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Bringing klezmer to small town Ontario

Itamar Danziger

Itamar Danziger is a composer with a mission – to bring Jewish music to concert bands based in smaller Ontario communities.

Danziger, who lives in Kitchener, Ont., plays clarinet in the Kitchener Musical Society Band. About three years ago, he asked the band’s conductor, Dave Davidson, to include one of his klezmer compositions in a performance.

Convincing established concert bands to even consider playing works that are outside their standard repertoire of classical pieces can be difficult, Danziger said.

Bur Davidson agreed to give it a shot and the band played Danziger’s Kitchener Bulgar. “The crowd liked it and the band was saying, ‘We want more diversity like klezmer,’ ” Danziger said.

He wrote his three-movement Latkes Suite for the Kitchener Musical Society Band to play over the holiday season in December 2017. In the piece’s second movement, Danziger puts his own spin on two Hanukkah songs, Maoz Tzur and Judah Maccabee. Last April, the Brandford Memorial Concert Band played Latkes Suite at one of its performances.

The King Street Brass – a brass band based in Breslau, Ont. – recently premiered Danziger’s composition, Brass Hora. The band’s conductor, George Holmes, taught him how to write in the British brass band tradition.

Danziger’s currently working on a new composition, a Sephardic-klezmer mix, which will be premiered by the Kitchener Musical Society Band this summer.

Danziger said he is attracted to Jewish music because it is evocative and can elicit the various shades and subtleties of his life, whether sadness, anger or happiness. “Klezmer allows me to evoke realistic opposites,” he said. “After all, in which other genre can you be both screaming out of joy, while also moping in sadness?”


Danziger grew up in a musical family (his mother, Rosemary, is an opera singer). For his parents’ 30th wedding anniversary in 2007, he composed Mein Eltern’s Freilich and performed it with his siblings.

Srul Irving Glick – a prominent Canadian composer of classical and klezmer music and a friend of the Danziger family – inspired Danziger to try his hand at writing music. “Growing up, in my early teenage years, I really looked up to Srul Irving Glick. He was the personification of my passion for klezmer when I was growing up,” Danziger said. “The more I got to know his music, the more I thought I wanted to write.”

Danziger plays both the B-flat clarinet, the type that’s most commonly played, and the larger bass clarinet.

When he was seven years old, he wanted to play tuba, but his mother said he was too small for the instrument. “I was going (to) compromise and play the trombone, but then again, my mom reminded me that I was too small for trombone. I had a tantrum and after the tantrum, I got a clarinet,” he said.

“I was disappointed in my first lesson to find out that a clarinet was smaller than I thought. I thought, ‘One day I’ll get to that bass clarinet.’ ”

Danziger, 38, said his passion for klezmer music was ignited on his 11th birthday, when his mother gave him a CD by Giora Feidman, a virtuoso klezmer clarinet player. By that time, the Israeli-born Danziger was living in Toronto, where he was raised.

Danziger, who has a master’s degree in social work from McGill University and a family therapy degree from the Argyle Institute in Montreal, is a social worker at Cambridge Memorial Hospital in Cambridge, Ont. He said that his affinity for music is sometimes an asset in his counselling sessions:

“As a social worker, I often listen to difficult situations in counselling sessions. As I listen, the music that comes to my mind and heart often informs me of the vibe and feelings that people are trying to convey to me.”


For more information, visit itamardanziger.com

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