¡Fiestaremos!: Judy Frankel and the Sephardic Music Tradition presents the inspiring story of singer, performer, musician Judy Frankel and her work with Sephardic Jews to carry on the song tradition of these people. This thirty-minute documentary offers an intimate view of Frankel’s journey from folk singer in Boston in the sixty, to her work with medieval and renaissance consorts, to her connection and work with many Sephardic people who shared their rich musical tradition with her. This music originated with the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. The songs followed the Diaspora of its people to all ends of the world, and evolved in each instance with a range of voicing and pronunciation.
The film is imbedded with hauntingly beautiful songs sung by Frankel, accompanied by her richly strummed guitar playing set the mood of the film. Supported by a brief historical background, the film focuses on Judy’s discovery of the music and her travels around the world to learn from Sephardic Jews. In one particularly moving scene, Judy reads the poem of a man from Sarajevo, which she subsequently puts to music and performs.
Frankel’s interest in Sephardic music was stoked while singing for elderly patients at a hospital, when one of them recognized a traditional song from her childhood after not hearing it for sixty years. Thus began her musical journey to uncover, record and transcribe as many Sephardic folk songs as she could. It was a friendship-borne process, oftentimes revolving around the kitchen table, listening to stories, and learning the pronunciation of each song as each informant remembered it. In this way Frankel not only recorded four CDs of Sephardic music and transcribed a book of sheet music, but also became the keeper of the flame in a music tradition diminishing with each generation.
Similarly, Director and creator Kate Regan is carrying the flame of Sephardic Jewish culture for diverse audiences with her carefully researched films about the Sephardim. Her first film, The Sephardic Legacy of Segovia, Spain: Pentimento of the Past, shines light on the unseen traces of Sephardic history in Segovia, Spain and a future project will explore the Sephardim of Morocco.
Kate Regan’s own timeliness in making the film to document Judy’s devotion to the Sephardic music tradition was fortuitous, as Frankel passed away shortly after the completion of the final product. She had been fighting a long battle with a terminal illness. Through this film, audiences will become acquainted with a fascinating music tradition and a remarkable woman who made it accessible to us all.