“Tram Tracks” commission for Klezmer-ish

Composing & ArrangingKlezmer-ishTeaching & Education

Klezmer-ish were asked to take part in the Manchester-wide “Tram Tracks” project, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Manchester Metrolink, by writing a track to represent the Bowker Vale area of North Manchester.

Here is a live recording from the gala performance at the Bridgewater Hall on 9th July 2017.

This part of North Manchester has a long history of immigration, with people from Jewish, Irish, African, Caribbean and Indian backgrounds (amongst others) all making their lives here at various points over the last two or more centuries.

Our song reflects this rich social history by drawing on two very different music traditions. Our piece starts with a 19th-century “broadside ballad” called The Exile’s Lament. Manchester was a national centre for the production of these hugely popular ballads, which were sold cheaply on the street and often dealt with current events and issues. As the Irish population of Manchester grew, unsurprisingly many ballads emerged with Irish themes. We have tried to reflect the nostalgic tone of the words in a slow and simple musical setting.

The Exile's Lament

Sounds imitating the sounds of a steam train (or perhaps a steam tram…Manchester had steam powered trams 100 years before the present-day Metrolink!) lead into the second part of our song, which reflects the strong Jewish community in the North Manchester area by using a song from Ukraine called Sem Sorok (“7:40”). It is a freylakh often performed at Jewish weddings, and one of the stories behind the song suggests that its name refers to a train which brought Jewish merchants from their shtetl to work in Odessa each day, arriving at 7:40am and returning at 7:40pm.

Peter Hope on Radio 3
Manchester Single Reed Summer School 2017