2020 Festival Postponement

We regretfully announce today the postponement of the 25th anniversary Ashkenaz Festival to 2021. We have arrived at this decision through ongoing consultation with our venue partner, Harbourfront Centre, and in alignment with the recommendations of Toronto Public Health, Public Health Ontario, and Health Canada, as well as the Government of Ontario’s recently announced roadmap for safely reopening the province. Under this guidance, large-scale gatherings such as ours will clearly not be able to take place as planned this summer.

The next Ashkenaz Festival is now officially re-scheduled for August 31 to September 6, 2021. These new festival dates align with more conservative estimates as to when major live events will once again be possible, giving us optimism that we will be able to proceed with the festival at that time.

 In the meantime we are contemplating new approaches to executing our mission. Over the last month we co-presented two well-attended and highly-reviewed online programs. These inaugural virtual events have helped us clarify some key principles that will guide our future efforts:

  • Musicians and performing artists are key to our mission, and they are among those most highly impacted, economically, by this crisis. We are committed to helping artists and arts workers sustain their careers during this challenging period, by advocating for their interests and providing professional compensation for their work;  
  • We remain committed to the highest professional production standards. Quality will always take primacy over quantity in our virtual content;
  • Partnerships will remain central to our approach in order that our online programs will reach the largest possible virtual audiences;
  • Our digital efforts will be a complement to our usual work and mission and we will return to live presentation and in-person communal experiences when the time is appropriate.

So, what can you do to help? First, we urge you all to please continue abiding by the most current public health and safety regulations. With solidarity and collective resolve we can together prevent more death and suffering, and hasten a return to some kind of normal in which live music and community experiences may be possible.  Second, please be sure to follow us on our social media pages if you don’t already so that you can stay abreast of our most current developments and program announcements. Click these links to find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Please mark our new 2021 Festival dates in your calendar.

Finally, please consider a tax deductible charitable donation to Ashkenaz at this time. We rely on private donations for over half of our total operating revenues. Your support will provide critical resources to help keep artists and art workers employed, while ensuring the health and efficacy of our organization. Though we recognize there are many urgent health and well-being causes requiring support right now, we know that music and the arts are critical to maintaining community and social connection amidst the isolation and distance of these times. For the Jewish community, it is especially vital in tough times to celebrate our shared culture, identity and resilience, and to engage youth, seniors and culturally-diverse audiences in meaningful artistic experiences. This is just what we hope to do over the coming year, providing hope, connection and inspiration at a critical time.

Thank you all, stay safe, stay sane….and stay tuned!

COVID-19 update

(April 1, 2020) The staff and Board of Directors of Ashkenaz are closely following the COVID-19 situation to determine if and how our plans for this year’s 25th anniversary festival will be impacted. The safety and health of our audience members, artists, staff and volunteers are of primary importance to us. Stay tuned for further updates.

Ashkenaz Paid Summer Internships 2019

We are hiring for this summer’s Ashkenaz team! See link below for information on three paid internship opportunities. If you are someone (or know someone) who would like to be a part of our summer team, please email your cover letter, cv and relevant work samples to Managing Director Samantha Parnes at sam@ashkenaz.ca.

Due to funding restrictions, the applicants must be: under 30 years of age; be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident; have a valid SIN and be legally entitled to work in Ontario.  

Click here for info!

Eric’s Hanukah Playlist on CBC

What do Moishe Oysher, Flory Jagoda and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings have in common? Answer: they have each created some of the best Hanukah songs ever, all of which were part of a playlist our Artistic Director Eric Stein brought in for a spot he did yesterday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.  Click play below to listen to the segment. Happy Hanukah!

 

Yiddish Glory to open 2018 Ashkenaz Festival

iddish Glory to open 2018 Ashkenaz Festival

We are pleased to announce the opening concert of the 2018 Ashkenaz Festival. Hailed by more than 100 critics and journalists around the world, Yiddish Glory is a rare and extraordinary program of songs and lyrics composed by Holocaust victims and survivors in the Soviet Union during World War II. Many of the songs are eyewitness accounts of Nazi atrocities in Ukraine at sites such as Babi Yar, Pechora and Tulchin, while others are explicit descriptions of resistance and revenge. Others are simply expressions of love, hope and even humour amidst unimaginable circumstances. Most of the songs were written by women and children, perspectives rarely seen in music of this period.

The songs were originally collected during the war by a team of Jewish Soviet ethnomusicologists led by Moisei Beregovsky. Shortly afterwards, during Stalin’s anti-Jewish purge, the collectors were arrested, their work confiscated, and they died thinking the music was lost to history. Now these rare gems have been rediscovered and resurrected in a jaw-dropping new program. Conceived and created by Professor Anna Shternshis and musical archaeologist Psoy Korolenko, Yiddish Glory’s all-star international cast includes Toronto’s beloved jazz chanteuse Sophie Milman, Moscow-based Gypsy virtuosi Trio Loyko, and Ashkenaz Festival co-founder David Buchbinder, among others. Don’t miss this unforgettable concert event!

WATCH A VIDEO featuring Sophie Milman

READ THE REVIEWS

YIDDISH GLORY: THE LOST SONGS OF WWII
TUESDAY AUGUST 28, 7:30pm
Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W.

Presented by ShowOne Productions, in collaboration with Ashkenaz and Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at University of Toronto

EXCLUSIVE 10% DISCOUNT PRE-SALE ON NOW UNTIL JUNE 5 at midnight. Click here and use code “Glory10” or call 416-408-0208 and quote the code.

2018 Festival Internships available

We are hiring for this summer’s Ashkenaz Festival team. See links below for three paid internship opportunities. Please note that due to funding restrictions, applicants must be a Canadian citizen, under 30 years of age, and have been in school full-time in the prior year and planning to return to school full-time in the fall.

Graphic Designer

Communications and Marketing Coordinator

Festival Assistant

Summer Internships with Ashkenaz!

Two Positions: Paid contracts, to begin in May/June for approx 7 weeks

Due to funding restrictions, the applicants must be:

Eligible to work in Canada; under 30 years of age; and have been in school full-time in the prior year and planning to return to school full-time in the fall.

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Graphic Designer

The Ashkenaz Foundation, a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to the presentation of world class Jewish music and art, is currently seeking a candidate to fill the position of Graphic Designer Through its internationally-renowned, biennial “Ashkenaz 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 all artistic disciplines. Ashkenaz’s mandate and programming encompasses a vast range of pan-Jewish music and art, including east European, Yiddish, Sephardic, Ladino and Mizrachi traditions, and also strongly emphasizes fusion and cross-cultural exchange with artists from outside Jewish cultural traditions. The Graphic Designer will work closely with the Artistic and Managing Directors on graphic design and communications related to 2017 and 2018 programming, including a slate of summer concerts and a major fundraising event in the fall.

Responsibilities:

The Graphic Designer will play a central role in the overall communications, promotion, and marketing efforts of the Ashkenaz Foundation. Duties will include: graphic design for posters, flyers, ads, etc., both for print and online platforms; designing and distributing marketing materials for the events, as well as niche-interest materials; proofreading and editing various print and web materials; layout and content creation for regular e-newsletters (use of Constant Contact); assisting with the organization’s social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, others) for maximum impact; administrative management of programming info for website; planning and implementing creative promotional campaigns; if possible, creation and editing of online video promotions; and general participation as a member of the Ashkenaz team and assisting with any and all general duties relating to the work of the organization.

Qualifications:

-Due to funding restrictions, the applicants must be: eligible to work in Canada; under 30 years of age; and have been in school full-time in the prior year and planning to return to school full-time in the fall.

— Experience with graphic design (creative and software)

— Strong communication skills (both oral & written)

— Excellent organizational/time management and problem-solving skills

— Strong interpersonal skills

— Detail-orientated

— Fluency with Microsoft Office, e-mail, Internet, social media, website, and design software

— Must work well both independently and as part of a team

— Must be positive, mature-minded, flexible and comfortable working in a fast-paced, time-sensitive, non-corporate environment

— Experience working on websites (backend, WordPress platform) an asset

— Experience with video editing an asset

— Knowledge of and interest in music, the arts and/or Jewish culture is an asset

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Videography Coordinator

The Ashkenaz Foundation, a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to the presentation of world class Jewish music and art, is currently seeking a candidate to fill the position of Videography Coordinator (VC). Through its internationally-renowned, biennial “Ashkenaz 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 all artistic disciplines. Ashkenaz’s mandate and programming encompasses a vast range of pan-Jewish music and art, including east European, Yiddish, Sephardic, Ladino and Mizrachi traditions, and also strongly emphasizes fusion and cross-cultural exchange with artists from outside Jewish cultural traditions. The VC will work closely with the Artistic and Managing Directors on both content creation and archival editing video materials related to past and upcoming Ashkenaz events.

Responsibilities:

The VC will play a central role in the overall communications, promotion, and marketing efforts of the Ashkenaz Foundation. Duties will include: creating new content (filming summer concerts/events, capturing interviews); editing archival video material into shorter useable videos; creating short, trailer videos to promote future events (including the 2018 Festival), as well as videos to highlight the Foundation’s other activities (school presentations, dance events, etc); and general participation as a member of the Ashkenaz team assisting with any and all general duties relating to the work of the organization. Trailers and videos will be used on the Foundation’s website, e-blasts, YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and through other promotional avenues.

Qualifications:

-Due to funding restrictions, the applicants must be: eligible to work in Canada; under 30 years of age; and have been in school full-time in the prior year and planning to return to school full-time in the fall.

— Experience with videography (creative and software)

— Strong communication skills (both oral & written)

— Excellent organizational/time management and problem-solving skills

— Strong interpersonal skills

— Detail-orientated

— Fluency with Microsoft Office, e-mail, Internet, social media, website, and design software

— Must work well both independently and as part of a team

— Must be positive, mature-minded, flexible and comfortable working in a fast-paced, time-sensitive, non-corporate environment

— Experience working on websites (backend, WordPress platform) an asset

— Knowledge of and interest in music, the arts and/or Jewish culture is an asset

 

Job contact information:

Please email resume, cover letter, and any samples of work/materials that you feel are relevant to:

Samantha Parnes, Managing Director

(e) sam[at]ashkenaz[dot]ca

Special to Ashkenaz 2016: All Rivers at Once, I=I

Special to Ashkenaz 2016: All Rivers at Once

This year’s #AshkenazFest welcomes The Israeli-Iranian Musical Initiative, whose mission is to suggest a path of cultural reconciliation in place of the diplomatic hostility that persists between these two nations. A new collective of Iranian/Persian and Israeli/Jewish musicians was assembled specifically for the 2016 Festival program. Check out this Q&A with co-artistic director Noam Lemish which provides further insight into the project and its global significance. I=I performs on Sunday, September 4 at 3pm. 

Q: I=I’s Ashkenaz Festival September 4 performance is part of an ongoing relationship the project has had with the festival. Can you tell us more?

A: The Director of the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto, Professor Anna Shternshis introduced us to Eric Stein, Ashkenaz’s Artistic Director. Soon thereafter, Eric invited I=I to participate in an interfaith panel that Ashkenaz put together in February 2015. We were delighted to share our message at the “Music and the Arts: A Bridge to Peace”, along with several other distinguished guests a month before we launched our initiative with our “Converging Paths” concert in March 2015.  It was also around this time that we started discussing the idea of putting together an all new program for the 2016 Ashkenaz Festival. We worked closely with the Festival in developing this special program and have enjoyed our collaboration greatly. We hope that this is just the beginning of our work with the festival.

Q: The title of your performance is intriguing, “All Rivers at Once”. Can you give a bit of background on the title and its significance?

A: The title for our concert comes from a poem by the famous 13th century Persian poet Jelaluddin Rumi.

Here’s a little taste from the poem as translated by Coleman Barks:

Noam-L-0964

Noam Lemish, I=I Co-founder, pianist, leader of “All Rivers at Once”. Photo by Emily Ding

What is love?

Gratitude.

What is hidden

In our chests?

Laughter.

What else?

Compassion.

And then later on in the poem:

Don’t ask what love can make or do!

Look at the colors of the world.

The river water moving in all rivers at once.

This poem is filled with so much love, compassion and openness. For us it evokes the interconnectedness and intersectionality of all peoples. Our initiative celebrates the beauty and joy that comes out of people playing music together, connecting with one another to share parts of themselves and their culture with each other and with those that come to listen.

Q: I=I has invited guest performers to collaborate on “All Rivers at Once”. Can you tell us more about your collaborative process especially when bringing in these guest performers from across the US and Canada?

A: Yes, we are thrilled to have some amazing special guests joining us for this concert including tombak virtuoso Pedram Khavarzamini, Montreal kamanche master Saeed Kamjoo and in a rare Toronto appearance, NYC based Persian-Jewish vocalist Galeet Dardashti.  We’ve asked our performers to suggest pieces that they’d like to do, and we’ve assembled repertoire that showcases pieces from the Iranian and Jewish/Israeli traditions. And to continue with the theme of interconnectedness, several pieces come from the Persian-Jewish community. We are really excited about getting together for three days of music-making once everyone arrives in Toronto ahead of the festival. We will spend many hours playing through the repertoire and working together to create unique arrangements for our 8-piece ensemble.

Q: What inspires I=I?

A: We’ve been really inspired by the outpouring of support and encouragement that we’ve received since we launched our initiative with a sold-out concert in March of 2015. The enthusiasm and excitement for our project by audience members, and folks in the community have really warmed our hearts and strengthened our resolve to keep advancing our message of dialogue and collaboration through music.

Q: What do you see for the future of I=I and the real impact it can have on peacemaking?

A: We are thrilled to have the opportunity to share our message and our music with Ashkenaz Festival attendees, and we already have plans firmly in place for a concert in February 2017 that will showcase a series of new chamber works by Israeli & Iranian composers. We’ve also recently completed an essay that analyzes our initiative’s first concert, looking at political communication through engaged musicking. The essay will soon be published in a book titled “Politics as Message; Music as Platform: A global study of musicians and political communication”.  We readily acknowledge that our initiative cannot do much to tangibly or immediately change the diplomatic status between our respective governments, but we believe that we can and should continue to present an alternative narrative. Instead of conflict we can present collaboration. Instead of war and fear, we practice dialogue and intimacy.  Instead of threats and bombastic speeches, we listen to one another. We hope that by doing so, we not only encourage people to imagine a different reality for our two nations, but to perhaps consider other areas in their life, conflicts in their own communities that need to be disarmed, and worked on through dialogue, collaboration and listening. Most of all through listening!

 

Lucidarium Ensemble: Commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Venice Ghetto

Ensemble Lucidarium

One of the many overarching themes at this year’s #AshkenazFest is the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the establishment of the Venice Ghetto in 1516. This was the first such Ghetto of its kind in the world (in fact the word Ghetto comes from the Italian word for foundry, geto, referring to the site’s prior use), and while it segregated Jews from the greater Venetian population, this was as much about protecting the Jewish population as it may have reflected any prejudice. Jews seeking a place of refuge from persecution across Central Europe were in fact attracted to the relative cultural freedom experienced by Venetian Jews. This created a cultural intersection between Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Turkish and Italian Jews. Though conditions were less than ideal, Jews prospered culturally, bringing study, scholarship and some permissible commerce into the community. The Ghetto thus became a place that attracted Christians and Gentiles to concerts and theatre. The melting pot that became the Venetian Ghetto remains today, 500 years later, an illustration of the impact of Jewish cross-cultural influence.

In addition to a lecture by esteemed scholar Shaul Bassi, and a fantastic  exhibition about the Ghetto that comes to us from the Museo Italo Americano in San Francisco, the Festival will feature a marquee performance by renowned European chamber music ensemble Lucidarium, who specialize in bringing little-known musical repertoires from the Renaissance and Middle Ages back to life in an entertaining, and engaging way for a 21st century public. Their show, entitled “Sounds of Shylock’s Venice,” promises a fascinating musical kaleidoscope of Renaissance-era sounds, performed in a variety of languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Italian) and on exotic period instruments. This is one of the few ticketed events in the Festival, and it happens to be one that I am particularly excited for.

Q&A with Lucidarium Ensemble’s Avery Gosfield

This week, I asked Lucidarium Ensemble’s co-artistic director Avery Gosfield to answer a few questions giving us further insight into this momentous anniversary and the program the group will share with us here on Saturday September 3, 7pm at Harbourfront Centre Theatre.

Q: You along with your co-artistic director, Francis Biggi, conduct much of the research that goes into developing programs, can you tell us a little bit about that process? Where do the visions and inspirations come from? What is the main focus of your research?

A: Usually we have a story we want to tell, and begin researching a particular period in time, a milieu, the general social structure.  A lot of our work is centered on the poems that we know were sung but for which no written music remains, and archaic traces that have stayed in certain popular music traditions.  One example is  Shuruq, one of Francis’ programs, which features two young Palestinian musicians, and focuses on the parallels between medieval music and the modern Arab tradition.  Another is Hombres de Maïz, which traces the links between the Northern Italian repertoire and the music played in Northern Mexico today.  Francis concentrates more on Italian music, and I am more interested in Early Jewish music, but both are part of a larger project designed to bring the music of the other 98% – the sectors of the population that lived in the shadows of the courts and ecclesiastical institutions that were the centers of music writing and record keeping – back to life.120572_ensemble-lucidarium

Q: How does Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice reflect the cross-cultural influence of Jews in the ghetto?

A: In the third scene of Act I, Shakespeare sums up the rules governing Jewish and Gentile relations in the Italian Renaissance, when Shylock says: I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk  with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.’

Q: What sort of vibe can spectators expect of this show? Is the program mostly in Italian?

A: The program focuses on musical life both in and out of the ghetto: mainstream dances and songs for carnival, a festive hymn welcoming the Sabbath, a rollicking account of a (pre-ghetto) fire on the Rialto.  Most of the program is very lively, but there are also more pensive moments: a piyyut mourning the destruction of the Temple, a selection of coplas about Josephs’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream.  There are songs in Hebrew as well as the three major spoken languages of the Ghetto: Italian, Yiddish and Spanish (all transcribed in Hebrew letters), as well as the Italian and Venetian dialects that would have been heard beyond the ghetto gates.  Recited texts drawn from the Venetian archives as well as Jewish sources that illustrate different aspects of life in the ghetto – ranging from comic to tragic – round out the picture.  The main ’nouveauté’ of our performance at Ashkenaz will be the projections by the Italian-Swiss video artist, Silvia Fabiani: which use images drawn from Jewish Italian sources to draw the audience into a kind of 360 degree image of Shylock’s world.  

Q: It is said that your group specializes in reviving overlooked musical repertoires from the Renaissance and Middle Ages, how do you so successfully adapt these musical repertoires such that it is enjoyed by audiences today?

A: Although we try and respect the past, we know that what we are making is 21st century music, and embrace the creative aspect of what we’re doing.  We try and draw audiences into another time and place, but we try and have fun while we’re doing it, and this usually rubs off on the audience. Playing in Jewish and world music festivals has been a great ’school’ for this, because we’re often dealing with audiences that are not familiar with classical or early music, so that we have to work harder to draw them in.  When we play in early music festivals, which can be quite serious, it’s nice to see how audiences react to a situation where they are not only allowed, but are actually expected to have fun…