Ashkenaz '97--A Festival of New Yiddish Culture, August  25 - September 1, 1997, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, Canada

The world's largest and most diverse festival of its kind, Ashkenaz '97 will see an unprecedented gathering of artists from all over North America and Europe ranging from the traditional to the unpredictable and experimental. Most events are free of charge, but there are some not to be missed ticketed performances as well, available by calling the box office at 416-973-4000 (*denotes ticketed event).

A list of participating artists
Additions to come

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of interest

  • Lenka Lichtenberg
  • Macedonian Mazl-Tov
  • Ruth Mandel
  • Medina
  • Zalman Mlotek
  • Naftule's Dream
  • Norrdans Dance Company
  • Sheldon Oberman
  • Paradox Trio
  • Janis Rapoport
  • Norman Ravvin
  • Carol Rose
  • Amy Sue Rosen
  • Chava Rosenfarb
  • Veronica Ross
  • Salomon Klezmorim
  • Libby Scheier
  • Emil Sher
  • Jason Sherman
  • Shirim Klezmer Orchestra
  • Simcha Simchovitch
  • Lorin Sklamberg
  • Pete Sokolow
  • Andy Statman Quartet
  • Alicia Svigals
  • Toronto Jewish Folk Choir
  • Theresa Tova
  • Rhea Tregebov
  • Gloria Valentine
  • Dave Wall
  • Michael Wex
  • Eddy Yanofsky
  • John Zorn
  • A traveling Jewish Theatre A Traveling Jewish Theatre (San Francisco). Albert Greenberg and Corey Fischer began ATJT in the early 80s to explore Yiddish culture and Jewishness in an age of existentialism and less. The troupe has grown, and plays have explored everything from the Baal Shem Tov to Intermarriage to the many voices of Jewish women. The troupe can be reached via e-mail at:, or visit the web page they have set up to showcase their performance for this festival at: Since the premiere of this play in 1980, it has had wide influence, even to the sculpture of the artist, Abrasha, who is inspired by a line from this play: "The past is ever present, it is my prison."

    Ashkenaz Fidl Kapelye (International). In a recreation of 19th century style Jewish string ensembles, 20 young Toronto and Festival performers are led by noted Yiddish fiddler Alicia Svigals of The Klezmatics.

    John Zorn's Bar Kochba* (New York City) Phenomenal jazzman John Zorn leads his show-stopping octet through the Masada cycle of compositions. With some of New York's hottest musicians: Joey Baron, drums; Cyra Battista, percussion; Greg Cohen, bass; Anthony Coleman, keyboards; Mark Feldman, violin; Erik Friedlander, cellist; and Mark Ribot, guitar. Zorn's only Canadian dates this year. For a taste of what this ensemble is about, read this review of a recent performance (11/96) by the smaller Masada ensemble. You can also check out the John Zorn info and Masada review at the KlezShack.

    Ronna Bloom's first poetry collection, Fear of the Ride, was shortlisted for the League of Canadian Poets' 1996 Gerald Lampert Award for best book of poetry. Bloom's poetry includes subjects like how it feels to be Jewish at Christman time, and the passage from Jewish emigré from wartorn Europe to Palestinian settler to Israeli citizen in a different wartorn turmoil.

    Chicago Klezmer EnsembleChicago Klezmer Ensemble (Chicago). Led by clarinettist Kurt Bjorling of Brave Old World, this five-member ensemble takes an elegant approach that retains the earthy quality of klezmer while giving it a classical chamber music feel. For more about the band and their 1989 recording, here is the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble listing at the KlezShack. We also have a RealAudio 3.0 sound sample of "Mazltov". A new CD may be available in time for the festival!

    Matt Cohen is the well-known author of more than 20 books. His work has been shortlisted for the Governor General's Award and Ontario's Trillium Award; and he has twice won the National Magazine Award for short fiction. Cohen will be reading from his new book, Last Seen, which was shortlisted for the 1996 Trillium Award.

    Adrienne Cooper (New York City) With one of the most amazing and versatile voices in Yiddish song today, Cooper will appear at the festival in a variety of guises, with the klezmer retro group Kapelye, with pianist/arranger Zalman Mlotek in "Ghetto Tango and Zummerteg: The songs of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. Don't miss her at the Late-Night Cabaret of Dreams. For a further discography, refer to her listing at the KlezShack, and be sure to check out her cassette, sure to be available at the festival, along with recordings of several of her ensemble efforts. Cooper is also featured on the soundtrack for "A healthy baby girl." RealAudio 3.0 sound sample of her singing include "Yash" from the new Flying Bulgars CD, and "Borsht," "A Kholem," and "Zol shoyn kumen di geule" from her solo album, Dreaming in Yiddish.

    Davka (San Francisco). This is New Yiddish Art Music -- an exciting trio that stitches together a complex quilt of Jewish klezmer, Middle Eastern dance rhythms, classical influences and witty improvisational interplay. To find out more about their two releases of "world Jewish fusion," check out their page at Interworld, or consult the reviews on the KlezShack, starting with the most recent, Lavy's Dream. RealAudio 3.0 sound samples from Lavy's Dream include "Yizkor for Rabin," "Di Terkishe Khasene," and "Xan".

    Epstein Brothers Orchestra* (Florida) Indisputably the zaydes (granddaddys) of klezmer, the Epsteins (now in their 80's), were the "kings of klezmer" in Brooklyn in the 50s and 60s. The subject of the film A Tickle in the Heart, these treasured old-school musicians are in demand more than ever! A brand new CD by the Epstein Brothers is due out on August 27th! Copies should be available at the festival. To find out more about them, and to read reviews of their recent albums, see the Epstein Brothers listing at the KlezShack. RealAudio 3.0 sound samples from "Kings of Freylakh Land" include "Epstein's Doina," "Moskowitz' Sirba," and "Silkene Pajamas".

    EstaEsta (Israel). This acclaimed power quartet has an electrifying Mediterranean sound that spices its Sephardic/Arabic roots with African, Celtic, jazz and rock grooves. The next wave of world music! The band's most recent album is Mediterranean Crossing." RealAudio 3.0 sound samples include "Deror Yik'ra," "Night Sail," and "Oy Vey (Stoliner Nigun)".

    Zev Feldman (New York) Feldman partnered with Andy Statman to record the groundbreaking mid-Seventies album, "Jewish Klezmer Music," playing tsimbl, and has since become more involved with Near Eastern music studies. At Ashkenaz he will lecture on "Gypsies, Greeks and Klezmer Music: The Creation of the "Southern" Klezmer Repertoire in 19th Century Moldavia".

    Deb Filler. The New Zealand comedienne is also creator of the one-person stage show, Punch me in the stomach, a "comic play touching on the Holocaust" and recently collaborated with Francine Zuckerman on a film version.

    Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band (Toronto). Riding the success of their third CD Fire, Canada's premiere klezmer band once again pushes the limits of traditional Eastern European music. Plus special guests. To find out more about them, and to read reviews of their albums, see the Flying Bulgars listing at the KlezShack. RealAudio 3.0 sound samples from the band's new CD include "Yash," "Kalle Tants," and "Sam."

    Golus Storytheatre combines the satiric Yiddish mind of Canadian Michael Wex and the musical brilliance German Heiko Lehmann to create a unique blend of storytelling, Yiddish, and music.

    Gluckel of HamlynGreat Small Works (New York City) is renowned for its puppet theatre. Winners of a recent "Obie" grant, at Ashkenaz, the troupe joins Adrienne Cooper, Jenny Romaine, and Frank London to present The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln.

    Danny Grossman Dance Company (Toronto) works at preserving and promoting the art of dance throughout various communities across Canada. The company spends extended periods of time in selected cities working with dancers, students, seniors, and anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of dance. All residencies are designed to fit the community. Activities may include: public performances, student performances, lecture demonstraions, open rehearsals, master classes, repertoire classes, etud es, performance projects, choreography in schools, Let's talk sessions, lectures, video tapes, educator's workbook. Among recent awards, the company achieved "Best choreographer" in the NOW "Best of T.O." poll, 1996. The company has a web page, the only content, at present, is their logo! At Ashkenaz they will be performing Bella, a Chagall-inspired piece which continues to move audiences to both laughter and tears.

    The newest addditon to the Toronto klezmer scene, Hu-Tsa-Tsa takes swinging Yiddish roots music from a traditional angle but also embraces klezmer's potential for experimentation.

    KapelyeKapelye (New York City) One of the oldest Klezmer revival bands in North America brings its hit 'radio show' CD On the Air to life, celebrating a nearly-forgotten chapter of American-Jewish history. At another concert they'll just rev it up and play classic klezmer dance tunes. To find out more about them, and to read reviews of their albums, see the Kapelye listing at the KlezShack.

    Adeena Karasick, known as an exciting performer, is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Genrecide. Karasick has been looking to retie the rope of Jewish continuity severed by the Holocaust years and has been consciously exploring Jewish tradition in her poetry and performance by seeking connections between the mystical meditations on Hebrew letters and numbers of the language-centered Kabbalah and postmodern language-centred poetics and poetry.

    The Klezmatics (New York City) Klezmer gets a manic makeover with this renowned "radical Jewish roots" band whose brilliant musicianship and recordings have won them world-wide acclaim. To find out more about them, and to read reviews of their albums, see the Klezmatics listing at the KlezShack. Their most recent album is Possessed. RealAudio 3.0 sound samples from the album include "Moroccan Game" and "An Undoing World."

    Koulack, Lerner, & Boychuk (Winnipeg) These three wonderful Winnipegers present a unique sound based in their respective Yiddish, jazz, folk and Ukrainian backgrounds, achieving a startling new synthesis. Created especially for the Festival.

    Heiko Lehmann (Berlin). Musician Lehmann joins forces with Yiddish beat humorist and satirist Michael Wex in "Sex in Yiddish," yet another of Golus Storytheatre's unique blends of storytelling, Yiddish and music. Chasidic boy discovers Elvis and nudist magazines, acquires a girlfriend and a social worker, becomes a yeshiva beatnik and more!

    Lenka Lichtenberg Trio (Toronto). From Czech to Yiddish--a musical oddessy through Eastern-European countries and shtetls. A fun musical treat for the whole family. For more information, see her Toronto UJA listing.

    Trumpeter Frank London (New York City) is incredibly prolific. Perhaps best known for his work as part of the Klezmatics, he has also done considerable solo work. He is also part of the new Hasidic New Wave. He will be appearing with the Klezmatics at Ashkenaz, which will also be presenting the world premier of The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln adapted by Jenny Romaine, Adrienne Cooper & Frank London, performed by Great Small Works (New York City). For a discography, refer to his listing at the KlezShack.

    Macedonian Mazl-Tov (Vancouver). This new group from the West Coast bring their Eastern-European funk to the Festival for a late night dance party and more! Former Vancouver DJ Ethan Minovitz describes them in a letter to the KlezShack Feedback pages

    Ruth Mandel's poetry exploring the experience of being the child of Holocaust survivors has been published in various jounals including Parchment, CV2, The Antigonish Review, and Prairie Fire. She is working on a poetry/photography collection called Photographs We Will Never See, about the Holocaust's continuing reach.

    Medina (Toronto). A band of bandleaders! An exciting new ensemble dedicated to exploring the sonic crossroads where Arabic music, Yiddish music and improvisation meet.

    Zalman Mlotek is an internationally celebrated interpreter of Jewish musical traditions, having done music for shows on Broadway and beyond. Here he directs the Toronto Jewish Folk Choir, appears with Yiddish diva Adrienne Cooper in "Ghetto Tango," bringing an eclectic musicality to the unknown song repertoire of World War II Jewish theatres and tapping into the black humour, rage and anxiety of the artists who created this music in extremis, and again with Cooper and others in Zummerteg: The songs of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. Don't miss him at the Late-Night Cabaret of Dreams.

    Naftule's Dream (Boston). Modern improvisation and orchestration intermingle with traditional klezmer to create music which "sounds like klez as it would be played by the Grateful Dead if they had horns" -- Whole Earth. To find out more about them, see the Naftule's Dream listing at the KlezShack. We also have a RealAudio 3.0 sound sample of "The Black Wedding". A new album may be available in time for the festival!

    Norrdans Dance CompanySweden's Norrdans Dance Company is well-known for their innovative dance in Scandinavia. Here they will be performing the North American Premiere of Zummel, choreographed by Alan Kaeja (Toronto), inspired by stories told to Kaeja by his father, a Holocaust survivor.

    Sheldon Oberman is a storyteller, teacher and author of ten books including The Always Prayer Shawl and The White Stone in the Castle Wall. He travels widely giving addresses and workshops on personal and family storytelling. Check out his web page at

    Paradox Trio (New York). This "trio" is really a quartet whose rhythmically-charged music borrows as much from Gypsy tradition and the Balkans and modern jazz as klezmer for its completely original compositions. For a review of the band's first album, see the KlezShack, complete with downloadable sound samples, or check out their listing with their label, Knitting Factory Works. We also have a RealAudio 3.0 sound sample of "Alts far gelt".

    Janis Rapoport is an author of five books of poetry, most recently After Paradise, and has three produced plays to her credit. An excerpt of a work-in-progress, The Shiva Box, was produced at the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre in 1996. At the first Ashkenaz Festival, Rapoport's poetic text was part of a visual arts display.

    Norman Ravvin is a novelist and short story writer whose new book, Sex, Skyscrapers, and Standard Yiddish, won the Ontario Arts Council's K.M. Hunter Award. His novel Cafe des Westens, a novel of Calgary and Poland, won the Albert Culture and Multiculturalism New Fiction Award. An essay collection called A House of Words: Jewish Writing, Identity, and Memory is forthcoming.

    Carol Rose writes from a Jewish-feminist and -mystical perspective in her first collection of poems, Behind the Blue Gate. She received second prize in the 1994 Stephen Leacock Poetry Competition and was nominated in 1996 and 1997 for the John Hirsch Award for most promising Manitoba writer. Rose has toured with the poet Di Brandt performing their dialogical work, Occupied Territories: An Argument in Poetry.

    New Yorkers Amy Sue Rosen and Derek Bernstein most recently appeared at The Seventh Annual Festival with no fancy name, March 1997, with Morgan O'hara and others, performing "Fine-tuning form and content for the turn of the century:" making use of graphite, brass, plastics and aikido. Here they will be performing the Canadian Premiere of Discipledom, in which ten black-clad rabbis and a five-piece klezmer band search for the Divine.

    Chava Rosenfarb (Montreal) One of the last great Yiddish writers, Bundist, Lodz Ghetto and Holocaust survivor, winner of Israel's Manger Prize for her life's work, author of the masterpiece Der boym fun lebn (The Tree of Life), Survivors and other works. Profiled in the current issue of Der Pakn Trager (summer 1997) A paper on her writing, "Ghost Writing: Chava Rosenfarb's The Tree of Life," was given by Norman Ravvin, University of Toronto, at the 1996 Association of Jewish Librarians conference at a panel on Canadian Jewish writing.

    Veronica Ross is a novelist and short story writer whose ninth book, and third mystery novel, The Burden of Grace, will be published this fall. She will read from Hannah B., a novel about World War II.

    Salomon Klezmorim (Holland). A trio which weaves its own sound from the multi-coloured strands of Khassidic melodies, Eastern European grooves and MIDI electronics. A cut by the band was included on the excellent Ottens-Rubin compilation, "Shteygers." Their most recent recording includes both music and Chanuka stories ("A Dreydl," Syncoop Produkties, CD 195, 1995). RealAudio 3.0 sound samples from the album include "Az der rebbe Elimelech," "A malke oyf paysach," and "Zibn Firtsik."

    Libby Scheier is the author of Saints and Runners -- Stories and a Novella, three books of poetry (most recently SKY -- A Poem in Four Pieces), and is co-editor of the essay collection, Language in Her Eye. Scheier is poetry-review columnist for The Toronto Star and a literary programmer for the 1997 Ashkenaz Festival. She is presently at work on a long suite of poems and prose pieces called Yud of My Heart -- Kaddish for Meier (Murray) Scheier 1909 - 1997.

    Emil Sher writes stage plays, radio dramas, screenplays, essays, and fiction. His radio drama Mourning Dove won a gold medal at the New York Festivals International Radio Competition, and his stage play Derailed was nominated for four Dora Awards. He has written a short fiction especially for Ashkenaz.

    Jason Sherman's plays include Three in the Back, Two in the Head; The Retreat; Reading Hebron; The League of Nathans; and None Is Too Many. He has received a Governor General's Award, a Chalmers Award, and the Canadian Authors Association Award for Drama. Sherman's plays are known for their exploration of the complicated politics of the Middle East from the viewpoint of a Jewish man disaffected with mainstream Judaism, Zionism, and Israeli government policies, who also feels anxious and confused about his own Jewish identity and his relationship to Jewish history and communities.

    Shirim Klezmer Orchestra (Boston). Bring the kids and have a foot-stomping good time with Shirim as you discover the klezmer in Eastern Europe and its jazzy transformations in North America. To find out more about them, and to read reviews of their albums, see the Shirim listing at the KlezShack.

    Simcha Simchovitch is a poet who writes in both Yiddish and English. The lone WWII survivor of th ePolish town of Otwock, Simchovitch, then 18 years old, escaped at the behest of his father just before Otwock's entire population of 12,000 were slaughtered by the Nazis; he came to Canada after the war. Simchovitch has published a novel, a work of criticism, and seven poetry collections (five in Yiddish), most recently A Song Will Remain.

    Lorin Sklamberg (New York City). The vocalist and accordionist for the Klezmatics joins Adrienne Cooper, Beth Anne Cole, Stella Walker, and Dave Wall, under the direction of an all-star band led by Zalman Mlotek, to perform the songs of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, in "Zummerteg." And don't miss him with the Klezmatics, too!

    Pete Sokolow (New York City). A stellar pianist, Pete has played with everyone from the Epstein Brothers to the Original New York Klezmer Jazz Band. His transcriptions have spread the lore from generation to generation, and he is widely regarded as a teacher of klezmer. At Ashkenaz, he will be accompanying the newly discovered silent film, Benya Krik.

    Andy StatmanAndy Statman Quartet (New York City) Deeply spiritual, Multi-instrumentalist Statman became famous for "radical bluegrass" before discovering klezmer in the mid-Seventies. In the intervening years, he has recorded several albums and joined a Chasidic community. His latest ensemble combines the haunting beauty and depth of the traditional Yiddish style with the freewheeling sensibility of the most searching jazz. Also featuring powerhouses Kenny Werner, Harvie Swartz and Bob Weiner. Statman will also offer a workshop Monday afternoon. For more about Andy Statman, take a look at reviews and articles on the KlezShack.

    Alicia Svigals (New York). Renowned fiddle teacher, and fiddler for the radical roots klezmer band, The Klezmatics, Svigals will be doing additional duty here at Ashkenaz leading the Ashkenaz Fidl Kapelye. Svigals also has a solo album coming out in Fall 1997.

    Theatre Asylum, members of the Toronto Theatre Alliance (and not to be confused with the New York City ensemble of the same name) performed the Canadian premiere of George Tabori's "My Mother's Courage" this past spring.

    Toronto Jewish Folk Choir (Toronto). In its 71st year, the oldest Jewish musical organization in Canada performs both traditional and contemporary Yiddish music. With guest conductor Zalmen Mlotek. For more information, see their Toronto UJA listing.

    Theresa Tova (Toronto). This torchy Yiddish diva performs her cabaret-style Jewish vaudeville and theatre songs with power and passion to the delight of her audiences. Her "Still the Night" played to sell out audiences at Theatre Passe Muraille this past season. For more information, see her Toronto UJA listing.

    Rhea Tregebov has published four collections of poetry, most recently Mapping the Chaos. She won the Malahat Long Poem Competition in 1994, and her first book, Remembering History, won the League of Canadian Poets' Pat Lowther Award. Tregebov has also published four children's books and edited three anthologies.

    Gloria Valentine (Toronto). Prepare to be entertained in both Yiddish and English as Gloria portrays a multiplicity of women in this cabaret-style performance, excerpted from her 30 Women: A One-Woman Show. For more information, see her Toronto UJA listing.

    David Wall (Toronto). An alum of the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Wall now performs with Toronto's acclaimed Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band. At Ashkenaz, he also teams up with Adrienne Cooper, Beth Anne Cole, Lorin Sklamberg, and Stella Walker, under the direction of an all-star band led by Zalman Mlotek, to perform the songs of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, in "Zummerteg."

    Michael Wex (Toronto). Yiddish beat humorist and satirist Michael Wex lectures on Yiddish and performs with Berliner Heiko Lehmann, in "Sex in Yiddish," yet another of Golus Storytheatre's unique blends of storytelling, Yiddish and music. Chasidic boy discovers Elvis and nudist magazines, acquires a girlfriend and a social worker, becomes a yeshiva beatnik and more! Wex will also be giving a more sedate lecture "Adventures in Yiddish," and is otherwise an author (Shlepping the Exile), song-writer, researcher, and your otherwise average Yiddish Beat. For more information, see his Toronto UJA listing. A small excerpt from "Tam Ganeyden" (the Kugel), off his "Shlepping the Exile" cassette is available online in RealAudio 3.0 format.

    From Bialystok, Poland comes Teatr Wierszalin (Theatre Workshop) in its North American premiere appearance with its own gripping new adaptation of S. Ansky's masterpiece The Dybbuk. This internationally acclaimed ensemble performs Ansky's masterpiece in a gripping new adaptation using both live actors and rough-hewn wooden figures-- poignantly bringing to life the shadows of memory from a community now lost forever. Performed in English with prayers and songs in the original Hebrew or Yiddish. The troupe has also appeared recently at "Uroczyska'97"

    Eddy Yanofsky's first poetry collection, a chapbook called In Separate Rooms, won the first Gwendolyn MacEwen Award for New Canadian Poets in 1991. His work appeared in the 1996 anthology Blues and True Concussions -- Six New Toronto Poets.

    For information and/or tickets, the public can call the
    Harbourfront Centre Information Line: 416-973-3000, or
    Box Office: 416-973-4000

    Ashkenaz is produced in association with the Bloor JCC and Harbourfront Centre with the support of the UJA Federation; the Department of Canadian Heritage; The Canada Council; Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation; Ontario Arts Council; Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto; Toronto Arts Council; The Laidlaw Foundation and the Four Seasons Hotel.

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