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Saturday, August 30, 2014

On now: North America’s premier festival of global Jewish music and culture celebrates its 10th biennial edition at Harbourfront Centre

With over 250 artists from more than a dozen countries, the Ashkenaz Festival transforms Toronto’s waterfront with global Jewish arts and culture

The signature event of the Ashkenaz Festival, the Ashkenaz Parade on Sept. 1 transforms Harbourfront Centre into a swirling cavalcade of music, dance, theatre, giant puppetry, stiltwalkers and various other forms of pomp and pageantry.
TORONTO, ON – This Labour Day weekend, join over 250 artists from around the world at the 10th biennial Ashkenaz Festival to experience the vibrancy of Jewish creativity, from the traditional to the cross-cultural. From the ever-popular Ashkenaz Parade produced by Shadowland Theatre, to the music of klezmer-gypsy party-punk rockers Lemon Bucket Orkestra, the staggering array of music, film, performance, literature, crafts and visual arts invites people of all ages and backgrounds to explore Jewish culture.

"Ashkenaz represents the cutting-edge of contemporary Jewish artistic creation," says Eric Stein, artistic director. " In 2014, as we present the 10th edition of our world-renowned festival of Jewish musical and artistic creativity, we continue striving to serve as a vibrant continuum of artistic and communal transformation, in which past meets present to establish a living, breathing culture whose own legacy will resonate far into the future.”

The product of a long and storied past, found in all corners of the globe today, Jewish culture is one that continues to be informed by a special preoccupation with memory and remembrance. That unique raison d’etre will also serve as a wellspring of creativity in Toronto this Labour Day weekend as Harbourfront Centre, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, collaborates with the Ashkenaz Festival to showcase the varied artistry of this diverse, living culture.

International headliners include the Canadian premieres of the racy Yiddish folk-opera Lilith The Night Demon in One Lewd Act, Jewish-Afrobeat pioneers Zion80 from New York, Yiddish psychedelic rockers Forshpil from Russia and Germany, genre-busting DJ and Latin-Jewish fusionist Simja Dujov from Argentina, Iraqi-Jewish roots rocker Dudu Tassa from Israel, and the multimedia tour de force The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book.

Canada is also well-represented, with local musicians and artists like JUNO-award winning David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana, Vancouver klezmer-punk upstart Geoff Berner, Montreal Yiddish hip-hop renegade Socalled, Toronto choral sensation Choir! Choir! Choir!, Quebec fiddling femme fatale Briga, and Jaffa Road's Aviva Chernick with her stunning new solo project, titled simply AVIVA.

For additional information and complete event listings, the public may visit harbourfrontcentre.com/summer/ashkenaz or call the Information Hotline at 416-973-4000.

About Ashkenaz Festival
The Ashkenaz Festival is one of the largest and most prestigious showcases of Jewish music and culture in the world. Since 1995, the festival has taken place biennially at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto’s premier venue for the presentation of world and folk culture and for the meeting of diverse communities through the arts. Originally founded as a showcase for Klezmer and Yiddish music and culture, the Ashkenaz Festival has evolved over the years into an eclectic showcase of global Jewish art and culture, encompassing not merely the traditions of Eastern Europe, but also Sephardic, Mizrachi and Israeli culture, and all manner of cross-cultural fusion. The Festival is offered 90% free to the public and attracts a multicultural audience of over 60,000 people. Nowhere else in the world does so large and diverse an audience come together to experience Jewish cultural arts. Though strongly focused on music, Ashkenaz is a multidisciplinary festival, including dance, theatre, film, literature and talk, visual arts, and kids/family programs. Ashkenaz usually features over 80 performances and 200 individual artists, hailing from across Canada and around the world. Over the years, Ashkenaz has presented artists from over 25 countries and 6 continents.

Harbourfront Centre is a Canadian charity operating the 10 prime acres of Toronto’s central waterfront as a free and open public site. We celebrate the multiplicities of cultures that comprise Canada and enliven the city through the creative imaginations of artists from across the country and around the globe. For information about visiting Harbourfront Centre during the Queens Quay revitalization, visit harbourfrontcentre.com/gettinghere.


Ashkenaz Festival Highlights

The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book
Sunday, August 31, 2014 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. – Harbourfront Centre Theatre
The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book is a new multimedia work that traces the highly dramatic story of one of the world’s most famous manuscripts. It is composed and performed by Bosnian-born, Los Angeles-based accordionist Merima Kljuco, whose unique score draws on the musical traditions of Spain, Italy, Austria, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Presented with animation by video artist Bart Woodstrup, The Sarajevo Haggadah follows the manuscript’s travels from medieval Spain to 20th century Bosnia. This is when it was hidden and rescued during World War II by Muslims, and later restored by the National Museum in Sarajevo after the 1992-1995 war. The presentation will be introduced by Canadian journalist Ralph Benmergui, who will also host a talkback with the artists and the audience following the show.
Cost: $22 (Advanced Ticket) and $25 (Day of Ticket)

Sunday, August 31, 2014 from 9:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. – WestJet Stage
Zion80 explores Jewish music – from Carlebach to Zorn and everything in between – through the lens of the Afrobeat master Fela Kuti. Join them for their CD release of Adramelech.

The Ashkenaz Parade
Monday, September 1, 2014 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Redpath Stage
The signature event of the Ashkenaz Festival, the Ashkenaz Parade transforms Harbourfront Centre into a swirling cavalcade of music, dance, theatre, giant puppetry, stiltwalkers and various other forms of pomp and pageantry. Under the direction once again of Toronto street theatre stalwarts Shadowland Theatre, the Parade features hundreds of musicians, artists and community participants in a joyful and whimsical procession that serves as the penultimate climax to the Ashkenaz Festival.

David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana
Saturday, August 30, 2014 from 8:00 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. – WestJet Stage
Ashkenaz founding Artistic Director David Buchbinder teams up with a crew of top Jazz and World musicians to present this exhilarating project of musical discovery: the Jewish-Cuban connection. 2014 JUNO winners for World Music Album of the Year.

Lemon Bucket Orkestra
Saturday, August 30, 2014 from 9:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. – WestJet Stage
Toronto's notorious "Balkan-klezmer-Gypsy-party-punk super-band" caps off a nationwide summer tour with a triumphant homecoming performance on the main stage

Choir! Choir! Choir!
Sunday, August 31, 2014 from 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. – Redpath Stage
Toronto’s bar-hopping choral phenomenon delivers a set of Jewish pop classics in three-part harmonies.

SCHUND (2010)
Saturday August 30, 11pm. - Studio Theatre
This clever and heartfelt mockumentary unfolds like a detective story exploring the disappearance of a fictional Yiddish actor 25 years ago. The only clue: a mysterious inscription on the door of his house reading "schund". Along the way, we meet the very real colorful characters who made up Israel's vibrant Yiddish theater scene during the country's first decades. Yiddish theater thrived even as it drew ire from an Israeli establishment bent on suppressing what it felt was a threat to the primacy of Hebrew culture.

The Yellow Ticket
Featuring a Live Musical Score by Alician Svigals and Marilyn Lerner
Sunday, August 31, 2014 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. – Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Set in Poland and Tsarist Russia, The Yellow Ticket (1918) portrays a woman’s struggle to overcome adversity in a story of secret identities, heroic measures, and triumphant love. Remarkably progressive for its time, The Yellow Ticket was the first film to explore Jewish discrimination in Tsarist Russia. It stars famed Polish actress Pola Negri, Hollywood’s first European silent film star. The film is shown with a live musical score composed by famed Klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals (The Klezmatics).
Cost: $15 (Advanced Ticket) and $18 (Day of Ticket)

Saturday August 30, 10:30pm. - Lakeside Terrace, FREE
This new spin on Ashkenaz’s signature late-night cabaret sessions features novelty songs, comedy, spoken word, jokes, magic tricks, ventriloquism, feats of strength, and perhaps a rubber chicken or two.

Sunday August 31, from 6 pm to 7:00 pm – Marilyn Brewer Community Space
Festival Man is the first novel by rebel folk scene accordionist and songwriter Geoff Berner. At turns funny and strangely sobering, this "found memoir" is a picaresque tale of inspired, heroic deceit, incompetence, and – just possibly – triumph. The author will read passages from his twisted tome, and be interviewed by Socalled about his process and inspiration in creating this ultimately scathing portrait of the Canadian folk music festival scene.
Late Night Dance Parties
Saturday August 31 and Sunday September 1, from 11 pm to 1 am – Brigantine Room
The party rages late on consecutive nights in Ashkenaz’s popular late-night dance concerts in the Brigantine Room. Groove-heavy sets from klezmer-cumbia guru Simja Dujov and psychedelic Yiddish rockers Forshpil will be followed by DJ sets from Socalled.

Lilith, the Night Demon in One Lewd Act
Monday, September 1, 2014 from 6:0 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Veretski Pass's newest and most daring project is a Yiddish chamber-folk opera that tells the story of Adam's first wife, in an adult, edgy alternate story of creation. Refusing to lie beneath Adam, Lilith flies off to the Red Sea creating then killing 100 demon babies a day, until the three angels sent by God negotiate a deal with her.
Cost: $22 (Advanced Ticket) and $25 (Day of Ticket)

Festival Finale
Monday, September 1, 2014 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – WestJet Stage
As always, the festival comes to a climactic close with a series of performances by some of this year’s headlining artists, culminating in a massive jam session with all the Festival musicians. This year’s finale will include tributes to two giants of Yiddish culture who left us this past year, researcher and anthologist Chana Mlotek and songwriter/poet Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

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