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Ashkenaz Celebrates Global Jewish Culture at Harbourfront Centre
Aug 28-Sept 3, 2012
TORONTO, ON (*Aug. 2, 2012)Harbourfront Centre is pleased to announce the biennial return of the Ashkenaz Festival. The week-long festival, held this year from Tuesday, Aug. 28 through Monday, Sept. 3, celebrates cutting-edge and traditional culture from the international Jewish scene.

The Ashkenaz Festival, which began in 1995 and has grown into one of the city’s favourites, features events spanning music, film, theatre, dance and more, celebrating the variety of cultures that comprise the international Jewish community. Over 200 individual artists from over a dozen countries, including Uganda, India, Australia, Argentina and Mexico, will descend upon Harbourfront Centre, demonstrating the diversity and depth of Jewish arts and culture.

Highlights of Ashkenaz include performances, workshops, activities and more:
• Music from Yemen Blues, who mix Yemenite-Jewish song and poetry with West African grooves, jazz, blues and funk; Shye Ben Tzur, who combines Hebrew, Middle-Eastern and Indian influences; the post-Soviet klezmer-pop-party-music of Opa!; Toronto’s 13-piece Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy-Party-Punk Super-Band Lemon Bucket Orchestra; the Canadian premiere of 99 year-old Toronto composer and Holocaust survivor Leo Spellman’s “lost” composition and others;
• Theatre Panik’s production of The Corpse Bride;
• Family fun including the always-popular Ashkenaz Parade and the return of two of North America’s premier entertainers, Sharon and Bram, who add Yiddish songs alongside their classic repertoire;
• …and much more!

Listings information is below. For additional information and complete event listings, the public may visit or call the Information Hotline at 416-973-4000. Harbourfront Centre is located at 235 Queens Quay West in the heart of downtown Toronto’s waterfront.

Harbourfront Centre is an innovative, not-for-profit cultural organization which provides internationally renowned programming in the arts, culture, education and recreation, in the heart of Toronto's downtown waterfront. Our summer festival season runs from Victoria Day weekend through Thanksgiving weekend, and features over 20 festivals and events that offer The World in One Place. For more information visit

The Ashkenaz Foundation is a community-based, non-profit organization dedicated to fostering an increased awareness of Yiddish and Jewish culture through the arts. Through its biennial festival and an expanding slate of year-round programming, Ashkenaz showcases the work of leading contemporary artists from Canada and around the world working in music, film, theatre, dance, literature, craft and visual arts. The Foundation incorporates in its mandate and programming many other manifestations of pan-Jewish music and art beyond Klezmer/Yiddish, including an expanding commitment to the art and culture of Sephardic, Ladino and Mizrahi Jews. Ashkenaz also actively pursues fusion and cross-cultural exchange with artists from outside Jewish cultural traditions through commissioned work and special projects.

For listings info, hi-res images and more media resources, visit our summer media page:


Lerner and Moguilevsky Duo (Argentina)
Thursday August 30 at 7 p.m., part of the Music in the Garden series
Inspired by Klezmer, jazz, tango and many other world music influences, this dynamic Argentinian duo is known for their practically telepathic musical connection and exceptionally dynamic live performances.

Mitch Smolkin (Toronto)
Rexite on the Radio: The Golden Age of Yiddish American Music
Saturday Sept. 1 at 6 p.m.
In 1930s New York, there were over 23 radio stations broadcasting Yiddish programs, but by the 1940s, heartthrob crooner Seymour Rexite had become the king of Yiddish radio. Performing unforgettable translations with his wife and collaborator Miriam Kressyn, at the height of his popularity the smooth-as-scotch tenor starred on 18 radio shows a week. From his command performance before President Calvin Coolidge to his famous broadcasts on WEVD, Rexite left an indelible mark on the American Jewish experience. The incredible life of this legendary Yiddish matinee idol is brought to life in a deliciously entertaining retrospective by singer, actor and former Ashkenaz artistic director Mitch Smolkin, accompanied by renowned pianist and composer Nina Shapilsky. Audiences will hear the American Songbook and the great Broadway hits of the 20th century as they were heard on thousands of radios across the country — in Yiddish! Co-presented with UJA Committee For Yiddish.

Guy Mendilow Ensemble (USA)
Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.
Starting in ancient Spain and winding through Sarajevo, Salonica and Jerusalem, the award-winning Guy Mendilow Ensemble breathes new life into centuries-old Sephardi songs. Epic tales of sailors and love lost to the seas, fantastic dreams and the intrigue of kings and queens abound in arrangements that crackle with rich musical storytelling. In this emotionally-powerful artistic voyage, a new world of Ladino music is rendered with warm harmonies, intricate textures, and spellbinding rhythms.

Veretski Pass (USA): The Klezmer Shul
Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. NOTE: Ticketed event ($15 advanced, $18 day-of)
Veretski Pass takes its name from the mountain pass through which Magyar tribes crossed into the Carpathian basin to settle what later became the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Their “old country” music has origins in the Ottoman Empire and combines Carpathian, Jewish, Romanian, and Ottoman styles into original compositions. Their latest work, The Klezmer Shul, attempts to bridge the gap between the sacred and the secular through purely instrumental music. With structural elements of the classical sonata, traditional klezmer dance suite and avant-garde jazz, the work is intended to give the listener an emotional experience comparable to attending a religious service and is dedicated to the memory of musicians lost to war. Co-presented by The Music Gallery.

Finjan (Winnipeg)
Saturday September 1 at 8 p.m.
Embracing Eastern-European Jewish traditions, Finjan reflects a combination of virtuosity, soul, wit and inventiveness. While much of the Klezmer Revival centered in the US, Finjan was founded in Winnipeg in 1982, marking the official arrival of this musical movement in Canada. Finjan provided thousands of Canadians, with their first klezmer and Yiddish music experiences, and their work paved the way for the creation of other successful Canadian klezmer groups. Largely inactive over the last decade, Finjan’s 30th anniversary reunion at the Ashkenaz Festival marks their first performance together since 2005. Sponsored by the Gail Asper Family Foundation.

Socalled (Montreal)
Saturday, Sept. 1 at 9:30 p.m.
Socalled is a pianist, producer, composer, arranger, rapper, singer, journalist, photographer, filmmaker, magician, cartoonist and puppet-maker based in Montreal. Socalled found his own voice through his discovery of old Jewish music – Hassidic, Israeli, klezmer, cantorial synagogue music and Yiddish theatre tunes – and has incorporated them into his own sample-based beats. He has collaborated with a range of artists spanning across generational, social, cultural and religious spectra including Fred Wesley, Boban Markovic, the Mighty Sparrow, Lhasa, Killah Priest, Matisyahu and Theodore Bikel. His latest album, Sleepover, continues his mission to cross boundaries, explore different cultures and styles and mix old and new sounds, acoustic and electric instruments, digital and analog recording techniques -- all in the service of creating something catchy, smart, hilarious, emotional and timeless.

Global Shtetl Cabaret
Saturday, Sept. 1 at 10 p.m.
An eclectic revolving stage showcasing the diversity and vibrance of Jewish music traditions from all around the world. Toronto’s Aviva Chernick hosts a stellar lineup including her own group, Jaffa Road, plus David Buchbinder, Shye Ben Tzur, Basya Schechter, Guy Mendilow and many more.

Opa! (Russia) North American Premier
Saturday, Sept. 1 at 11 p.m.
Post-Soviet klezmer and pop collides with reggae, ska, funk and rock in the electrifying party music of Opa!. Opa! unites musicians from different parts of the former USSR in Saint Petersburg, the vibrant multicultural capital of Russia. Fired by unrestrained joy and irreverence, their music expresses the freedom and euphoria of the post-Soviet music scene. Their openhearted shows, multilingual lyrics, and willingness to give it all to the audience create a wild festive atmosphere that promises to make you laugh, sing, and dance. In association with KlezKanada and J-Academy Russian-Jewish Summer Camp.

Bob Bossin (Gabriola Island, BC): Songs and Stories of Davy the Punk
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m.
Canadian folk legend and indie-music pioneer Bob Bossin sings and talks about his father’s life in Toronto’s gambling demi-monde of the 1930s and 40s. From bookies like Shnooky Schneider to cops like “Rubber Hose” Crow, from gambling czar Abe Orpen to his own secretive father, Davy “The Punk” Bossin, the founder of Stringband uncovers the dark side of Toronto the Good and reveals a chapter of Canadian Jewish history long swept under the rug. For 40 years, Bob Bossin has turned Canada's people into stories, her stories into songs, and her leaders into targets. Bossin’s songs have been sung by, among others, Ian Tyson and Pete Seeger, who has called Bob “funny, informative, and inspiring at the same time.” When Bob is not writing music, he is writing award-winning prose, plays and poetry. Sponsored by Gloria Shulman.

Ventanas (Toronto)
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 3 p.m.
A unique mixture of flamenco, Balkan and Sephardic music, Ventanas weaves in and out of upbeat Bulgarian dance tunes, Greek and Turkish Ladino love songs, and heart-wrenching flamenco verses, bringing listeners on a beautiful journey across the Mediterranean. The group is the culmination of lead singer Tamar Ilana’s life of travelling and performing; she performed Sephardic, Balkan and medieval music throughout North America and the Mediterranean and studied flamenco from an early age in Toronto, Barcelona and Seville. Meeting Ukrainian fiddler Mark Marczyk, founder of the Lemon Bucket Orkestra and the Fedora Upside-Down Artist Collective, in July 2011, the two formed Ventanas.

Shashmaqam (Central Asia/USA)
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 4 p.m.
The term shashmaqam refers to the centuries-old musical traditions of the Bukharan Jewish people of Central Asia. Taking their name from the musical tradition in which they specialise, the Shashmaqam Ensemble of Queens, NY, presents this compelling repertoire in expert fashion. The group’s members all hail originally from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, where the cultural traditions of the Bukharan Jewish people intermingled for centuries with those of neighbouring Central Asian and Middle Eastern peoples. Shashmaqam reflects the preeminent position that Jews have long held as performers of indigenous Central Asian music with a diverse repertoire revealing the amazing panorama of cultures and musical styles present in this region. From classical and folk styles to lullabies, laments, dances and liturgical repertoire, the music of Shasmaqam is unique, engaging and exotic.

CD Release: The Songs of Arkady Gendler World Premier
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 5 p.m. NOTE: Ticketed event ($15 advanced, $18 day-of)
Bessarabian-born Arkady Gendler (b: 1921) is one of the greatest living treasures of Yiddish song, language and culture. This special tribute and CD release concert marks the completion of a year-long project to document and record his original work. Many of Gendler's songs had not been recorded – some had never been performed. Christian Dawid arranged his compositions for voice and a small chamber ensemble, and recorded with Gendler last October in Vienna. The Ashkenaz CD release features remarkable young voices in Yiddish song paying tribute to one of the form’s great mentors, with their very personal renditions of his writings. With Josh Dolgin, Sarah Gordon, Kyra Folk-Farber and others, and musical direction by Christian Dawid. Co-presented with Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

Aaron Bensoussan (Toronto)
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 5 p.m.
Moroccan-born Aaron Bensoussan hails from a prominent rabbinic dynasty: his grandfather was the Chief Rabbi of Morocco, his great-grandfather was one of the most revered rabbis to emerge from the city of Fez and one of his ancestors was a teacher of Maimonides. Cantor Bensoussan studied with his father and master musicians in Morocco before moving to New York at the age of 14 to study in yeshiva, but his rabbinic destiny was changed when he heard Ashkenazic hazzanut. Aaron has a unique ability to combine both Ashkenazic and Sephardic music to create his own unique and intoxicating soulful sound – as he puts it, “who says you can’t enjoy some good couscous with a nice schmaltz herring?” His latest project is his most adventurous yet: a daring fusion of the traditional forms at the core of his musical practice with contemporary rock/pop influences, premiering songs from his latest album with his multicultural ensemble, Maroc N Roll.

The Tarras Band (USA) Canadian Premier
Sunday, Sept 2 at 6 p.m.
Showcasing Klezmer legend Peter Sokolow on piano, The Tarras Band is an exciting new Klezmer ensemble from Brooklyn. The group performs the music of the late, great clarinetist/composer Dave Tarras, with whom Sokolow played from the late 1950s through the 1980s, and clarinetist Naftule Brandwein. The band, who plays their first Toronto show, features members culled from contemporary Klezmer acts including the Klezmatics and the Klez Dispensers.

The Abayudaya (Uganda) Canadian Premier
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.
The Abayudaya, whose tribal name means “people of Judah,” live in rural villages in eastern Uganda and trace their Jewish origins to the turn of the 20th century, when they were introduced to the Hebrew Bible. The community grew to upwards of 3,000 members before Idi Amin Dada came to power and banned Jewish practice in 1971. After the fall of Amin in 1979, JJ Keki and his brother Gershom Sizomu – the first black rabbi in Sub-Saharan Africa – gathered together the remnants of the Abayudaya community through music, and music remains central to the community’s faith. Blending the rhythms and harmonies of African music with Jewish celebration and traditional Hebrew prayer, it is infused with rich choral singing, Afro-pop and traditional drumming. The Smithsonian Folkways CD release Abayudaya: The Music of the Jews of Uganda, which was nominated for Best Traditional World Music Album at the 2005 Grammy Awards, features Sizomu and Keki along with other community members. In addition to a featured concert at the 2012 Ashkenaz Festival, Sizomu and Keki will talk about the history of their community and co-lead the Saturday evening Havdallah ceremony. Co-Presented with Annex Shul; travel sponsored by Earl Gorman.

Basya Schechter (USA): Songs of Wonder Canadian Premier
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. NOTE: Ticketed event ($20 advanced, $25 day-of)
Blending a psychedelic sensibility with a pan-Mediterranean sensuality, the music of Basya Schechter has been cultivated by her background in Yiddish and Hasidic music and through extensive travels to the Middle East, Africa, Israel, Egypt, Central Africa, Turkey, Kurdistan and Greece. Internationally acclaimed for her band Pharaoh's Daughter, Schechter’s newest project, Songs of Wonder, is a stunning collection of original songs based on the early Yiddish poetry of revered philosopher and civil rights activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. This exciting project blends Pharaoh's Daughter's deep grooves and lush instrumentation with Basya's earthy, soulful voice and Heschel's powerful poetry. These colourful new arrangements feature many of the downtown New York Jewish scene's leading musicians along with a stellar cast of guests. After years in development, Songs of Wonder is now available on John Zorn's prestigious NY-based Tzadik Records and makes its live Canadian debut at the Ashkenaz Festival.

Shye Ben Tzur (Israel/India) North American Premier
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m.
Shye Ben Tzur is an Israeli composer, producer and performer who spent a decade living, studying traditional music and creating in India. Working with traditional Sufi Qawwali (Muslim devotional music) singers as well as different folk musicians from the Rajasthan desert, Ben Tzur has created his own Qawwali music sung in Hebrew, along with other unique compositions and Hebrew poetry. Ben Tzur’s fusion of Middle Eastern and Indian influences culminate in an 8-piece multicultural ensemble of Israeli and Indian musicians delivering an awe-inspiring show that resonates with audiences of all ages and backgrounds. His performance at the Ashkenaz Festival will be his North American debut. Co-Sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel and the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation.

Yemen Blues
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 9:30 p.m.
With its explosive, 21st-Century brew of Yemenite-Jewish song and poetry, West African grooves and American jazz, blues and funk, the nine-piece Yemen Blues is the most exciting new World music act out of Israel. The group was founded by Yemini-born vocalist Ravid Kahalani, a rising star in Israel who is heir to the distinguished musical legacy of the Yemenite-Jewish world. Alongside an all-star supporting cast of musicians from New York, Israel and Uruguay, Kahalani’s powerful voice and persona transforms Yemen Blues concerts into ecstatic celebrations. Co-presented by Jewish National Fund (JNF).

Canadian Cabaret
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 10.30 p.m.
The Canadian Cabaret returns, showcasing some of the leading new artists and veterans of the Canadian Jewish music scene. The session is hosted by the members of Finjan, the pioneering Winnipeg ensemble who first brought the Klezmer revival to Canada 30 years ago.

Lemon Bucket Orkestra (Toronto)
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 11 p.m.
The self-described “Balkan-klezmer-Gypsy-party-punk super-band” grew out of a conversation between a Breton accordionist and a Ukrainian fiddler in a Vietnamese restaurant who discovered that there were others craving the energy of Eastern European folk music in the streets and clubs of Toronto. They joined a band called Worldly Savages, whose notorious after-parties birthed Lemon Bucket Orchestra, which swelled into a thirteen-piece band and is now gaining a reputation as Toronto's liveliest party band. Their explosive take on Ukrainian, ex-Yugoslavian, Romanian and other traditional Eastern European music and their desire to play anywhere and everywhere has lit up Toronto's urban folk scene.

Lucidarium (Italy/Switzerland) Canadian Premier
Monday, Sept. 3 at 1:30 p.m. NOTE: Ticketed event ($20 advanced, $25 day-of)
Lucidarium specializes in medieval- and Renaissance-era music. This incredibly versatile and adventurous chamber group straddles the boundary between folk and classical traditions in their reconstructions of “overlooked” musical repertoires. In recent years the group has delved deeply into the little-known Renaissance-era music of Italian Jewry, using period instruments and singing in Italian, Hebrew, Ladino, Yiddish, Giudeo-Italian and Judeo-Spanish. With their combination of meticulous preparation, joyful improvisation and energetic music-making, Lucidarium has garnered both popular and critical acclaim and slots at festivals across Europe and North America. Working from a variety of sources — traditional liturgical melodies, sung poetry from the 15th and 16th centuries and the exuberant dances and songs meant for celebrating life’s important moments — Lucidarium recreates the joys of 16th century Jewish life. Sponsored by the Istituto Italiano di Cultural.

Fanfare Severni (Montreal)
Monday, Sept. 3 at 1:30 p.m.
Playing high-energy versions of traditional and original melodies, this brass band features some of Montreal’s best young musicians. Fanfare Severni's repertoire includes the music of the Balkans, Klezmer, Gypsy, Calypso, Turkish music and original compositions. Fanfare Severni has been a featured ensemble at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the International Yiddish Theatre Festival and Toronto’s Ashkenaz Festival, and are seen weekly, rehearsing in Montreal’s Parc la Fontaine.

Beyond the Pale (Toronto)
Monday, Sept. 3 at 2:30 p.m.
Returning to Ashkenaz for the first time since 2008, Toronto’s Beyond the Pale has been making its distinctive brand of boundary-busting Eurofolk fusion for over a dozen years. Mixing Klezmer, Balkan and Romanian styles with an eclectic range of North American influences, the group’s unique brand of acoustic music is delivered with virtuosic musicianship, exciting dynamics and an inventive approach to both original and traditional material. Three-time Canadian Folk Music Award winners, the group has toured extensively across North America, Europe and Australia, collaborated with the likes of Theodore Bikel, Socalled, Flory Jagoda and various Canadian symphonic and choral groups, and has released three acclaimed albums. The group will present new repertoire currently in development for their next CD recording, to be released in conjunction with their 15th anniversary in 2013.

Klezmerson (Mexico) Canadian Premier
Monday, Sept. 3 at 3 p.m.
Based in Mexico City, Klezmerson explores the Jewish musical tradition while reflecting the diverse urban sounds of their hometown. Klezmerson was founded by violinist, pianist and composer Benjamin Shwartz who set out to create an ensemble that would interpret Jewish klezmer music from a Mexican point of view. With roots in the European and Middle-Eastern traditions of Klezmer and Roma music, Shwartz’s ensemble injects Latin American musical influences such as charanga, norteño, cha cha and son into its music and utilizes unusual instruments like the dobro and Veracruzan Huapago guitar. Embracing electronica, rock, funk and jazz improvisations over Klezmer themes, Klezmerson delivers a high-energy, explosive concert experience. The release of Klezmerson’s third CD Siete on John Zorn’s prestigious NY-based Tzadik Records label has cemented the band’s stature as one of the most exciting new ensembles in the field. This is the group’s Canadian debut, and marks the first time a Mexican artist has appeared at Ashkenaz.

Sagapool (Montreal)
Monday, Sept. 3 at 5 p.m.
For over a decade, Montreal’s Sagapool has been making its distinctive brand of original acoustic music inspired as much by film scores and classical gems as by Roma and East European roots music. The award-winning sextet is known for its evocative soundscapes and high-intensity, spirited live shows, which mix good-natured shenanigans, striking musical skill and sophisticated compositions.

Anthony Russell (USA) Canadian Premier
Monday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m.
African-American by birth and Jewish by choice, Anthony (Mordechai Tzvi) Russell was trained and experienced as an operatic bass before discovering in Yiddish art song an ideal canvas for the expression of his own multifaceted identity. Immersing himself in the recital repertoire of cantorial legend Sidor Belarsky, Chassidic nigunim and Yiddish folk songs, he strives in his interpretations to “embody the aspirations, desires and struggles of one diaspora culture enriched with the colours and experiences of another.” His earnest and heartfelt interpretations reveal the narrative, melodic and cultural riches of a timeless repertoire, now given refreshing new life by an emerging talent.

Leo Spellman’s “Rhapsody 1939-1945” (Toronto) Canadian Premiere
Monday Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. NOTE: Ticketed event ($25 advanced, $30 day-of)
Leo Spellman (Szpilman) is a 99-year-old composer and Holocaust survivor who settled in Toronto after World War II. The Szpilman family was a revered musical dynasty in Poland for over 100 years; his cousin, Wladyslaw Szpilman, is the subject of the Oscar-winning Roman Polanski film The Pianist. Spellman’s “Rhapsody 1939-1945” was composed in 1947 in a displaced person’s camp in Germany. After immigrating to Canada, Spellman packed the score away in a suitcase where it lay forgotten for more than fifty years. Over the subsequent decades, Spellman established a successful musical career as a composer, concert pianist, society musician, cantorial accompanist and music director of the Toronto Jewish Theatre. After rediscovering his “lost” composition in 2000, Spellman’s “Rhapsody” was performed for the first time in North America at the Survivor’s Conference in Washington, DC, and subsequently in New York and Connecticut. In the fall of 2011, Spellman expanded and recorded the piece with the aid of esteemed Canadian musician Paul Hoffert (co-founder of the classic Canadian band Lighthouse, winner of many Gemini and Genie awards for his film music, and recipient of the Order of Canada). Now finally recorded, Spellman’s “Rhapsody 1939-1945” will be performed in Canada for the first time at the 2012 Ashkenaz Festival, with an orchestra conducted by Hoffert, featuring violin soloist Moshe Hammer, and with the composer in attendance.

Theatre Panik’s The Corpse Bride (Toronto)
Thursday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1 at 5 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 2 at 1 p.m.
A young groom on the way to his bride's village accidentally weds himself to a Corpse Bride in this darkly comedic spin on shtetl folklore. Theatre Panik's highly original production of this classic folktale combines physical theatre with a stunning live musical score, paying tribute to Yiddish theatrical tradition and to silent film through rhetorical gestures and stylized projections. An irreverent, 21st-century tour de force of new Jewish theatre, not to be missed! Co-presented with Harold Green Jewish Theatre

Ira Moskowitz: Mystical Routes
Curated by Lindy Green
Saturday-Monday, Sept. 1-3
The global themes of the 2012 Ashkenaz Festival are reflected in the life and work of Ira Moskowitz, an artist who travelled the world in search of the mystical. The son and grandson of rabbis, Moskowitz was born and raised in eastern Europe, and profoundly influenced by the daily routines and rituals of his Hassidic background. Although his Jewish roots inform his life’s work, he left the Hassidic fold as a teenager, traveled extensively across the US and Europe, and lived in New York, Palestine, Mexico, New Mexico and Israel. His paintings, drawings and prints capture the spirit of the communities in which he immersed himself, and of nature with which he communed deeply. Moskowitz received the prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, while his award-winning four-volume Great Drawings of all Time, resulted in a definitive catalogue of European and American drawing collections. Co-Presented with The Al Green Gallery.

Freydi Mrocki (Australia): Oystralia: The Yiddish Community of Melbourne
Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.
Jews have been part of the white settlement of Australia from its very beginnings as a penal colony in 1788. Jewish migration to Australia surged following the Holocaust, most of which went to Melbourne. This relatively small but dynamic community would create a vibrant centre of Yiddish life and culture, boasting Yiddish theatre, radio and press; Yiddish schools, musicians and choirs; a cultural centre; and a national library – which is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary. Though declining in number, the yidishistn of Melbourne, often marginalized by the mainstream Jewish community, are today still actively working to maintain their Yiddish world in ek velt. Melbourne’s own Freydi Mrocki will provide an overview of Australian-Jewish history, focusing particularly on the cultural life of Melbourne’s Yiddish community. Mrocki is a Yiddish teacher, performer and singer with the Australian Klezmer band Klezmania. She is the first Australian artist ever presented at the Ashkenaz Festival.

Avrohom Lichtenbaum (Argentina)
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 1 p.m.
Avrohom Lichtenbaum will give a talk about the experiences of the first Jews in South America and of the Yiddish immigrant experience. Jewish immigrants were both Sephardic and Ashkenazic, and many of them had fled the European pogroms of the 18th century. Baron Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association facilitated mass emigration of Jews from Russia to agricultural colonies, particularly in Argentina and Brazil, and Jewish life in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile was rich and varied. Lichtenbaum will provide an intriguing and informative overview of South American Jewry: the folklore, literature, poetry, Yiddish press, theatre and music; the underbelly of the culture: human-traffickers; and the rise of YIVO in Argentina. Avrohom Lichtenbaum is the Executive Director of YIVO Argentina and has taught Yiddish in Buenos Aires, NY, Vilnius, Warsaw, and Hamburg. In Yiddish only.

Paul Buhle (USA) Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 3 p.m.
In their latest volume, co-editors Harvey Pekar and Paul Buhle trace the influence of Yiddish from medieval Europe to the present with an anthology of comics and graphic art. The book features original stories by such notable writers and artists as Barry Deutsch, Peter Kuper, Spain Rodriguez, Sharon Rudahl and Pekar himself. Through illustrations, comic art, and a full-length play, the volume explores four major themes: culture, performance, assimilation and the revival of the language. Paul Buhle will present images and insights about the anthology and about his late co-editor, the iconoclastic underground comic book writer, music critic, and media personality Harvey Pekar. A prolific author and editor, Buhle collaborated with Pekar on five volumes of comic art and edited the three-volume Jews and American Popular Culture. He is a Lecturer Emeritus at Brown University.

Ann Samson (Toronto): The Jews of India
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 4:30 p.m.
India has an unbroken record of over 2,000 years of hospitality to Jews. Ann Samson, a leading spokesperson for the Indian Jewish Community of Toronto, will provide an overview of the history, sociological structure, unique customs and traditions of this fascinating and often overlooked Jewish community. Her presentation will be followed by a question and answer period. An educator and active community member, Ann Samson is one of the founders of Congregation Bina of Indian Jews.

Judith Cohen (Toronto): Inquisition to Internet: The Musical World of the Portuguese Marranos
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 6 p.m.
A lecture from Judith Cohen, Canada’s pre-eminent Sephardic specialist, about the Marranos, the hidden Jews of Portugal. Only they remained in the wake of the 16th-Century Inquisition, often staying in remote mountain villages and continuing to practice a secret Judaism, which over the years was transformed into a women-led religion characterized by the secrecy and deceit necessary for its survival over the centuries. Ethnomusicologist Cohen has carried out systematic fieldwork with the Marranos since the mid-1990s in the emblematic town of Belmonte and in the northeastern area “beyond the mountains.” The audio-visual presentation, prepared especially for Ashkenaz, explores how these crypto-Jews survived the Inquisition, the function of songs in their lives, and how today they are constructing a new musical world with 21st-Century tools.

Pete Sokolow: The Last of the Old Guys (USA)
Monday, Sept. 3 at 1 p.m.
Pete Sokolow is a jazz and klezmer pianist whose six-decade career has made him a crucial link between older and newer generations of Klezmer musicians. He has played with many major figures in klezmer history, including Dave Tarras, the Epstein Brothers and Ray Musiker, and has been an important figure in the revival of Klezmer music by mentoring a new generation of performers. Known as much for his colourful personality as his impeccable chops, Sokolow will present a musically-illustrated discussion about his storied career and the many luminaries he has encountered, while reflecting on the current state of Jewish music.

Michael Wex (Toronto) Heartburn as History: Traditional Ashkenazi Food
Monday, Sept. 3 at 3 p.m.
Award-winning author, Yiddish raconteur and Ashkenaz fave Michael Wex returns to the Festival with a sneak preview of his latest book about Jewish food. In his characteristically colourful fashion, Wex will look at some typical “Jewish” dishes and delicacies – kugel, cholent, tsimmes, calf’s foot jelly, sundry baked goods – and their place in Jewish culture. We’ll learn where they came from, how they have evolved, and why they still have such powerful effect on so many people not otherwise terribly involved with Jewish culture or religious observance. Bromo and Alka-Seltzer might well be discussed, but will not be provided.

Jerry Gray (Toronto): From the Jewish Folk Choir to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Monday, Sept. 3 at 5 p.m.
Canadian folk music icon Jerry Gray was a “red diaper baby” growing up in Toronto’s left-wing Jewish community in the mid-20th century. Gray spent his summers at UJPO’s Camp Naivelt, where in 1953 he helped form The Travellers, Canada’s first folk song group and creators of the Canadianized version of “This Land is Your Land.” He has travelled across Canada and around the world, singing for labourers, picketers, protesters, politicians, children and royalty. He has performed with Pete Seeger, Theodore Bikel, Harry Belafonte, Gordon Lightfoot, Judy Collins, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and many other folk music luminaries. In this musically-illustrated lecture, Jerry will share songs and stories from his many travels, highlighting how his Jewish roots have stayed with him throughout his storied career. He will be accompanied by his banjo and by his son James Gray.

Guy Mendilow’s “Sailors, Sirens & Kings: A Children’s Adventure in Song” (USA)
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 1 p.m.
Everyone becomes part of the music-making in the Guy Mendilow Ensemble’s children’s workshop. Come aboard an exhilarating interactive adventure through songs, stories and games that will fascinate you with their history and energize you to make your own music and even your own instruments. Meet colourful characters from Ladino songs, from sirens and sailors to kings, as well as some of the most important members of the ensemble, the instruments themselves, such as the berimbau, jaw harp and overtone singing. As the Bethlehem Morning Call puts it, Guy Mendilow’s children’s programs are “an international tour de force!” Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Jewish Jug Band with Joshua Engel (Toronto)
Sunday & Monday, Sept. 2 at 2pm & Sept 3 at 3 p.m.
What is a Jewish jug band? Families and kids of all ages are about to find out, again, with the return of one of Ashkenaz Festival’s most popular family programs. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert music-maker, whether you play the clarinet or the kazoo, Ashkenaz’s Jewish Jug Band welcomes all. Washboards, spoons, jugs, bones, kazoos and melodicas will mix with traditional instruments of all kinds in an inter-generational cacophony of epic proportions. A limited number of non-traditional instruments will be made available to participants on a first-come basis, otherwise bring your own implement of sonic destruction (and maybe some ear plugs). Children under 12 are welcome with a participating adult.

Sharon and Bram (Toronto)
Sunday, Sept 2 at 3 p.m.
Ashkenaz is thrilled to present two of North America’s pre-eminent family entertainers, Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison. They are best known as two thirds of the iconic trio Sharon, Lois & Bram, with whom they produced over twenty recordings, three song-books, six national TV specials, sixty-five episodes of The Elephant Show, and fifty-two episodes of Skinnamarink TV. They have received countless awards, including Gold and Platinum recordings, and JUNO Awards for Best Children’s Album. For their many years of providing the best in participatory music for children and their families, in 2002 Sharon, Lois and Bram were inducted into The Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour in the country. Sharon and Bram have carried on as a duo since Lois Lilienstein retired from live performing in 2000. A Sharon and Bram show is a sing-along concert for the entire family, featuring their popular classics in addition to songs from their common Yiddish heritage.

Lorie Wolf’s “Todie and the Miser”
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 5 p.m.
Join shrewd Todie, the town’s ne’er-do-well, as he teaches Lyzer the miser, the stingiest, cheapest man in the shtetl, a lesson about generosity that he’ll never forget. This classic folk tale, as retold by Isaac Bashevis Singer in his book Stories for Children, comes to life on stage with lots of laughs and live Klezmer music. Lorie Wolf is an accomplished music educator and performer, known best for her work with the Sisters of Sheynville, The Lithuanian Empire, the Dull-Eyed Llamas and various other Toronto jazz and world music acts. Her current children’s production is a follow-up to her musical theatre interpretation of Singer’s Mazel and Shlimazel, which premiered at the 2010 Ashkenaz Festival and was subsequently featured in the Toronto FringeKids! Festival. Recommended for ages 6-12. Story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, adaptation and music by Lorie Wolf, starring Geoff Kolomayz and Steve Jay.

Lesley Simpson: Yuvi’s Candy Tree
Monday, Sept 3 at 1 p.m.
Yuvi’s Candy Tree is a picture book about a five-year-old Jewish Ethiopian girl who outwitted robbers during her exodus from Ethiopia. The book was inspired by the life of Ethiopian Israeli Yuvi Tashome, who was part of Operation Moses, one of the secret airlifts of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the 1980s. The book is this year’s winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award for youth literature. It is written by Lesley Simpson, a Canadian journalist and picture book author who also wrote the bestseller The Hug as well as The Shabbat Box, The Purim Surprise, and a new picture book, A Song For My Sister, scheduled for release this summer. Simpson will read the book and lead kids and families in an activity to create your own candy tree. Recommended for ages 6-10.

Marky Weinstock: Music Circle for Babies & Toddlers (Toronto)
Monday, Sept. 3 at 2 p.m.
Join acclaimed children’s entertainer Marky Weinstock for a special Ashkenaz song circle for babies and toddlers. He draws on his experiences as an award winning musician, respected educator, and world traveler to create a program filled with singing, movement, and smiles. Have fun learning new songs and activities to celebrate the joy of music and introduce your little ones to Hebrew and Jewish classics.

Ashkenaz Parade
Monday, Sept. 3 at 4 p.m.
The signature event of the Ashkenaz Festival, the Ashkenaz Parade transforms Harbourfront Centre into a swirling cavalcade of music, dance, theatre, giant puppetry, stiltwalkers and various other forms of pomp and pageantry. Under the direction of Toronto street-theatre stalwarts Shadowland Theatre, the Parade features hundreds of musicians, artists and community participants in a joyful and whimsical procession that serves as the penultimate climax to the Ashkenaz Festival. Join in the action by participating in the pre-festival workshop.

Café Noah (1996)
Saturday, Sept. 1 at 8pm
In 1948, a number of Jewish-Arab musicians from Baghdad and Cairo joined the streams of Jewish immigrants from all over the world coming to the new state of Israel. They were masters of Arabic music - but found that their music was not valued in their new homeland, and the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict left no room for their identity as Arab Jews. Cafe Noah in Tel Aviv became the one place where their music and culture could survive. Featuring incredible archival performance footage and contemporary interviews, acclaimed Israeli director Duki Dror tells the compelling story of these cultural exiles. 26 minutes, English, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles.

When Our Bubbas and Zeydas Were Young: Di Schaechter Techter on Stage (2011)
Saturday, Sept. 1 at 9:30 p.m.
Attracting a new generation to Yiddish song, the dynamic Schaechter Sisters, accompanied by their musical director father, Binyumen Schaechter, bring to life the youth of their grandparents in Eastern Europe. Through a potpourri of characters from the Yiddish songbook and featuring great Yiddish composers and writers, such as Sholem Aleichem, Itsik Manger and Mordecai Gebirtig, they inspire us with themes that are universal and contemporary, such as young love, family relationships and class struggle. Academy Award-nominated director Josh Waletzky (Partisans of Vilna, Image Before My Eyes) incorporates insightful family interviews and explores the sisters’ unique mission to share Yiddish with the world. Co-presented with the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.

Eatala: A Life in Klezmer (2012)
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.
Eatala: A Life in Klezmer is a loving portrait of Elaine Hoffman Watts (her Yiddish name is Eatala) and her family legacy. The documentary shows how a feisty and determined woman broke barriers as a musician, a working mother and with her persistent devotion to her family's klezmer music. Drawing on performance footage, interviews and family movies and photographs, Eatala shows how the klezmer tradition has been sustained over four generations in a single family, all with a good dose of humor and joy. Eatala features performances by Elaine Hoffman Watts, Susan Lankin Watts and an all-star Klezmer band with Josh Dolgin, Jay Krush, Rachel Lemisch, Hankus Netsky, Henry Sapoznik and Carmen Staaf. Directed by Barry Dornfeld and Debora Kodish. Co-presented with the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.

Yiddish Writers Speak: Yosl Birshteyn (2011)
Sunday Sept 2 at 8:30 p.m.
Yosl Birshteyn (1920-2003) may have been the last Jewish writer to have inhabited a creative life in two Jewish national languages: Yiddish and Hebrew. Not only did he write and publish in each, but he also mastered the art of storytelling in both as well. He never simply spoke; he was a raconteur whose every anecdote was a performance. In 1994, towards the end of his career, Birshteyn gave an in-depth video interview about his life and work to the editor-in-chief of the Forverts, Boris Sandler, from which this film is drawn.

The Other Europeans: Broken Sound (2012) North American Premiere
Sunday, Sept. 2 at 10 p.m
Experience the artistic and cultural journey of The Other Europeans, one of the featured highlights at Ashkenaz 2010. This extraordinarily candid, behind-the-scenes look at The Other Europeans captures the hope and despair as 14 klezmer and lautar musicians from 8 countries try to piece together their almost-forgotten shared history, overcoming barriers of language and culture and their own different values and visions. Until the early 20th Century Jews and Roma in Bessarabia stayed together, married each other and played music together. This Jewish Klezmer and Romani Lautarmusicians formed a common music culture, which was destroyed by the outbreak of World War II. Since that time Klezmer and Lautar music have lived in different worlds. Seventy years later, fourteen internationally known musicians from various parts of the world would go on a trip to find this common past. The eight Klezmorim and six Lautari search for a lost sound which leads them through many European countries. The project captures the intense and even painful exploration of their own identity, raising questions about their own status as Jews and Roma within and outside Europe. Shot over two years on locations including Krakow, Edinets, Kishinev, Budapest, Tel Aviv, Austin and Weimar by the Weimar-based 1meter60 Film, the film includes rare concert footage, musical cameos, and much more.

Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr.
Monday, Sept. 3 at 2:30 p.m.
Comedy great Buster Keaton showcases his astonishingly acrobatic slapstick in this hilarious masterpiece about a cinema projectionist and would-be detective who falls asleep on the job and dreams himself into the mystery film playing on the screen. Experience Keaton’s classic with a special live performance of a new musical score by pianist Fern Lindzon and her Klezmer-jazz quartet. Originally commissioned by TIFF for performance at the Bell Lightbox in 2010, Lindzon’s creative score interprets Keaton’s tour de force performance with klezmer modes, themes and grooves, and is performed by a top-flight ensemble of Toronto jazz and Jewish music heavies. Co-presented with the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.

Sholem Aleichem: The Ger Mandolin Orchestra (2012) Exclusive Sneak Preview
Monday Sept. 3 at 5 p.m.
In March 2011, at the Jewish Music Festival in Berkeley, California, eleven of the world’s finest mandolinists came together to create a new musical ensemble, remarkable not only for its artistry but for the story behind its creation. The group was the brainchild of Israeli-American businessman Avner Yonai, whose search for his family roots had led him to a dusty photograph of his grandfather and other relatives playing in a pre-WWII Jewish mandolin orchestra in the town of Gora Kalwaria (Ger in Yiddish), Poland. The photograph inspired Yonai to create a contemporary version of the orchestra, as a memorial project for his own family and for a central, but nearly forgotten, tradition of Polish-Jewish musical life. Six months after its premiere performance in California, the new Ger Mandolin Orchestra traveled to Poland to perform in the town of Gora Kalwaria, filling the remains of the local Tzadik Synagogue with Jewish music for the first time in 70 years. This short version of an in-progress feature-length documentary about the Ger Mandolin Orchestra includes stunning live performance footage and interviews with the major figures involved in its creation. Avner Yonai will be in attendance and will host a Q&A session following the screening.

Ashkenaz Parade Masterclass
Tuesday, Aug. 21 at 6 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 23 at 6 p.m. and Tuesday Aug. 28 at 6 p.m.
NOTE: Offsite event, taking place at 918 Bathurst, registration required, visit
Since the first Ashkenaz festival in 1995, Shadowland Theatre artists Anne Barber and Brad Harley have created the festival’s largest work of art involving hundreds of community participants. This processional performance will travel around Harbourfront Centre and adjacent Queens Quay locations on the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 3. The 2012 parade will be based on folkloric characters, superstitions, and stories from Jewish and Yiddish culture – with a radical new twist. Masterclass participants will contribute ideas, rolling up their sleeves at three weeknight sessions in the lead-up to the Festival Parade. The Masterclass will also serve as a production team, responsible for the festival’s site décor which gives festival-goers a visual experience from the moment they arrive. In exchange for your hard work you will receive training by experts in the field and a summer theatre arts adventure like no other.

Fellowship of the Strings: Festival Strings Masterclass with Veretski Pass
Saturday, Sept. 1 at 4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 2 at 10 a.m., Monday, Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. Performance on Monday, Sept 3 at 6 p.m. NOTE: Participants must register and provide a registration fee: visit for more info
Participants of the masterclass will attend three 2-hour masterclasses with Veretski Pass and perform live at the 2012 Ashkenaz Festival. All participants will receive full repertoire of sheet music in advance, and all ages are welcome. Aiming to recreate the sound of classic European Klezmer ensembles, the Festival Strings Masterclass is a unique group of professional and amateur musicians assembled for the 2012 Ashkenaz Festival. This ensemble, under the expert tutelage of Veretski Pass, will learn Jewish, Ukrainian and Moldavian tunes, and learn from Veretski Pass’s three members. The ensemble will work with improvisation in the old style, isolating motivic cells and varying them immediately through the “Simon Says” method. Participants will learn the function of melodies and their accompaniments, ornamentation and variation, culminating in a multi-level suite. Participants must play violin, viola, cello, bass, tsimbl or mandolin at the intermediate level and up; basic musical literacy and your own instrument and music stand required.

Season-Long Events at Harbourfront Centre

Uncharted Waters: Toronto’s Enigmatic Harbour presented with the assistance of the Toronto Port Authority (June 21, 2012-June 2013)
An outdoor, large-scale photo exhibition of the harbour’s people, places, industries, vessels and ecosystems which uncovers the true value of one of Canada’s largest inland ports.

Summer Music in the Garden presented by TD Bank Group (Most Thursdays, 7 p.m. & Sundays, 4 p.m., July-Sept)
Free performances of classical and traditional music from around the world as Summer Music in the Garden enters its 13th season. Concerts and tours take place in the Toronto Music Garden weather permitting; contact our info desk at 416-973-4000 for updates.

Dancing on the Pier (Thursdays, June 28-Aug. 30, 7-9 p.m.)
Join the Dancing on the Pier house band for social interaction and learning that explores global dance trends, hosted by Martin Samuels.

Free Flicks (Wednesdays, July 4-Aug. 29, approximately 9 p.m.)
From classic film to cult comedy, we explore the journey of the underdog from zero to hero on the big screen, under the stars, hosted by Norm Wilner.

International Marketplace (Weekends June 2-Sept 3)
Shop the world every weekend, all summer long – from Indonesian textiles and Indigenous crafts to African artefacts, South American jewellery and far beyond.

World Café (Weekends May 19-Sept 3)
Our newly renovated World Café features a rotating selection of the best international cuisine at affordable prices.

Harbourfront Centre Street Stage (weekends from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving, 9 a.m.-11 p.m.)
Come and see some of the best street performers this city has to offer!

Canoe Rides and Paddle Boats on the Natrel® Pond (Weekends, May-Oct)
Take a break and enjoy a fun float beside our picturesque boardwalk. Cost: Canoe rides are $4 per person, paddle boats are $5 per person, including life jacket rental and a 15-minute ride.

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