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Myrtle Street - What’s in a Name?

Updated: Oct 7, 2023

Having played clarinet in Kugelplex for over 20 years, I dreamt of one day being in a band whose name wasn't a pun. I inherited the Kugelplex band name from David Rosenfeld –an incessant and brilliant punster. The name has taken on all sorts of meaning over the years and I have begrudgingly grown to love it – but I also can't believe that such a big part of my life's work/identity is wrapped up in such a dopey pun.

Last year, while we were forming a new band here in Western Mass, I was thinking about all things band names and had a thought that I've always liked the name “Maxwell Street Klezmer” – a good solid name for a klezmer institution.

Our band was formed on Myrtle Street in Greenfield. That's where Myk the guitarist's house is. During COVID times, we would practice on his front porch. Myrtle Street is also where we performed our first few formative gigs — in and in front of the synagogue across from Myk's house.

I hadn't ever given myrtle much thought. It’s a boring bush and a pretty word. We needed a name for an upcoming gig. Myrtle Street Klezmer was a placeholder until we came up with an epic band name.

The next day, the Highland Park shooting happened – one of a spate of mass shootings that happened in 2022. The news coverage about the shooting was everywhere, and at some point I was reading an article about it and — in the last paragarph — they mentioned that Maxwell Street Klezmer band was playing in the park when the shooting happened.

Having heard so many news reports about the shooting, I thought it was curious that I hadn't heard that the band was playing when it happened. I did a little digging and noticed that barely any press reported that the shooting happened at a klezmer concert.

Why ignore that part of the story?

The fact that I had just been thinking about Maxwell Street was I'm sure coincidental — but it also felt auspicious. This inspired me to do some research into this seemingly benign shrub and my whole body shook with chills when I discovered myrtle's deep significance in Jewish and Middle Eastern traditions of life, death and love - renewal and rebirth. We’re still unpacking the meanings and interconnections and only time will tell what arises out of the leafy boughs of this mystical myrtle...

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