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Shayla Debbie1By SHARON LOVE
The opening concert of the eighth annual Mameloshen Festival of Yiddish Entertainment and Culture took place on Wednesday, June 15th, 2016. All three concerts were held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

The evening was entitled ‘The Almost Ed Sullivan Yiddish Variety Show’. It took us back in time to the days of television when variety shows were the norm. All of the talented performers were members of our community.
MC Kinzey (Ed Sullivan) Posen, standing with his arms folded, (a la Ed), welcomed the audience and set the familial tone of the evening. First up was the Gray Academy of Jewish Education Yiddish Choir, directed by David Vamos and accompanied by Tatiana Smolyaninov. Their diction was great and they were very enthusiastic. Their renditions of “Mein Yiddishe Mameh”, “Dona Dona” and the comical “Der Rebbe Elimelech” were enjoyed very much by the audience.
When the choir left the stage a voice was heard from the back of the room. Lo and behold, it was Ian Dimerman singing “A Kleyn Melamedel” as he strolled towards the stage. This was the format of the rest of this variety concert. Each performer, after being introduced by Kinzey (Ed), sang one or two songs and did the same for the second part of the evening. Richard Yaffe’s rich baritone voice was evident with his tender rendition of “Unter Dayne Vayse Shtern”. He was totally in sync with accompanist Ron Krug for the upbeat “A Fiddler”.  Justin Odwak, also accompanied by Krug, brought the house down with “Finiculi Finicula”. His haunting presentation of the lesser known “Unter Soreleh’s Vigeleh” was superb. The duo of Cantor Tracy Kasner Greaves and Arthur Liffmann was as great as they were when they used to sing with the Chai Dancers. Their medley, including “Oyfn Pripitchuk” was definitely a crowd pleaser.

What would the Ed Sullivan show have been without a juggler? Ditto for this ‘really big shew’! Gilon Lazar filled this role well to the tune of the oohs and aahs emanating from the audience. Lazar, a tenth grade student from the Gray Academy, juggled balls, batons, you name it. He even balanced a bar stool on his chin. As he walked towards the full sized aluminum ladder on the stage, our MC stood spread eagle against the grand piano (just in case). Why worry? Lazar successfully balanced the ladder on his chin! His second appearance of the evening was equally as exciting. As the audience counted down from 40 in Yiddish, he piled 40 hats, one on top of each other, on his head. While balancing all of them, he rode around the stage on his unicycle. He successfully broke the world record for the number of hats worn at the same time. We were part of this!
For his encore number, Dimerman tenderly sang the love song “Sheyne Vie Di Levone”. Shayla Fink ably accompanied him again on piano and this time also on vocals. Yaffe’s heartfelt “Farges Mich Nit” was sung with so much feeling. Odwak’s “O Solo Mio” was a highlight of the evening. Kasner Geaves and Liffmann ensured that the concert ended on a high note. They did not miss a beat with their rousing rendition of “Roumania” The audience eagerly sang along to “Alle Breider”, the last song of the evening.

The second concert of the festival took place on Wednesday, June 15th. The featured artist was the world renowned Yiddish songstress Vira Lozinsky. Following greetings by MC Kinzey Posen, Ron Paley sat down at the piano and played an upbeat version of “Bei Mir Bistu Shayne”. Paley, a well known musical figure, always takes a performance to a higher level. Lozinsky opened her program with “A Freylech Shnaiderl”, the romantic and wistful “Zol Zeyn” and a tune from the ‘Kuni Lemel’ movies about one’s luck. Posen then asked her a few questions so the audience could learn a little more about her. Her parents are musicians, poets and writers and she grew up surrounded by music. She moved, as a teenager, with her family to Israel and is multilingual. She also touched upon the worldwide resurgence of Yiddish. The conversation led to the topic of where she was born. That was, of course, the lead in to “Beltz Mein Shtetele Beltz”. What other Yiddish singer today can claim to actually having been born in Beltz? Lozinsky lived there with her family until the age of 14. Beltz is in Moldova and was a vibrant centre of Yiddish culture. Lozinsky’s rich and velvety voice was full of passion as she sang this much loved song about one’s yearning for childhood days. This was followed by the light and lively “A Pastachl” and the ever popular lullaby “Yankele”.
Paley played another solo number. When one thinks of “spontaneous combustion”, how else can one describe a room full of people breaking out into song! That’s what happened when Paley played “Tumbalalika”. At one point he actually stopped playing, turned to the audience and conducted the singing! Lozinsky returned to the stage with a bold interpretation of the Argentinian Tango. Both of her songs about Gypsy music showcased her theatrical stage presence. She continued her well rounded program with all- time favourites “Oyn Veg Shtayt a Boim” and “Margaritkelech”. The evening ended on a lively note with an energetic version of “Le’chaim”.

Monday, June 27th, marked the final concert of the Festival. ”A Tribute to the Barry Sisters” was a ‘high energy’ evening and featured musical artists Shayla Fink and Debbie Maslowsky. This show was last performed at Mameloshen in 2010. Judging by the reception from the audience, six years was too long to wait for this exceptional encore performance.Following a joke from our affable MC Posen, a short black and white film with visuals of Claire and Merna Barry (formerly Clara and Minnie Bagelman) in performance was shown. As the band members took their places on stage, our ‘Barry Sisters’ came from the back of the hall with a rousing “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem”. Each ‘sister’ wore a full length blue sequined gown with over the elbow white gloves and long shimmering earrings. The real Barry sisters always looked glamorous. Heck, even the guys in the band wore black shirts and pants and glittery red bow ties! This added to the nostalgia of the evening. All of the music arrangements for this performance were of the jazz swing style for which the Barry Sisters were known. “Tsu Shpet” and “Sheyne Vie Di Livone” were sung early in the program. Fink and Maslowsky harmonized well together. What would a Barry Sisters concert be without “Aishes Chayil” and “Tumbalalaika”? The audience readily joined in.
The Barry Sisters originally started their careers in radio. After a perky presentation of an old Manishewitz commercial, Maslowsky fittingly paid tribute to our own Noah Witman. He was well known for his long standing radio and television programs and his promotion of Yiddish. A no holds barred “Cabaret” in Yiddish followed by “Beltz” were showstoppers. Hits such as “Oh Che Chornia” in Russian and English, “Bei Mir Bistu Shayne”, “Abi Gezunt” and an Israeli medley rounded out the concert.
The band members, with Ron Krug on piano, Kinzey Posen on bass, Rob Siwik on drums and Brian Klowak on woodwinds were in full swing. All in all, Fink and Maslowsky were an energetic duo. They harmonized and blended well together. The choreography complemented the music and the flow from one number to the next went smoothly. Even the encore was not enough for the audience! What a ‘freylech’ evening!

Yashar koach to Laurie Mainster and Kinzey Posen, the driving forces behind this year’s Mameloshen Festival. Special thanks to the I.L.Peretz Folk School Endowment Trust and to the Rady JCC for their continuous support along the many sponsors and volunteers. This was a great opportunity to celebrate the richness of our Yiddish language and culture.

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