Art Music

Ashkenaz in the CJN

The Canadian Language Museum kicked off Yiddish Spring, a celebration of Yiddish culture throughout April, May and June


by Ruth Schweitzer

The early April opening of an exhibit at the Canadian Language Museum kicked off Yiddish Spring, a celebration featuring Yiddish-based concerts and programming at locations around Toronto, in April, May and June.

The opening attracted an overflow crowd who listened to Berlin-based musician Paul Brody’s sometimes humorous sound installation, The Music of Yiddish Blessings and Curses. On the visual side, the exhibit includes a reimagining of doctoral student Miriam Borden’s Komets-Alef-O! Back to School at the Yiddish Kheyder. It was installed at the University of Toronto’s Robart’s Library last year.

To create The Music of Yiddish Blessings and Curses, Brody asked several Toronto Yiddish speakers about their favourite Yiddish curses and blessings, and to speak about the stories and memories behind them.

“Each blessing, each curse was like a little door into that person’s recollection of their lives, of their family and often their relationship with Jewish culture or Yiddish culture,” Brody said during his presentation.

While working on the installation, he discovered the emotion in their voices revealed the musicality of the Yiddish language.

“There’s a lot of narratives to be discovered in the melody of our voice. Your voice, each and every morning when you’re talking about what you want for breakfast, has as much melody in it as any opera aria,” Brody said.

“Our voice melody contains information about a person, their mood and their age, where the person has been, maybe the languages they speak.”

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