Thursday, June 13, 2024

Tunes in Town: Bagels and Fraylox

l to r: Roger Schultz, clarinet; Lance Pedigo, drums; Andy Petkofsky, bass; Howard Bierenbaum, clarinet and sax; David Gussman, accordion (Bagels and Fraylox)

WILLIAMSBURG — Tunes in Town is an occasional series that will catch up with some of the local musical talents that call Hampton Roads home.

Bagels and Fraylox was formed in 1998 when four friends from Temple Beth El came together to share much more than worship. Forming a Klezmer band, the group plays traditional Jewish music with a twist.

Klezmer music, which combines clarinets, saxophone, accordion, and upright bass, is frequently heard at weddings, bat mitzvahs, bar mitzvahs, and more is not just something that those of the Jewish faith can enjoy.

Andy Petkofsky, bass player, gives a bit of background on the origin of the band.

“The original core of the band were members of Temple Beth El. We were a bunch of musicians and we’d get together and play for Hanukkah parties. There was an interest in Klezmer music, especially by our accordionist, David Gussman. None of us really knew that much about Klezmer music, although the core of the group had grown up Jewish,” Petkofsky said.

Then came a production by a theater group in Norfolk, which was doing a play that required a Klezmer band. Bagels and Fraylox was recruited to play for the show, and the rest is history.

Bagels and Fraylox plays a mixture of songs from 19th century Eastern European to American pop, folk, jazz, and bluegrass, and the band notes Klezmer music can be enjoyed by all.

“We try and do everything with a high level of energy. I consider it to be the spirit of rock and roll, but it’s extremely high energy. We may sound a little strange and like something you aren’t used to the first time you hear us, but as you listen to it more and more and understand it, the music reveals its depths to you,” Petkofsky said.

The band also has vocalist Jonathan Rathsam on board, who sings in Yiddish.

Jonathan Rathsam, Bagels and Fraylox vocalist (Bagels and Fraylox)

Playing throughout the Hampton Roads area, Bagels and Fraylox has developed a bit of a local following. The musicians carry merchandise at their shows, including two CDs available for purchase.

“The music and the way we play, it really appeals to a lot of people outside the Jewish community. We really enjoy playing this music and playing it with each other. We’re pretty good at it and the fun we have is contagious,” Petkofsky said.

A play on words, Bagels and Fraylox combines the popular Jewish food of bagels and lox, but also draws inspiration from the Yiddish word freilach, which means happy tune.

Bagels and Fraylox will be playing locally in Williamsburg at the Three Jolly Coachmen Coffeehouse on July 14. Taking place at Lewis Hall, 330 W. Duke of Gloucester St., the show will start at 7:30 p.m.

Petkofsky is hopeful that the community will come out to the concert to experience something they may have never heard before.

“You might say, ‘klezmer, what’s that?’ But when they hear us, they tend to get really enthusiastic. The audience around Williamsburg has kept us going all these years. They have come out and listened. We need an audience and they’ve always been a great one,” Petkofsky said.

A portion of the proceeds raised from the concert will be donated to Heritage Humane Society. For ticket information and any additional inquiries, send e-mail to For more information on Bagels and Fraylox, visit its Facebook page.

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