Video Premiere: Shepherdess Performs Lainie Fefferman’s “A Sweet & Righteous Soul Gets Drunk On Champagne”

Radical joy is often found at the heart of Lainie Fefferman’s practice, and her latest project with Shepherdess (vocalist Kayleigh Butcher and violinist Hajnal Pivnick) is no exception. An ode to music, friends, love, and her Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, Fefferman’s “A Sweet & Righteous Soul Gets Drunk On Champagne” is a modern-day reimagining of the Yiddish party song “Rebbe Elimeylekh” by Moyshe Nadir. The work was commissioned by Alex Weiser and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research for their 2022 “Yiddish Folksong Today” festival, and we’re happy to premiere the music video, shot by Patrick Hamm, in advance of Simchat Torah this weekend – “one of the three days of the Jewish year that you’re COMMANDED TO PARTY!” according to Fefferman.

In the music video, Butcher’s jaunty Yiddish Sprechstimme is accompanied by Pivnick’s ricocheting, scratchy, and yo-yoing rendition of the original tune. As Butcher tells us about the happy cavorting Rebbe, Fefferman prepares for party guests to arrive, knocking back a perfectly proofed batch of challah dough as the vocal line melts downward. Pivnick’s weighty double stops, glacial glissandi, and sawing tremolos usher in the warm arrival of friends and family, until a tense game of chess — interrupted by an errant toy dinosaur — devolves into loving, messy chaos as challah rolls are lobbed across the room.

Shepherdess -- Photo by Flaminia Fanale

Shepherdess — Photo by Flaminia Fanale

Here’s what Lainie had to say about the piece:

Working with Hajnal and Kayleigh is a dream — not only could I give them performance directions like ‘put a little more chicken fat in it’ and have them dig right in with gusto and dazzling skill, but also when I said ‘hey — let’s make a video of a dinner party at my apartment where I make challah and we throw it at each other,’ it got immediate applause. Working with such badass musicians who get me and what I’m after in this world is a gift, and I don’t take it for granted. Then Patrick Hamm came on board and did an amazing job capturing the warmth and comedy and love I wanted for this song. I’m a lucky Jew, and I hope you enjoy.

About Lainie Fefferman

Lainie Fefferman makes music by putting dots on lines, drawing curves in software, writing code in boxes, and finding new and surprising ways to wiggle her vocal chords. Her most recent commissions for the creation of original works have been from Recap Quartet, Greg Oakes, JACK Quartet, Aaron Larget-Caplan, Ensemble Decipher, Tenth Intervention, Sō Percussion, Make Music New York, Experiments in Opera, ETHEL, Kathleen Supové, TILT Brass, James Moore, Eleonore Oppenheim, and Dither. Her one-woman voice & electronics feminist biblically inspired art song project “White Fire” was just released on Gold Bolus Recordings. She is a co-founder and director of New Music Gathering, an annual conference/festival hybrid event for the international New Music Community. She loved getting her doctorate in composition from Princeton and is a programming/performing member of Princeton-based laptop ensemble Sideband. She currently teaches lovely folks at Stevens Institute of Technology.

About Shepherdess

Shepherdess is a duo based in New York City, featuring violinist Hajnal Pivnick and mezzo soprano Kayleigh Butcher. Shepherdess is dedicated to disseminating works by living composers. Our violin and voice duo stems from a shared commitment to amplify new voices within the contemporary classical musical landscape. Each composer we work with represents a distinct compositional voice, each drawing their inspiration from American folk influences, instrumental and vocal extended techniques, and the intersection of social justice and music.


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