Ashkenaz in the National Post

On August 1, The National Post selected the Ashkenaz Festival to be included in their “Month Ahead” feature! This inclusion was on the front page of the Arts & Life section which reaches an audience of over 420,000 people. So mark your calendar and save the date: the Festival begins on the 28th of August and concludes on the 3rd of September. It’s great to be featured in this way and helps make the Festival lead-up atmosphere even more exciting! Keep an eye out over the coming months for more Ashkenaz-related promotion and information in media outlets all throughout Toronto…

“Rhapsody 1939-45″ comes to Ashkenaz

The 2012 Ashkenaz Festival team is thrilled to be adding the beautiful work of Leo Spellman (Szpilman) to the festival programme. Spellman, a 99-year-old composer and Holocaust survivor who settled in Toronto after World War II, composed “Rhapsody 1939-45″  in a displaced person’s camp in Germany, in 1947. The score lay forgotten in a suitcase for over 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. 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 Paul Hoffert and Spellman in attendance.

Rhapsody 1939-1945 depicts three themes – the horror of war, the sadness of loss, and the hope for a better tomorrow. The first section paints a sonic picture of bombs falling, machine gun fire, and troops marching. The second is a mournful lamentation evoking profound despair. The third section employs joyful klezmer music themes to remind us that even in adversity there is strength, passion, resilience and hope at the heart of the soul of the Jewish people. The Rhapsody builds to a hopeful and ecstatic finale, referencing “Hatikvah” and the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, shortly after the work was composed.

Spellman’s cousin, Wladyslaw Szpilman, is the subject of the Oscar-winning Roman Polanski film The Pianist. The Szpilman family was a revered musical dynasty in Poland for over 100 years.

We hope you will join us for this legendary performance on the last night of our Festival celebrations.

You can purchase tickets for the Monday September 3, 6pm performance here.

($20 in advance/$25 day-of)

Sponsored by NanDan Foundation and Mirvish Charitable Foundation.

Workshop Day with Shadowland Theatre

The 2012 Ashkenaz Festival is pleased to announce details of the community workshop day with Shadowland Theatre on Sunday, August 26 at 918 Bathurst (just north of Bloor). This unique and fun-filled day is a lead-up event to the 2012 Festival – led by Ashkenaz staff and Shadowland interns – and a chance to take part in the production of the Parade that will promenade  at Harbourfront on Monday, September 3rd.

We will focus on parade images that participants can wear or animate in the parade. You’ll have the chance to create an oversize character/puppet that reflects a historical character or attribute, or an exaggerated prop for use in the Ashkenaz Parade. Participants will be guided in transforming simple materials into a dramatic sculpted mask or object that will be used in the Parade performance.

Sunday, August 26 at 918 Bathurst:

10am-12pm – Children under 12 and Young Families workshop (Children under 12 must be accompanied by a guardian). Participants will be guided by Shadowland staff to decorate personal hamsas and will make dramatic face masks based on characters from Yiddish folklore. A sparkly, joyous morning!

1pm-3pm– Combined Seniors and Teens/Young Adults workshop. Participants will decorate a giant mezuzah with created tiles and decorative elements and will be encouraged to exchange stories of mezuzot they have had in the past, doorways and entrances and homes that are special to them. Elements of these stories will be woven into the final sculpture.

4pm-6pm– Teens workshop. Create an oversize character that reflects significant a historical character or attribute, or an exaggerated prop for use in the Ashkenaz Parade. Participants will be guided in transforming simple materials into a dramatic sculpted mask or object that will be used in the performance.


There will be a nominal fee of $10 per family for the morning session, and $5 per participant for the other two sessions in order to cover costs of workshop materials. Please note that for the 1pm-3pm session, the teens/young adults participation fee will cover the seniors fee, ie., seniors go free.

For more info and to register for a workshop, please email We look forward to having you join us for the fun pre-festival excitement!

Dancing into summer at Bialik

Ashkenaz brings dance to Bialik’s year-end celebration

On June 21st, 2012, Bialik students were once again the participants of an Ashkenaz in the Schools program, this time through the art of Yiddish dance. As part of Panorama, Bialik’s week-long arts celebration program at the end of term, Ashkenaz brought dynamic dance teacher (and Artist Liaison & Programming Coordinator) Avia Moore to lead a dance workshop to grade 6 and 7 students.

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2012 Ashkenaz Parade Masterclass

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 Monday, September 3, 2012 in the afternoon. The 2012 parade will be based on folkloric characters, superstitions, and stories from Jewish and Yiddish culture – with a radical new twist. The 2012 Festival Parade Masterclass offers a fun and dynamic experience for enthusiastic and creative people of all ages!

Masterclass session dates:
Tuesday, August 21st, 6-9pm
Thursday, August 23rd, 6-9pm
Tuesday, August 28th, 6-9pm

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2012 Parade Internship

Since the Ashkenaz festival began in 1995, Shadowland 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 Monday, September 3 2012 in the afternoon. The 2012 parade will be based on folkloric characters, superstitions and stories from Jewish and Yiddish culture but with a radical new twist.

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Ori Dakari Quartet – January 26, 2012

Ashkenaz is pleased to present, in partnership with the Canada Israel Cultural Foundation, the Canadian debut of Israeli jazz guitarist Ori Dakari. Israeli guitarist Ori Dakari is an exciting new arrival on the international world-jazz scene. With his debut CD release “Entrances” (2009) on John Zorn’s prestigious Tzadik Records label, Ori Dakari has fashioned a compelling sound all his own. Lyrical and powerful, his unique compositions are rooted as much in contemporary jazz sounds as in Israeli, Yemenite, East European, and North African music. Surrounded by an impressive cast of some of NY’s top young jazz heavies, Dakari and his quartet create exciting improvisations and intense rhythmic drive. The band has already lit up the international jazz circuit with festival and club performances in Israel, US, Russia, Serbia and Thailand; don’t miss their Canadian debut at Toronto’s Trane Studio.

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Lemon Bucket Orkestra – Nov 19, 2011

The exciting new event space at the Lower Ossington Theatre Lounge will play host to Toronto’s only Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy-Party-Punk-Super-Band, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Come down to Queen and Ossington for Ashkenaz’s kick-off show of the season.

DATE: Saturday, November 19, 2011
PLACE: LOT Lounge, 100 Ossington Ave (street-level space, just north of Queen)
TIME: Doors at 10 p.m., show at 10:30 p.m.

The Lemon Bucket Orkestra grew out of a conversation between a Breton accordionist and a Ukrainian fiddler in a Vietnamese restaurant on Yonge Street. Mark Marczyk had just spent two years in Ukraine playing with the urban folk band Ludy Dobri while Tangi Ropars had returned to his place of birth after a lifetime of Celtic folk. Their original quartet, Worldly Savages, has since swelled into a fourteen-piece band whose explosive take on Ukrainian, ex-Yugoslavian, Romani and other traditional songs and their desire to play anywhere and everywhere has lit up the urban folk scene in the streets and clubs of Toronto.

Check out a clip from the band’s recent tour in Montreal here.

For more info on the artists go to

Book Launch: Jewish People, Yiddish Nation – Oct 18, 2011

Jewish People, Yiddish Nation: Noah Prylucki and the Folkists in Poland

Oct 18, 2011

The official launch of the new book by Professor Kalman Weiser. Featuring a special musical performance by Marilyn Lerner and David Wall

Linguist, folklorist, journalist, and politician Noah Prylucki (1882–1941) was a champion of Yiddishism, a movement that promoted secular Yiddish culture as the basis for Jewish collective identity in the twentieth century. Prylucki’s dramatic path – from russified Zionist raised in a Ukrainian shtetl, to Diaspora nationalist parliamentarian in metropolitan Warsaw, to professor of Yiddish the University of Vilnius in Soviet Lithuania – uniquely reflects the dilemmas and competing options facing the Jews of this era as life in Eastern Europe underwent radical transformation. Using hitherto unexplored archival sources, memoirs, interviews, and materials from the vibrant interwar Jewish and Polish presses, Professor Kalman Weiser investigates the rise and fall of Yiddishism and of Prylucki’s political party, the Folkists, in the post-World War One era. Jewish People, Yiddish Nation reveals the life of a remarkable individual and the fortunes of a major cultural movement that has long been obscured. Professor Weiser will discuss his research, present selected passages from the book and participate in a Q and A.

Illustrating the continuing relevance of the Yiddishist movement, two of Toronto’s leading interpreters of Yiddish song, Marilyn Lerner and David Wall, will present new musical settings of Yiddish folksong texts collected by Prylucki himself.

Annual Yiddish Summer concert – Aug 21, 2011


Ashkenaz is thrilled to announce that this year’s Annual Summer Yiddish Concert will feature the Canadian debut of Serendipity4, a veritable supergroup including the legendary star of song, stage and screen Theodore Bikel, along with renowned Dutch Yiddish singer Shura Lipovsky, virtuoso Bosnian accordionist Merima Kljuco and acclaimed conductor and pianist Tamara Brooks. This quartet of highly celebrated musicians highlight the diversity and commonality of different cultures, performing songs in Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino and Bosnian styles.

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