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Tracy Kasner Greaves and Casey Chisick
By SHARON LOVE
The 10th anniversary celebration of the Mam-eloshen Festival of Yiddish Entertain-ment and Culture took place during the week of June 17-24, 2018 in the form of four amazing concerts held at the Berney Theatre.


The Rady JCC, in partnership with The I.L. Peretz Folk School Endowment Trust. hosted a combination of internationally acclaimed as well as top local musical performing artists.
Daniel Kahn, a Detroit-born and Berlin-based singer, poet, activist, translator and multi talented instrumentalist, along with his band, The Painted Bird, opened the festival on Sunday, June 17th, with a strong rendition of ‘Avreml, Der Marvikher’, followed by songs from their new CD, “The Butcher’s Share”. Themes of fighting for workers’ rights and for a better world permeated their performance as they celebrated their “Freedom is a Verb” tour. The reality is that songs they performed, such as ‘Arbeter Froyen’, ‘Shtil Di Nacht’, ‘Sheyres Hora’, and ‘Arbetslozer Marsh’, although originally written years ago, are still relevant today! Kahn also did not disappoint with his greatly anticipated encore. He came back on stage, alone, accompanying himself on guitar, and sang his haunting Yiddish rendition of ‘Hallelujah’, which he himself translated and which is his personal tribute to Leonard Cohen.
The concert held on Wednesday, June 20th marked the 10th appearance at the Mameloshen Festival of the Gray Academy Students choir. Under the direction of David Vamos and accompanied on piano by Tatyana Smolyaninov, their songs formed a suite with the theme of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, followed by the hoped for happy ending. Starting with ‘Tumbalalaika’ and ending with ‘Chossen Kalle Maze Tov’, their diction was great and their enthusiasm was appreciated by the audience.
Yiddish and Broadway diva, Joanne Borts, also took to the stage on the same evening. Borts stated how excited she was to be part of the festival again (she was here in 2009), and that she is a proud graduate of the Peretz School in New York and was even inspired by Hershel Fox when she was embarking on her musical performance career. This vivacious entertainer showcased her wide vocal range. She opened with an upbeat rendition of ‘Nayer Sher’.
This was followed by ‘Shadchante’ from the current Joel Grey helmed Yiddish language adaptation of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ which opens in New York on July 4th in which both Borts and Kahn are starring. She also sang songs from her CD ‘Kids and Yiddish’ and even invited some young audience members to join her on stage to sing along. Older well known familiar numbers such as ‘Roszinkes Mit Mandlen’ and ‘Papirossen’ were well received by the audience. Her playful rendition of the Moyshe Oysher classic ‘Halevai’ left this writer humming for days afterwards! Borts was accompanied on piano and clarinet by KlezKanada Artistic Director and music arranger Michael Winograd. His clarinet solo “Dortn Dortn” was soulful and moving.
The Festival ended on a high note on Sunday June 24th with both a matinee and evening performance, ‘Tzuzamin Vider! Together Again’, which featured Casey Chisick and Tracy Kasner Greaves in concert. Kudos to the Rady JCC for reaching out to former Winnipegger Casey Chisick and to Casey for producing this musical celebration, paying tribute to the golden age of Yiddish theatre with songs written by Abe Ellstein. Casey and Tracy’s musical friendship started many years ago when they were students performing on stage at  Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate and continued as they both performed in the Chai Folk Ensemble.
With musical accompaniment by well known local musicians, Ron Paley on piano, accordion and musical arrangements, Myron Schultz on clarinet, Victor Schultz (all the way from New York) on violin, Kinzey Posen on bass, Ariel Posen (all the way from Ireland) on guitar, Rob Siwik on drums, Rick Boughton on trumpet and musical arrangements and arrangements by Sid Robinovitch, this was such a memorable production! You got the feeling that the performers enjoyed themselves as much as the audience did.
When Casey performed his touching rendition of ‘Kinder Yorn’ he nostalgically told the audience it was actually the first Yiddish song that he ever sang. Casey and Tracy’s on stage chemistry shone immediately with their lively duets ‘Yidl Mitn Fidl’ and ‘Abi Gezunt’. Tracy’s dramatic flare was evident with ‘Oy Mame, Bin Ich Farleibt’ and ‘Oygn’. A highlight of the show was Casey’s presentation of the vaudeville number ‘Hu Tsa Tsa’, interspersed with dancing and “shtick” in the form of jokes with Myron and Tracy joining in. Ron Paley’s new arrangement of ‘Ich Zing’ was movingly interpreted by Casey.
With three of the accompanying musicians, the Schultz brothers and Kinzey Posen, being original members of Finjan, their rousing rendition. of ‘The Wedding Dance’ allowed for ample opportunity for all of the musicians to shine with solo performances. The concert ended all too soon with the always favourite ‘Rumainye’ with Casey and Tracy in sync all the way!
Yasher Koach to MC extraordinaire Miriam Bronstein and to Tamar Barr, Rady JCC Assistant Executive Director, and to Cynthia Fidel, Rady JCC Program Manager, Cultural Arts whose efforts helped to make this year’s festival such a success!