Every year, KlezKanada’s weeklong summer retreat in the Laurentian Mountains brings together lovers of klezmer music and all manners of Jewish culture to take part in a celebration of Jewish arts.
KlezKanada expects about 400 people to attend this year’s event, August 22-28, at Camp B’nai Brith of Montreal, near Ste. Agathe.
KlezKanada was founded in 1996 to preserve Yiddish music and Jewish culture through a wide-range of programming and activities, with the summer retreat being one of its most popular events.
The retreat is multi-faceted, providing many with a Jewish cultural vacation in the Laurentians while experiencing a week of diverse programming. As well, about 100 young artists between the ages of 16 and 35 from around the world, many of them on scholarship, attend to explore Jewish art and culture through mentorship.
KlezKanada typically features various workshops on Yiddish poetry, music, writing, theatre and film, as well as live performances from faculty members and the KlezKabaret, an opportunity for participants to perform.
KlezKanada Artistic Director Frank London, a member of the Grammy-winning band, The Klezmatics, says this year’s retreat will be exceptional, featuring exciting evening and afternoon concerts by well-known greats in the Yiddish music circuit as well as performances by the Japanese klezmer and chindo band Jinta-la-Mvta and breakout Montreal Yiddish comedy duo, YidLife Crisis.
The retreat will also feature Yiddish theatre in the form Joanna Caplan’s play, “Total Verrückt (Totally Crazy),” which tells the true story of Jewish cabaret performers held in the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork, paying homage to the necessity of art as a means of survival and an act of resistance.
Among the themes to be explored this year in several workshops and performances are the influence of Sholem Aleichem on Jewish culture, and the Turkish and Ottoman Empire’s influence on klezmer music.
KlezKanada has typically attracted a group of attendees from the Ottawa area, among them A.C. Dolgin who has attended KlezKanada five times.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” she said. “The lake is gorgeous and there are so many different things you can do. It’s fine if you don’t know Yiddish, and it’s fine if you don’t play an instrument. But, if you just want to be exposed to an exciting culture, meet phenomenal people and eat great food, this is the place to be.”
Her son is Josh Dolgin (a.k.a. Socalled), whose fusion of klezmer and hip-hop music has taken the world of Jewish music by storm. Josh was introduced to klezmer music years ago as a KlezKanada scholarship recipient and is now a member of the faculty.
“He went, and it just grabbed him. The people and the atmosphere and the type of music just struck him, and it was absolutely real,” said A.C. Dolgin.
According to London, KlezKanada has reinvigorated Jewish culture as many of the past scholarship recipients have gone on to spread the joys of klezmer music around the world.
Visit www.klezkanada.org for more information about KlezKanada.