Where Words Lose Their Meaning

A virtuoso fiddler who plays a wide variety of styles, Ruby Harris has performed at sold-out concerts at The Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center in New York City, Carnegie Hall, and Avery Fisher Hall. Harris has performed before former President Clinton, prime ministers and mayors. The talented musician has appeared before the Democratic National Convention, MTV and CBS Records. One of the first on the scene of the Klezmer renaissance, Harris has played with the Klezmer Conservatory Band, Andy Statman, The Klezmatics, Jazmer, The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, and Soulfarm. Here, Harris speaks about some of the influences on his music.

Q: How has cantorial music affected your playing—do you draw on any particular cantorial music or the cantors themselves for inspiration?

A: Just last week I played a concert in Chicago with the Tel Aviv Cantorial Institute [Choir conducted by] Cantor Hershtik and company. We both inspired each other very much. I'm a fan of the great cantors and any cantor that can move us spiritually.

Uplifting Combination

Q: Does Klezmer music have magical powers—can this music cause souls to awaken?

A: I've seen it constantly, on all levels, from babies to the elderly. Music talks where words lose their meaning, music talks and communicates to the Neshama, or soul. People who play music have the power to bring people very high, or, unfortunately, the other way, too. Klezmer music with Torah values is a marvelous uplifting combination.

 Q: Performing music with rigor is a great workout. How would you rate the workout you get from playing Klezmer fiddle as compared to playing Bluegrass, Appalachian, or Cajun fiddle, for instance?

A: I, who play all those constantly, see no difference in any of them. Once we're jammin', we're workin' out and breakin' it down, as they say. Recently, on [the Jewish holiday of] Purim, we had 'em dancing for 4 hours straight going wild. Weddings can be the same.

Very Present

Q: Music soothes the savage beast and when musicians play for themselves, they choose particular songs or genres according to their mood and whim. When you play just for yourself, what mood would you be in if you chose to play in Klezmer style and how do you feel when you put your fiddle down?

A: Klezmer for me is music for a good mood. I somehow am more inspired to play the up-tempo klezmer fiddle tunes, and the slower ones are beautiful and very present too. Putting my fiddle down is usually necessary to pick up my guitar, mandolin, or plate of fried chicken.