Remembering Adrienne Cooper

It is with great sorrow and a sense of great loss that I share the sad news that Adrienne Cooper, beloved singer of our people, passed away on Sunday, December 25th.

A singer, a writer, an educator, a poet, a master communicator- a pioneer  Adrienne was one of the most popular and significant interpreters of Yiddish song over the last 50 years.

Adrienne who understood the power of the Yiddish songs, saw the need to contextualize them for new, young audiences audiences for whom Yiddish was not a nostalgic exercise but an avenue of exploration, unlike  previous Yiddish singers of the past.

Along with Henry Sapoznik, Adrienne co-founded KlezKamp, the Yiddish Folk Arts Festival, held annually for close to 30 years. At KlezKamp, thousands of young singers and instrumentalists have flocked to hear her Yiddish song workshops and found insights and inspiration to commit themselves to exploring and building this culture for their generation.

Klezkamp spawned numerous other festivals and gatherings, all over the globe – Klezkanada in Montreal, YiddishFest in St. Petersburg, the Ashkenaz festival in Toronto and many others.  In each of these, Adrienne Cooper was always a key figure – performing, teaching and inspiring.

Adrienne and I began our musical collaboration 20 years ago. It was always about newly interpreting beloved songs and materials to make them relevant and appealing to varied audiences.

We traveled together to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, and many other cities, where young people would come to participate in her workshops and I had the pleasure of co-teaching many of these classes.

For the Folksbiene, Adrienne co-created a Jewish Food Show called Esn with her colleagues Frank London and Lorin Sklamberg, of the Klezmatics.  At every performance the audience was treated to an entertaining concert of Yiddish song, and ending with a delicious snack cooked fresh by Adrienne.
She also narrated a concert version of Abraham Goldfadn’s Di Bobe Yachne, The Witch, in 2004.

She recorded a CD, called In Love and in Freedom, a collection of Jewish labor songs- that we curated together- and for which she wrote the liner notes.

One of our most successful and meaningful collaborations was Ghetto Tango, a collection of wartime Yiddish theater songs. It was released on the Traditional Crossroads label, and we toured with that production as well as other programs of Yiddish song for many years.

She had a unique effect on audiences- always uplifting them musically, always teaching them, always entertaining them, but never in a didactic way.

For the last 11 years of her life, Adrienne was the cultural and educational leader of the Workmen’s Circle, where she worked for social justice and Yiddish causes, always looking for alliances and opportunities to promote the younger generation of Yiddish artists.

She is survived by her mother Bunny Cooper, and her daughter Sarah Gordon who has taken up the mantle of Yiddish performance bringing new sounds and interpretations with her band Yiddish Princess.

We will miss her terribly.

— Zalmen Mlotek —

Funeral and Memorial Services for Adrienne Cooper

Memorial Service in California:
Time: Wednesday, December 28th, 11:00 a.m.
Location: Congregation B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA

Time: Wednesday, December 28th, approximately 12:30 p.m. (directly after the memorial service)
Location: Oakmont Memorial Park, 2099 Reliez Valley Road, Lafayette, CA

Memorial Service in New York:
Time: Sunday, January 1st, 12:00 p.m.
Location: Ansche Chesed, 251 West 100th Street, New York, NY

Times: Saturday, December 31st , Motzi Shabes, 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.,
Sunday, January 1st (after the service), 5 p.m. – 10 p.m
Monday – Thursday Jan. 2 – Thursday Jan. 5  11am-2pm / 6pm-9:30pm
Location: Apartment of Sarah Gordon, 612 Argyle St., #4E, Brooklyn NY (near the Newkirk Plaza stop on the Q train).

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