Fleet Street Klezmer Band makes CD release a family affair

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(Left to right) Victoria Kostenko, Cecilia Rinn, Shlomo Kostenko, Za'Nyah Zi and Brianna Lad perform as part of Fleet Street Klezmer Band's CD release at the Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel synagogue. - BEN SCHULTZ
  • Ben Schultz
  • (Left to right) Victoria Kostenko, Cecilia Rinn, Shlomo Kostenko, Za'Nyah Zi and Brianna Lad perform as part of Fleet Street Klezmer Band's CD release at the Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel synagogue.

For most of Fleet Street Klezmer Band’s Thursday, Aug. 8 show at the Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel synagogue, the band’s leader sat off to the side of the stage.

Rashe Kostenko--Shlomo and Victoria Kostenko's oldest child--thinks she’s the leader, anyway.

“She’s 10, but she’s already 14,” said Victoria Kostenko, rolling her eyes.

Rashe was far from the only child in the crowd. An audience composed mainly of parents and children cheered, whistled and clapped to the beat as Fleet Street Klezmer Band celebrated the release of its debut album, Vodka and Pickles.

The fervent reception reflected the strong support that the local band has received from its fanbase in recent months. In May, Fleet Street Klezmer Band launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for printing CDs. On May 29—22 days into the campaign’s 27-day funding period—the group announced on Facebook that it had already reached its $1,300 goal.


This night’s performance was worthy of such support. The set began with “Hongu and Freylekhs,” a traditional klezmer song which Shlomo Kostenko said he first heard on the 1996 compilation Klezmer Music: A Marriage of Heaven and Earth (the song also appears on Vodka and Pickles). This was fitting: Kostenko credits the tune with igniting his love for klezmer music--a free-wheeling melange of folk music styles performed in, and drawn from, Jewish communities in the United States, Europe and Central Asia.

“Hongu” and the set’s other songs were all well-served by Shlomo Kostenko’s sonorous baritone, the soothing accordion of Matthew Vorhies and Victoria Kostenko’s swooping, weeping violin.

Local group Hillfolk Noir opened for FSKB; and, while bassist Mike Waite didn’t play this gig, the nimble country-blues guitar, sprightly washboard playing and the spooky musical saw work of Travis and Allison Ward managed just fine on their own.

The concert also featured skillful solo and group performances by Starbelly Dancers, a local belly dance ensemble led by Cecilia Rinn. Rinn—who also runs Starbelly SEEDs, an after-school program that offers lessons in dance and self-sufficiency to teenage girls—performed during Fleet Street Klezmer Band’s set, along with local belly dancer Za’Nyah Zi.

Fleet Street’s set featured some impromptu dancing as well. Rashe Kostenko twirled around during a few songs, employing a pink parasol and a light blue shawl. Brianna Lad, the 6-year-old cousin of Matthew Vorhies’ wife, Charlotte, mimicked Rinn and Zi’s graceful moves, much to the delight of the crowd.

“I think someone just stole the show,” said Shlomo Kostenko.

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