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Saturday, December 27, 2014

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Klezmer goes Latin at Laurentian retreat

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The Klezmatics’ Frank London

In its 17th edition, the KlezKanada Laurentian Retreat is looking southward to the wealth of klezmer music and other expressions of Yiddishkeit in Latin America today.

The retreat, KlezKanada’s flagship event, will take place Aug. 20-26 at Camp B’nai Brith, as usual.

Headline performers of a “Buenos Aires Soiree” will include Jacinta, a native of the Argentine capital now living in Paris, who is a singer, guitarist, actress and master of Yiddish tango, and the duo of Marcelo Moguilevsky and César Lerner, who infuse klezmer with Argentine folk music, jazz and tango. Both are making their KlezKanada debut.

The “North-South” spirit will continue with a Jewish carnival dance, bringing faculty and guests together for a boisterous evening.

A special guest faculty member will be Prof. Avrohom Lichtenboym, executive director of the Jewish Research Institute in Buenos Aires and considered one of the world’s greatest Yiddish teachers.

This year’s retreat is under the artistic direction of trumpeter/composer Frank London, a leader of The Klezmatics, the only Jewish music band to win a Grammy Award. The New York-based group, a longstanding veteran of the klezmer revival, will perform during the retreat.

This year’s slogan is “Where traditional and experimental Jewish culture inform each other and flourish.”

For many years, KlezKanada developed relationships with musicians and cultural activists in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. That connection has not been overlooked this time around.

Opa!, described as the premiere klezmer-ska-punk party band from St. Petersburg, will make its North American debut, playing the opening night show.

Another highlight will be the inaugural Adrienne Cooper Memorial Guest Faculty Position, in honour of the American singer and Yiddish music activist, a KlezKanada veteran, who died in December. The first recipient will be Dutch singer Shura Lipovsky, a pioneer in the revival of Yiddish folk song in Europe since the 1970s. This award is co-sponsored with the Workmen’s Circle of New York.

Poetry is receiving special attention this year. New generation poet/performers Adeena Karasick and Jack Marmer will head KlezKanada’s first concurrent poetry writing retreat on the theme “Three Millennia of Poetic Subversion.”

Elsewhere, “Occupy Yiddish! Di Anarchisten” will pay tribute to the Yiddish-speaking radicals who used poetry to spread their cause, while violinist Deborah Strauss will look at Kadya Molodowsky’s poetry, which grappled with women’s identity and changing roles within traditional society.

Two giants of Yiddish poetry, Abraham Sutzkever and Mordechai Gebirtig, will be commemorated with original musical interpretations of their work.

Cooper will also be remembered on Friday night (called shtiller ovnt), when her concern with the intersection of the sacred and political will inspire a conversation on women’s role in Jewish music today.

Musicians Michael Alpert of Brave Old World, Montreal’s klezmer-hip hop king Josh Dolgin and innovative American musician Daniel Kahn of Berlin, among others, as well as author Michael Wex, present “Memorial Songs and Stories for Adrienne Cooper.”

Two CDs will be released by the Michael Winograd Band of New York and Susan Watts’ long-awaited Hartsklap during the week-long retreat.

Also attending will be Cantor Jacob Ben-Zion “Jackie” Mendelson, a New Yorker with a Montreal connection: his uncle Nathan Mendelson was cantor at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim for 35 years. He will explore traditional Jewish music.

The avant-garde “new” Jewish music will be explained by pianists Anthony Coleman, a colleague of John Zorn, and KlezKanada’s Marilyn Lerner. Montreal’s renowned Yiddish culture will be celebrated in a session called “Going Back to The Main: Rediscovering the Sights, Sounds and Shuls of Yiddish Montreal” inspired by three recent books by local authors, including Chantal Ringuet’s  French-language A la Découverte du Montréal Yiddish.

Sure to be interesting will be the appearance of Shifra Lowen, a woman now in her 30s who grew up in the chassidic Tosh community in Boisbriand. Before she and her family left the community, she wrote children’s songs. She has released CDs of her Yiddish songs and stories.

In addition to the annual retreat, KlezKanada also offers year-round programming and presents the Montreal Jewish Music Festival. For more information, call 514-316-7280 or visit http://klezkanada.org.

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