Hearing Each Other’s Voices

As none of you need to be reminded, it’s been a weird time.

When our most recent issue came out, in June 2019, we didn’t know what the next two and a half years would bring. We found out.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought confusion, fear, loss, isolation, strife, creativity, humor, hope and more confusion to the world. (It did not bring a new issue of this publication . . . until now.)

Among the bright points, in our world of Balkan music and dance:

  • The EEFC’s online workshops and virtual camps, and online courses from organizations and individuals in various countries, allowed folks from anywhere to participate in Balkan music and dance and continue learning throughout the year.
  • Folk dance groups and teachers all over the world made it possible for people to socialize and dance “together” through Zoom.
  • Dancers and musicians from our community and the Balkans turned their creativity to creating performance videos, sharing online concerts and individual pieces that previously would only have been seen in their local communities or at kafana, or would never have been performed at all.

And then there’s individual practice. For me, going nowhere and having zero gigs for several months freed up time and helped me dive deeper into practicing. Some of my musical mates had a similar experience, developing elaborate technique-improvement strategies to amuse and challenge themselves. (Although another friend told me he hadn’t touched his instrument in almost 9 months; it was too depressing.)

Bottom line, though, Balkan music and dance is about community. As the EEFC prepares for a new year with plans for year-round online courses and the possibility of in-person workshops this summer, Kef Times offers another way to hear even more voices from our community.


Enjoying the prospect

This summer’s camps are fast approaching and I’m so pleased that my sweetie Jim and I will be attending one of them (Mendocino), after a few years away.

The prospect is thrilling: to plunge into a haven of incomparable music and dance, to once again see beloved friends and teachers, to see the folks I knew as kids and be amazed at what they’re doing now, to cast aside my work for a week and revel in music and dancing and conversation. And—because it’s Mendocino—to see and smell the redwoods, and enjoy the experience of being mostly unplugged from the world for a while.

And then there’s the prospect of falling in love . . . with a piece of music.

You know what I’m talking about. It could happen at the group sing—a song you’ve heard before and suddenly think, Hey, I need to learn how to play that! It could happen in the dance hall: an achingly beautiful or exceptionally fun tune in the middle of someone’s set, and you know you need that tune for your dance group back home. It could happen one night in the softly lit kafana: a tune reaches right out and grabs you, and you know you must learn it, record it, somehow incorporate it into your life.

Maybe it’s a tune officially taught in one of your classes. Or maybe you overhear someone practicing in their cabin as you walk by, and you stop to hear more of it. (And wish they would stop repeating that tricky passage they’re trying to iron out, because you want to hear what happens next.)

However you first pick up the tune, you soon find it haunting you when you’re standing in the food line or going to bed at night. It keeps popping back into your mind despite all the other music that’s going on in there.

Being in love with a tune (or several tunes) is a fortunate state to be in. Like being in love with anything or anybody, it tends to open us up.

We hope you enjoy this issue of Kef Times. Please be sure to spend a little time with the scholarship recipients’ stories; some of them are exceptionally vivid. We are greatly indebted to photographers Biz Hertzberg (Mendocino) and Margaret Loomis (Iroquois Springs) for the wealth of photographs they have made available from last summer’s workshops. And, whether you are attending Balkan camp this summer or not, may you find some tunes to love.

It’s About Time.

Those who’ve been attending Balkan camp for a while can see evidence of time passing—this kid’s grown up while we weren’t looking, that one has children of her own now, this one’s head is greyer, that one’s eyes twinkle from nests of more wrinkles. As for influence from the bustling outside world, there’s more digital equipment on hand than there was even a few years ago, and new flavors of music can be heard in the kafana along with old favorites.

But from another perspective, the Workshops are surprisingly timeless.  A lot of what goes on is pretty much what’s been going on since the camps started in the 1970s: interested students and talented teachers get together, often in nature, and work on esoteric styles of folk music and dance. (Okay, and eat and talk.) Is Balkan camp timeless because it extracts us from our daily tasks and plunges us into a zone of learning . . . practice . . . fascination . . . even, if we’re lucky, falling in love with a particular tune? Is it timeless because spending so much time with wonderful music over the course of a week, in a sleep-deprived state, cracks open something deep inside us? Or perhaps time boundaries blur as you struggle with the same instrument problems that, say, an 18th-century peasant faced.

Whatever is the reason, timelessness is a good thing when it comes to this issue of Kef Times. In a perfect world, this issue would contain workshop photos and scholarship reports from the workshops that just took place this summer. But it’s not a perfect world, and this issue instead contains workshop photos and scholarship reports from 2017.

Fortunately, however, since Balkan camp is a timeless realm, those photos and reports tell as fresh and touching a story about the workshops as ever.

We’re also happy to present an article we’ve wanted to do for a long time: a profile of camp bassist Paul Brown.

Many thanks to all who contributed to this issue, especially our scholarship students, many of whom wrote lovely, heartfelt vignettes; contributing CD reviewer Joan

Those who’ve been attending Balkan camp for a while can see evidence of time passing—this kid’s grown up while we weren’t looking, that one has children of her own now, this one’s head is greyer, that one’s eyes twinkle from nests of more wrinkles. . . . But from another perspective, the Workshops are surprisingly timeless.

Friedberg; and photographers Ira Gessel, Biz Hertzberg, Bill Lanphier, Margaret Loomis and Sandy Ward.


Finding time to read the good stuff.


(photo: Ella Dascalos)

We know you’re inundated with information—especially this year, as the national and international news brings ever more amazing, or appalling, things to read about.

Not to mention the reading you may need to do for work or want to do for pleasure, or that addiction you may or may not have to social media.

Information overload is the reason the EEFC publishes a shorter newsletter every few months delivering smaller bits of information to your inbox. (If you’re not receiving that and want to, go to this link). And for timely event news and discussion of specific topics, there’s the fabulous EEFC discussion list / listserv.

But we know that our community’s interest in the music and dance we study runs deep, and we are thrilled that Kef Times continues to provide a vehicle for longer-format stories with photographs.

Where else can you read about Merita Halili and Raif Hyseni’s experiences growing up in Albania and Kosova, or the evolution of Raif’s mysterious accordion keyboard sheath?

Where else can you read about the development of Boston Balkan Music Night and read in-depth articles about two of our beloved teachers who died last year, Vassil Bebelekov and Esma Redžepova?

And how better to whet your appetite for this year’s workshops? (Registration is open at eefc.org.) I challenge you to read any two or three reports from the 2016 scholarship recipients and find yourself unmoved by their experiences at the Workshops.

Thanks to all who contributed to this issue, including Henry Goldberg, Steward Hartman, Biz Hertzberg, Craig Kurumada, Carol Silverman, all the scholarship recipients, and especially Margaret Loomis, not only for her beautiful photos of the most recent Iroquois Springs workshop but also above-and-beyond help with captions and tracking down old photos. Special thanks to Alexandra Charney for pitching in with Rachel MacFarlane, Kef Times Production Manager, and me on formatting the issue.

And to all our readers, we hope you find at least a little time to enjoy this issue and we welcome your suggestions for topics to be included in future issues.

Julie Lancaster

Dreaming of Summer and Balkan Camp?


(photo: Ivan Vakulenko)

From the depths of winter this issue brings you a reminder of summer, music, dancing and Balkan camp.

In this issue we’re pleased to profile Lise Liepman, a frequent instructor of santouri or Greek ensemble at the Workshops. Not only is it interesting to learn about her life in music and carousel restoration, but after many years as a member of the Program Committee, she has some valuable insights about Balkan camp and the next generation.

A record number—18 people—attended camp on scholarship this year, and you can read stories from half of them in this issue. The other half will be featured in our spring 2016 issue.

You’ll also find the latest releases from our community, a new Balkan Songs column cooked up by Bill Cope, workshop photos from both camps, and more.

Changing roles

In 2015 the EEFC News email newsletter became more frequent (it’s now monthly) and full of content, thanks to Board Member Elena Erber, General Manager Rachel MacFarlane, and others. If you haven’t been receiving that, you may subscribe here. And these days you can find many interesting and timely articles at the EEFC website. So communications from the Board, for example, are now more likely to appear in one of those venues than in Kef Times.

But we believe there’s still a place for the longer-format reading that a publication like Kef Times offers. I hope you can carve out a little time to settle in and enjoy this issue. Even if you can’t, you can at least skim the headlines, see some wonderful photos and get a good flavor of what happened at the 2015 camps. As always, we invite your contributions for consideration for future issues.

(photo: April Renae)

(photo: April Renae)

Ciao to Dan

Finally, Dan Auvil, who has been Kef Times’ graphic designer since 2007, has stepped down from that role. Dan brought a visual distinction to the publication (and a zaniness to the KT virtual office) that will be missed. On the other hand, the WordPress blog format we now use doesn’t lend itself to as much visual creativity as our previous format did, and Dan has plenty of other irons in the fire. Thank you, Dan, for everything you have done for the EEFC and for Kef Times through your time with the publication.

Julie Lancaster

It’s All About Timing

Julie Lancaster (photo by Rick Cummings)

Julie Lancaster (photo by Rick Cummings)

It’s late December and everybody I know is impossibly busy. So, in a way, it is a crazy time to publish our final issue of Kef Times for this year. The next issue doesn’t appear until April.

But in some other ways, the timing is perfect. The articles in this issue demonstrate the stability of the organization despite the uncertainty that accompanies the resignation of Executive Director Jay House Samios. The far-flung interests and expertise in our community are heartfelt and deeply rooted.

And a December issue is one more way to publicize the EEFC’s need for your year-end contribution. In the EEFC Fall 2014 Appeal Letter,  which many of us received in the mail, Amy Mills wrote:

As you may already know, tuition does not fully cover the cost of the summer workshops. It is only through the generosity of you—our community—that the EEFC continues to bring top-quality music and dance instructors together to teach us. As someone working in the non-profit world, I can tell you that it is deeply stressful to operate under tight financial circumstances. Yet, the EEFC team does this work because we believe profoundly in our mission to promote, celebrate, and educate the public about traditional and traditionally-based music, dance and cultures of the Balkans. I can think of no better gift than to ensure all of our EEFC staff has the necessary tools to make our annual reunions transcendent.

There’s no requirement that you be a member of the EEFC to read Kef Times. But if you value the content of this newsletter, the cornucopia of information offered by the EEFC listserv, the camaraderie this community provides, and the quality of our summer workshops—which continually yield valuable teaching, great connections and unforgettable, sparkling moments—I hope you will consider becoming a member. Or just making a small donation. Every bit helps. Donate here.

Another thing about the timing of this issue: it’s still the holiday season. If you get to the store and purchase 10-15 lbs. of pork butt right now, you might still have time to make Romanian sausage before New Year’s. (Or maybe before Old New Year, Jan. 14. ) Check out the recipe and story in the debut of our new “Balkan Bites” column, curated by Rachel MacFarlane.

And finally, at least some folks have a little relaxation time around the holidays. If you do, settle in with a mug of something delicious and start reading the articles that call to you.

In closing, I would like to publicly acknowledge Jay House Samios for championing Kef Times and helping us transition it from a once-per-year PDF publication to a three-times-per-year online publication. Thanks, Jay.

Julie Lancaster





Expanding Our Range

Julie Lancaster (photo by Rick Cummings)

Julie Lancaster (photo by Rick Cummings)

Now that Kef Times is planned for publication three times per year (May, September and December), we’re delighted to be able to expand the range of subjects addressed and authors featured from our community.

Our cover story is a profile on Mark Forry, a longtime EEFC workshop faculty member whom I’ve long wanted to interview. Next up is Laura Shannon’s in-depth article about a ancient Twelfth Night tradition that is alive and well in northern Greece.

In this issue we debut four (really? four? what were we thinking?) new sections. The first is In the Hood—about how people have created EEFC-inspired music scenes or events in their own home towns. This installment is by Ruth Hunter and John Morovich, about Balkan Night Northwest in Seattle.

Other new sections are Balkan Songs, edited by Bill Cope; this issue’s song transcription and translation were a collaboration between Bill, Miamon Miller and Sophia Bilides; Eastern European Threads (costumes and textiles) edited by Wendi Kiss; and Gems from the EEFC Listserv (or Gems from the Listserv Archive, depending on just how old the gems in question are).

I hope you’ll find these new sections so inspiring that you pass the articles along to friends to read, and maybe even decide you’d like to contribute something for an upcoming Kef Times. If you do, just shoot me an email with your ideas.

As in every issue, you will also find the New & Notable section about new releases in our community, and workshop photos from the latest camps. (Note: the 2014 Kef/Crum and other scholarship recipients will be featured in the next issue.)

We’d love to hear from you! Just send me an email if you have comments or ideas.

Julie Lancaster





Program Committee Report

ATTN Julie, Elena Is this supposed to by on the page? It’s spec’d in your PDF, Elena, but didn’t see it in article list.

Welcome to the New Online Kef Times!

Julie Lancaster Photo by Tadd Truscott

Julie Lancaster (Tadd Truscott)

This new format for the EEFC’s newsletter is the culmination of bright ideas and diligent work from many collaborators over the last few months. We hope you will enjoy it and be inspired to contribute articles and photos for future issues.

Behind the New Format

From 1994 to 2007, the EEFC’s newsletter was printed in black and white and mailed to readers. In 2007, to save money, the publication became an online PDF. Although Kef Times was now in glorious color, readership went down. And—also for budget reasons—the twice-a-year schedule was changed to one issue per year, if at all (in 2012, no issue was funded).

We’ve been wanting to find a way to make the newsletter more accessible to readers while still presenting great photos and meaningful content with high editorial standards. Late in 2013, EEFC Executive Director Jay House and Board Member Elena Erber approached me with the idea of turning Kef Times into an online publication with a blog-like format. As we discussed possible approaches and brought other folks into the discussion, it was clear we were attempting to (in the non-PC words of my accordion teacher, Boris) “shoot many rabbits with one bullet”:

  • increase the frequency and deepen the EEFC’s contact with its community
  • present more of the EEFC’s amazing knowledge base
  • make content easy to find by topic and more easily accessible by people who aren’t yet part of our community
  • make content easily sharable within and beyond our community
  • help EEFC live up to the Board’s stated goal of EEFC being “the source” for Balkan music and dance topics
  • stretch the existing marketing budget by standardizing the newsletter’s design and involving more volunteer contributors so that we could publish more frequently

For many years, Kef Times’ production team has been paid (at a sharply discounted rate), and other contributors—dozens of them, over the years—have volunteered their efforts. Getting this new format off the ground has taken countless hours of additional unpaid work on the part of the current production team (Dan Auvil, Rachel MacFarlane and me) as well as Elena, Jay, Demetri Tashie and Matthew Fass. (Thanks, everyone.)

New Sections

I’m happy to announce we have some new volunteer section editors—Bill Cope for Balkan Songs, Rachel MacFarlane for Balkan Bites (food), and Wendi Kiss for Eastern European Threads (costumes and textiles). Each of these sections will start with our next issue, which is scheduled for September (submission deadline August 1); not every section will appear in every issue. If you have something to contribute for one of these sections, please contact the section editor directly; note that we can’t guarantee to run everything we receive.

I’m also looking to engage a volunteer section editor for another new area, In the Hood, which will cover EEFC-inspired music scenes or events in cities across the US and Canada (or, for that matter, anywhere)—specifically, how folks have organized Balkan music events or series in their neck of the woods. If you’d like to be that editor, contact me.

Reviving Old Content

Over the past 20 years the EEFC’s newsletter has accumulated an impressive collection of articles that reflect our community and the music and dance we love. You can still access complete past issues of Kef Times (see the archive sidebar on the lefthand side of this page), but we’re working on making as much of the old newsletter content as possible available and searchable on the new KT website. In most cases, this means extracting text and graphics from PDFs and uploading them to a WordPress page. If you are good at that kind of thing and interested in helping, please contact Rachel.

We’re all excited about the new approach and hope you like it. If you do, please let us know. Better yet, please contact one of our section editors or me with a story idea or article you’d like to write for a future issue!


Julie Lancaster
KT Editor