Your NPR news source
Jim Cox, Bass, of The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band during a performance at the Highland Park Public Library in Highland Park, Illinois, Sunday, October 23, 2022.

Jim Cox, Bass, of The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band during a performance at the Highland Park Public Library in Highland Park, Illinois, Sunday, October 23, 2022. The band performed 16 bars of music on a float during the July 4th parade before shots rang out. They make their first visit and performance back in Highland Park since the shooting.

Anthony Vazquez

Maxwell Street Klezmer Band — caught on video as July 4 attack unfolded — returns with joy to Highland Park

I’m a fan of klezmer music. That’s the reason I attended the Sunday performance of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band at the Highland Park Public Library.

But there’s more to this story.

I was at the Highland Park July 4 parade, standing at the start of the route on St. Johns Avenue. I was using my iPhone to video the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band as the musicians performed on a flat-bed truck. All of a sudden, terrified looking people started running into my viewfinder. My short video that started with klezmer music — klezmer is a Yiddish word used to describe Jewish music stemming from Eastern Europe — ended recording people fleeing from the massacre, where a shooter killed seven people and wounded more than 48 others.

My video — posted on my @lynnsweet Twitter account — went viral, gaining more than 2.1 million views around the globe. The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band became part of the story in many news accounts — including the Jewish press, because Highland Park is heavily Jewish.

The band has been part of the Highland Park parade for 11 years and played in the suburb at events for most of the band’s career of some 40 years.

On July 4 they never got to finish even one song — they stopped playing their opening tune, “Freilechs fun der Hupe,” Yiddish which means “Wedding Recessional” or “Dancing from the Wedding Canopy”after some 16 bars — when it became clear something terrible was happening.

On Sunday, the band made its first return to Highland Park since the parade, performing for an afternoon concert at the library, attended by more than 100 people.



Members of the audience dance in Hora celebration as The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band perform at the Highland Park Public Library in Highland Park, Illinois, Sunday, October 23, 2022.

Members of the audience dance in Hora celebration as The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band perform at the Highland Park Public Library in Highland Park, Illinois, Sunday, October 23, 2022. The band performed 16 bars of music on a float during the July 4th parade before shots rang out. They make their first visit and performance back in Highland Park since the shooting.

Anthony Vazquez

Lori Lippitz, the director of the Klezmer Music Foundation — and a vocalist with the band — told me when we talked on Saturday that when it comes to Highland Park, “all of the associations, except what happened this summer, have been very, very joyous and very warm. And that’s where we want to go with the program.”

Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., who lives in Highland Park, opened, standing in front of the band telling the crowd, “I’m going to be honest. I invited myself.” Talking about news coverage of the July 4 mass shooting, Schneider made a reference — not to me by name — but to my video. “You always saw the truck, and the band behind me. “

Schneider said he came to the concert because “metaphorically, but today literally, the music keeps playing.”



Alex Koffman leads the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band and plays violin.

Alex Koffman leads the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band and plays violin.

Anthony Vazquez

“No matter what happens, and our community suffered a horrific tragedy that brought us to our knees, we stand up and find strength from each other.” And this music in particular is meaningful, said Schneider, because “for many of us, it’s music that is our heritage and our culture, something really special.”

The band — Lippitz and Natasha Bodansky, vocals; Alex Koffman, on violin; Bartek Warkoczynski, on clarinet; Ivo Braun, on trumpet; Gail Mangurten, keyboard; Jim Cox, bass; and Howard Prager, tuba — played “Chiribim, Chiribom;” “Shpil di Fidl, Shpil;” “Yidl Mitn Fidl;” and more.

Near the end of the concert, Lippitz talked about how the band was returning to Highland Park for the first time “since that unhappy day, where we played about 16 bars of a melody that was the beginning and the end of the joy of that day.”

The audience was invited to sing along with the song the band was dedicating to Highland Park — the Hebrew prayer “Oseh Shalom,” Let there Be Peace — the words to which everyone in the audience knew. People started singing, then dancing in a line snaking around the room as the band swept in the classic,Hevenu Shalom Alechem.”

I talked to Prager outside the library after the concert. We were about 100 steps — I paced it off Sunday — from where we were on that awful day when I videotaped the band as the horror unfolded.

Said Prager, the concert “was all about bringing peace and joy. And this community needs all the peace and joy it can have after what happened this summer.”



The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band performed 16 bars of music on a float during the July 4th parade before shots rang out. On Sunday, the band returned to Highland Park bringing peace and joy.

The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band performed 16 bars of music on a float during the July 4th parade before shots rang out. On Sunday, the band returned to Highland Park bringing peace and joy.

Anthony Vazquez

The Latest