Jewish Music Week in Toronto, which runs from May 21 to 28, is continuing its tradition of celebrating Jewish music, while appealing to a broad range of musical tastes.
A revival of the popular multimedia show, 100 Years of Jewish Hollywood, will be staged at the Toronto Centre for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. on May 24. Originally presented during the second edition of the seven-year-old festival, this year’s larger production features many more classic songs. Jewish Hollywood includes songs from movies made by MGM Studios during the golden age of musicals – the mid-1940s, to the late ’50s – as well as those featured in James Bond movies, Disney films and more. Music composed by Jews for silent movies will also be performed.
The show’s cast of vocalists include Cantor Simon Spiro, the founder and spiritual leader of Toronto’s Song Shul, who’s also known as the “British jazz singer”; Julie Barber, a featured soloist with several orchestras; Elicia Mackenzie, who starred in the Mirvish production of The Sound of Music; and Jeff Madden, who played Frankie Valli in the local stage production of Jersey Boys.
Jewish Hollywood is an extravaganza that also features a 26-piece orchestra and movie footage. A narrative written by the festival’s artistic director, Aliza Spiro, ties it all together. The show is sponsored by The Song Shul and Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue.
Another act that’s returning to the festival this year is Rocky Mountain Jewgrass, a band that made its Jewish Music Week debut in 2013. Jewgrass performs humorous tunes like Jews Don’t Camp, as well as prayers, classic Jewish material and songs written by contemporary Jewish songwriters, all to a bluegrass beat. The band plays at Toronto’s Lula Lounge at 7 p.m. on May 21.
Amy Sky is performing at Zoomer Hall in Liberty Village at 8 p.m. on May 22. Sky has had chart-topping hits and she’s penned songs for Diana Ross, Olivia Newton-John and Reba McEntire. She recently returned to her Jewish roots with the release of her CD, Twilight Rose, which was inspired by Kabalat Shabbat. Jewish Music Week presents Sky, in partnership with Moses Znaimer and ZoomerMedia.
Several festival events are being hosted by synagogues. The Carlebach Classics Gala at Beth Tikvah Synagogue at 7:30 p.m. on May 23, will include new arrangements of some of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s songs. The concert features Cantor Tibor Kovari with the Beth Tikvah Choir and the shul’s chamber orchestra. The narrator, Rabbi Jarrod Grover, will speak about Rabbi Carlebach’s special relationship to Beth Tikvah and the Toronto community.
A multicultural event, Ciao Shalom! A Musical Celebration of Jewish and Italian Heritage Months, is presented by Beth Torah Congregation at 7:30 p.m. on May 25. It features jazz pianist and composer Ron Davis, with his Italian-Canadian wife, Daniela Nardi, who’s a jazz singer, pianist and songwriter.
World-famous jazz flute player Mattan Klein and his quintet celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem at Holy Blossom Temple at 7:30 p.m. on May 28. The band will play songs about Jerusalem, in their listener-friendly style.
Along with the evening programs, Jewish Music Week is presenting a series of seven, free, hour-long afternoon concerts. The eighth free concert, for children, is scheduled for the morning. Additionally, the festival offers five free hour-long morning lectures.
For children, Jewish Music Week offers The Cool Kids Concert at Bialik Hebrew Day School at 10:30 a.m. on May 28. Led by Carl Berger, it’s an hour of silly songs, rhymes and traditional children’s songs, all with a Jewish twist.
The festival also involves children through its annual student art contest. This year’s winning submissions can be viewed online, or at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre from May 27 to June 16.
A highlight of the morning lecture series is “Soon We Will Become The Song,” presented at Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave., at 10 a.m. on May 25. The Shinshinim, a group of Israeli teenagers who are emissaries at local synagogues and day schools, will introduce and perform songs written by fallen Israeli soldiers, or citizens killed in terrorist attacks. Each year, the Israeli radio network, Galei Tzahal, gives the texts to Israeli songwriters, who set them to music. The songs are broadcast on the Israeli Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron.
Admission is charged for all evening events, with the exception of the community melaveh malka, which takes place at Darchei Noam at approximately 10:15 p.m. on May 27. Tickets are required for some free events.
For a complete listing of events and to get tickets, visit jewishmusicweek.com.