musical motifs that once provided a common musical vocabulary within European Christian and Jewish cultures and, thus, allowed each of them to "meet" on human, social and cultural levels, each of their elements enriching the others. Our practice of playing music transcends the framework of a traditional concert. We create events without rigid structures or the accepted conventions that usually accompany performance. As musicians we open ourselves to the energy of the places and the people whom we commemorate, to form with them and with those who choose to listen a common sensitivity, a spiritual and music mutuality, a consonance in which the individual is free to participate but into which he or she is not lost. Because we are musicians all this we create through personal impressions expressed in musical improvisations.
Our purpose is to celebrate-in-concentration, to restore harmony, to do Tikkun.
Maciej Filipczuk and Jacek Hałas
TIKKUN is a word from Jewish mysticism that denotes a healing of the world, a striving to restore order and harmony, an effort toward redemption.
The musical and artistic project TIKKUN is not a commercial venture, but is, rather, a meeting of artists connected to Ashkenazi
culture in various ways. Its aim is spiritual gain.