Jewish Music Week in Toronto! is celebrating Israel’s 70th birthday by putting a contemporary spin on traditional Jewish hits.
Music From the Blue Desert, an unconventional Israeli band, will kick off the festival at Lula Lounge on May 27. The trio blends international music genres, including dabke – Arab folk music – reggae, gnawa – North African religious songs – and trance music.
“It’s the new exotic sound of Jerusalem,” Aliza Spiro, the artistic director of Jewish Music Week said.
Grammy-nominated Yossi Fine, is the bass player of Music From the Blue Desert. He has produced over 40 albums, 20 have received gold and multi-platinum status. He has worked with David Bowie, Lou Reed, Gil Evans Orchestra, and Vieux Farka Toure.
Cantor Eric Moses will be celebrating his 18th anniversary as the hazzan of Beth Shalom Synagogue on May 29. The Ruach Singers and Six13 will help him celebrate this milestone.
The Ruach Singers, a local eight-person a cappella group, add jazz and pop melodies to traditional Hebrew music. Six13, an award winning six-man New York vocal group, will create the impression of listening to an entire band by beat boxing and harmonizing.
A youthful trio of Israeli children, part of the Musicians of Tomorrow (MoT) program, will honour Israeli classical music by playing Mendelssohn, Wienawski, Ladino, folk, and klezmer.
The trio features a 13-year-old pianist Manya Suissa, 11-year-old violinist Ronnie Arbitman and 14-year-old clarinettist Lavi Zarfati. Anna Rosnovsky, a retired Israeli philharmonic concertmaster, established MoT in 2006 to give Israeli children a chance to excel and gain international recognition. They will be performing at Holy Blossom Temple on May 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Simon Spiro, known as “The British Jazz Singer,” cantor, and pop music enthusiast will perform six decades of popular music on May 31.
“It’s a crossover of pop hits and having a life that’s grounded in being Jewish,” Aliza Spiro said.
A number of special guests will be joining him including Thom Allison, a Broadway and TV star; Lorraine Lawson, a vocal coach on the CTV series The Launch; Elicia Mackenzie, winner of the CBC TV show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?; and vocal trio The Ault Sisters.
There will also be free daytime performances throughout the week. On May 31 at 2 p.m., Wladslaw Szpilman’s music from the Holocaust movie The Pianist, will be performed by Wendy Lands. Szpilman’s son selected Lands to record his father’s songs for the film’s soundtrack.
Jewish Music Week performances will be spread out across the city, but, if you can’t make it to a show, tune into a live broadcast on June 1 from Zoomer Hall on the New Classical 96.3 FM. An Israeli trio will be fusing jazz and classical music from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
The festival will conclude with a performance from Israeli jazz artists Amos Hoffman and Noam Lemish. The duo has spent decades travelling the world, collecting Jewish songs, and adding a jazz rhythm. They will close the festival at Lula Lounge on June 3 at 7 p.m.
While Jewish Music Week Toronto! commemorates Israel’s birthday, it also celebrates the thriving Toronto music scene.
“Toronto is rich with talent and it is even richer with people that are lovers of the arts. (Toronto is) a very special community, I don’t know if Jewish Music Week would succeeded in other areas,” Spiro said.
Jewish Music Week Toronto! runs from May 27 to June 3. The night events require tickets, which range from $18 to $100. Daytime performances are free, but some require tickets for admission. For a complete list of events and more information on the festival, visit Jewishmusicweek.com