With her band Girls in Trouble, fiddler and singer/songwriter Alicia Jo Rabins wrote haunting songs about Biblical women. In her new project Rabins tackles a figure of a different kind: Ponzi-scheme mastermind Bernie Madoff.
A one-woman show about a man who ruined fortunes, bankrupted charitable organizations and whose actions seem to have driven people to suicide? Sounds odd, but Rabins’s “A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff” is a surprisingly sensitive and moving musical essay, and it just debuted in Madoff’s hometown of New York City.
Extensively researched, “A Kaddish” includes songs from the perspectives of Madoff’s wife, lawyer, and victims, as well as Rabins’s own attempts to spiritually and practically grapple with what happened. In “The Quant” Rabins tries to make sense of Madoff’s reasoning: “I understand these things in a way most people can’t/Futures contracts. Split strike conversions/I’m a quant. I can do the math. Most people can’t.” At the centerpiece is a moving rendition of the Mourner’s Kaddish, which doesn’t only speak for Madoff’s victims. In a way, it’s speaking for the demise of Madoff himself, and of our trust in the financial system.
Clips from the show aren’t yet online, but you can listen to Rabins’s songs here, and check back for updates. And, if you’re in the New York area, you can catch the November 15th performance. Tickets here!