Ashkenaz Festival 2022

Ashkenaz Festival Image – created by Toronto artist Yehuda Lang

Where: Harbourfront Centre & Venues across Toronto
When: August 30 – September 5, 2022
Cost: Free with a few ticketed events. Tickets on sale now at ashkenazfest

Details: The Ashkenaz Festival, North America’s largest celebration of global Jewish music and culture, returns with a full slate of in-person programming in the first live edition of the normally biennial event since 2018. The festival will include approximately 50 events at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre and other venues in the city.

This year’s Festival is headlined by the North American premiere of  Henekh Kon’s “Bas-Sheve,” the first Yiddish opera ever presented in Canada. “Lost” for nearly a century, and incomplete when initially re-discovered five years ago, the now fully-restored work is based on the controversial biblical story of David and Bathsheba. The concert-style performance features UCLA Philharmonia and soloists from the RCM Glenn Gould School, including  Jaclyn Grossman  in the titular role, presented at the Glenn Gould Studio, August 31-September 2.

Another timely and ambitious undertaking for this year’s festival is a supergroup commissioned specially for this occasion to present a program of old and new Jewish folk music from Ukraine. The Ukrainian Klezmer All-Stars will perform songs by the legendary Yiddishist  Arkady Gendler  (1921-2017) as well as by the contemporary Jewish “songbird” of Ukraine, Zhenya Lopatnik, plus music from the repertoire of the Bessarabian family brass band  Konsonans Retro. Featuring a “who’s who” cast of 14 renowned singers and instrumentalists, the group performs September 3 on Harbourfront’s main Concert Stage.

Also featured during the weekend Harbourfront portion of the Festival is the North American premiere of  “Di Letste Nakht Baym Yitesh (The Last Night at Cabaret  Yitesh).”  This outrageous cabaret/drag/concert/theatrical show was written by New York Times bestselling author and Yiddish expert  Michael Wex. It is a tribute to the Yiddish cabaret scene of the 1920s, with an all-star cast of klezmer musicians and actors that includes Sasha Lurje, Daniel Kahn, Shane Baker and Sveta Kundish.

Other highlights include three full days of  free programming at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre from September 3-5, celebrating the diversity of Jewish music around the globe. Some highlights include: Ethiopian-Israeli saxophonist Abate Berihun; Persian-American singer and violinist Chloe Pourmorady; American-Jewish bluegrass sensation Nefesh Mountain; Israeli-Ladino dynamo  oam Vezana, and  OMada, a Canadian-Romani supergroup commissioned by Ashkenaz in the summer of 2021.

Fresh off a recent performance with Vulfpeck’s Jack Stratton, Festival favourite Josh “Socalled” Dolgin also returns to Ashkenaz, performing a late-night set with his newest boundary-busting project,  Gephilte!  The group performs funk- and jamband- styled renditions of Yiddish music, animated by ringleader Dolgin’s endlessly entertaining and often provocative antics.

Other can’t-miss events include the festival-opening concert of  Women’s Cantorial Music at Temple Sinai in North York on August 30, featuring Cantors Sveta Kundish, Rachel Weston,and Judith Berkson. Also not-to-be-missed is the signature “Ashkenaz Parade,” featuring Lemon Bucket Orkestra, and the always explosive “Best of the Fest” finale, taking place on September 5, which culminates with over 40 musicians jamming together on Harbourfront’s main concert stage.

In addition to its typically robust offerings in music and theatre, Ashkenaz will also include a full kids/family programming, as well as lectures, panel discussions and literary presentations. Presenters include Canadian author Gary Barwin, as well as NY-based scholar Eddy Portnoy,  who will offer a series of three lectures, including “Am Yisrael High: The Story of Jews and Cannabis,” based on a recent exhibition he curated for the YIVO Institute.

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