Jazz singer Sophia Perlman pays tribute in concert to the Jewish songwriters she admires.
In “The Jewish Experience on Broadway,” Jan. 28, she performs with singers Alana Bridgewater, Dave Wall and pianist Marilyn Lerner at Hugh’s Room in Toronto.
“The Broadway composers that meant more to me than anyone else are Gary Willis Friedman and Stephen Sondheim. I will be performing the songs from the musical theatre that they are both known for,” Perlman said in an interview.
The show will also include Broadway standards by Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Bridgewater will sing selections from Porgy and Bess, and Wall will sing songs from Annie Get Your Gun and West Side Story.
Although Perlman is Jewish only on her father’s side of the family, she grew up in the Kensington Market area and identifies strongly as a cultural Jew.
“Like me, my father was also raised as a child of intermarriage between a Christian and a Jew, and he was raised in a Catholic school.
“I grew up as a spiritual person, learning all about the value of tzedakah, doing acts of kindness to others. Although I am uncomfortable about belonging to large organized synagogues, I was heavily influenced by the teachings of Jewish socialist Morris Winchevsky and my experiences in the summer at Camp Naivelt,” she said.
A visit to the Jewish state increased her feeling of being Jewish. “I felt stronger about my Jewish identity once I visited Israel and [gained] a better understanding of the problems in the Middle East. I feel sad, as do many of us, that peace there seems to be a distant dream,” said the 29-year-old singer.
Perlman’s socialist leanings could be traced to Ina Perlman, her paternal Jewish grandmother from South Africa, whom she paid tribute to in a 2013 concert.
“My grandmother was very much of an activist, working against apartheid in South Africa, which was the law in South Africa at the time. I am very proud of her beliefs and am inspired by her.”
She picked up her love of music from both her parents, who wrote music and played piano, although they were not professional musicians.
Perlman explored the possibility of performing opera at first, and studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music through college, but fell in love with jazz after completing her jazz music studies at Humber College in 2007.
“Once I found out that there were few operas written for tenor singers, I became immersed in jazz and have no regrets. I formed my own band and think of myself as a collaborative musician, and I went forward with my career for the past five years.”
She has recorded a few CDs and has started to make a name for herself in Canadian jazz circles, often touring across Canada with her husband, pianist Adrean Farrugia.
Perlman doesn’t view herself as a commercial star and feels that, in spite of her success in Canada, it would be hard for her to duplicate the international success of Canadian Jewish jazz singers Sophie Milman and Nikki Yanofsky.
“Nikki and Sophie are both gifted, but also had support from influential people in jazz internationally. I view the beauty of my singing as collaborative and [try] to be improvisational in jazz. Whether my concerts and albums will make me popular outside of Canada is outside of my control. I really did not go into the music field to be rich and famous and am happy to perform and be loved locally.”
Jazz singer Sophia Perlman teams with singers Alana Bridgewater, David Wall and pianist Marilyn Lerner for the “Jewish Experience on Broadway” concert Jan. 28, 8 p.m., at Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas St. W., in Toronto. For tickets, call 416-531-8804 or go to www.hughsroom.com