vCOP fills the hall, Suburban chief thanks the troops

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Photo courtesy David Goldsmith

A capacity crowd of 80 Cote Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol members filled the council chamber at city hall this week to hear the Suburban Newspaper’s editor-in-chief Beryl Wajsman speak on a wide range of topics, but mostly on the political landscape in Quebec. Wajsman was raw and uncensored, swinging wildly, particularly at provincial politicians. The considerably knowledgeable and articulate speaker was unscripted in his gashing assault against the political elite who he described as unconcerned about the citizenry and focused solely on attaining power by saying whatever was necessary to secure votes.

Against this negative backdrop Wajsman described CSL mayor Mitchell Brownstein as unique in his “openness and accessibility”. You can meet with Mitch or call him anytime. He answers his own phone, Wajsman said. “He cares and it shows.”

Beryl Wajsman addresses the vCOP corps of volunteers

But Wajsman’s ultimate compliment was saved for the volunteers in their bright yellow uniform jackets and orange polo tops. You are the true examples of what it means to be a community, to care for your neighbour and to help people who really need your help, he said. He congratulated the vCOP members for their service to the elderly, to all residents.

“I truly enjoyed speaking to a very special gathering of some of the most engaged citizens around. The CSL Volunteer Corps of Citizens on Patrol. The only one of its kind on the island (actually the only one in Quebec) and they cover every sector where the 33,000 residents of CSL live. Great Q&A too,” Wajsman posted to his Facebook page

Long-serving volunteers Susie and Harvey Schwartz

vCOP meets every other month to refresh on protocols and procedures, learn new skills and techniques and to hear from community leaders and experts in public safety. They are a dedicated and energetic group that give of their time, day and night, to safeguard the community. Once again, I salute CSL’s men and women in yellow and orange.

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A Bintel Brief: Yiddish Theatre alive and well in Montreal

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A review by Glenn J. Nashen

NEW: Now featured in the Jewish Standard Magazine!

 

The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre opened its 60th season this week with its latest production of A Bintel Brief. This performance at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts  is brought back to the stage after it originally opened in Montreal in the 1970s. It is a story based upon real letters to the editor of a Yiddish language daily newspaper in New York City in the early 1900s.

 

The production is composed of a series of true stories of Jewish immigrants coming to America and trying to adapt to their new world. It not only connects the stories of immigrants in the early 20th century to their former lives in Russia and Europe but it also connects them to their descendants 100 years later.

 

A Bintel Brief peeks inside the immigrant experience of long ago and reminds us that little has changed and that the struggles and efforts made are both timeless and universal.

 

The show is brought to life by budding director Michelle Heisler who has previously acted in the DWYT and works with young children’s theatre. Heisler is a talented actor and singer having performed on stage across Canada, the United States and Europe.

 

The cast is an energetic and spirited group of youngsters, young adults and older folk who come together as though they were a true family.

Sam Stein and Aron Gonshor (Courtesy CJNews.com)

Aron Gonshor and Sam Stein are iconic in the DWYT and for good reason. Their vaudeville singing and dancing with old-fashioned, side-splitting humour kept the audience in tears of laughter. Their shtick was out of Wayne and Shuster and they were classic funnymen. They also took on serious roles in skits ranging in theme from overworked and underpaid, depressed immigrants to tragic episodes involving loss of life and great despair. If there are lifetime achievement awards for outstanding performance in Yiddish theatre this duo is certainly right for the prize.

 

Mikey Samra is known for  his many performances in the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society but his stage presence in Yiddish was equally spectacular. He is a compelling young actor who will continue to flourish in whatever language he chooses.

 

Jodi Lackman has played at the Segal before but her performance in A Bintel Brief takes the cake. Her facial expressions and shrieking voice at learning her husband has another wife and children, her melodramatic overtones in yearning for her secret lover and her comedic expressions are worthy of praise and applause.

 

The list of talented and dedicated young actors who have put in tremendous effort to speak a language that is probably quite foreign to most of them is long and impressive. Kudos to all of them for entertaining the audience with song and dance, with drama and comedy and by keeping the language and rich history alive.

 

One particular skit involves a class of immigrants trying to learn to speak English. It is ridiculously funny with mispronunciation and misunderstanding. I could just imagine my Bubby and Zaida in such a class with their thick yiddishe accents trying to learn their new language. Indeed, I still remember the words of my very funny Russian-born Zaida who’d say, “I speak 12 languages and don’t understand any of them!”

 

The stage was simple and old fashion in the Segal Centre’s smaller theatre. Presented with English and French supertitles it is an easy-to-understand show even if you’re not fluent in mama-loschen. The four piece band was fun and lively under the musical direction of Nick Burgess.

 

Despite the young children who sing and dance in the first act (they leave at intermission to get home for bedtime) the heavy adult themes would give this musical performance a PG-13 rating, not age appropriate for pre-teens.

 

DWYT President Ben Gonshor thanked the capacity opening-night audience for continuing to support community theatre, particularly in Yiddish. With such great benefactors such as Alvin Segal, Barbara Seal and the Azrielli Foundation and Federation CJA Montrealers are fortunate in that they will continue to be treated to such memorable and entertaining evenings for years to come.

 

A Bintel Brief continues at the Segal Centre though October 21. Tickets are available at SegalCentre.org or by calling 514-739-7944.

 

Jazz and symphony fills CSL at Cat’s Meow Concert

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Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra on stage in Cote Saint-Luc

 

The Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee (CSLCC) held its annual fundraising concert last night at the former Wagar High School auditorium featuring the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Joseph Milo. As an added treat the Gideon Vigderhous Quartet performed as did vocalists Alexandra Cohen and Nicole Arrage.
Funds raised from The Cat’s Meow Concert will go towards the CSLCC’s Trap, Neuter, Release and Adopt Program and Educhat.
There are many feral cats in the community. The CSLCC’s team of volunteers sets out to trap as many as possible, have them sterilized and then adopted or returned to the spot where they were originally found. The committee has also rescued a number of  kittens and found homes for them.
The Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra (MWSO) was founded in 2006 by conductor Milo and his wife Lucy Ravinsky. This one of a kind orchestra was formed when it was discovered that a great pool of professional musicians, recently immigrated to Montreal, had no opportunity to make use of their valuable talent in their new home. The MWSO was created, not only to provide these new Canadians with the opportunity to engage in their main passion; making beautiful music in an orchestral setting, but to give them back the professional dignity they had enjoyed in their homelands and most especially, to share their wonderful talents with the music lovers of Montreal.
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Gideon Vigderhous blasts beautiful notes on the sax

The MWSO is composed of 55 musicians: about 80 percent of its members are from 15 countries around the world, while the remaining 20 percent are natives of Montreal who successfully facilitated the integration of the newcomers. The orchestra has entertained Montreal audiences with numerous performances, including many benefit concerts as well as having produced several recordings. The orchestra has also been selected as the subject of four documentary films. They have been rehearsing at Cote Saint-Luc City Hall for many years and as part of the arrangement, they agree to perform a free concert once a year.
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Spearheaded by Councillor Mike Cohen who is passionately responsible for Animal Welfare, this group has been focused for several years on controlling the stray feline population that number in the thousands through humane measures. Cohen had co-chaired the event for many years with former Cllr. Sam Goldbloom, another cat lover who was in attendance. Rookie Cllr. Mitch Kujavsky is Cohen’s new partner in the concert program. Kujavsky proudly announced he is a cat and dog owner.
Conductor Joseph Milo and his orchestra did a superb job of entertaining the capacity audience. The evening began with two solo numbers by vocalist Alexandra Cohen who later acted as emcee. Alexandra is a McGill second year medical student who loves to perform and sing on stage. She was bubbling over with charisma as she sang with a huge smile.
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Cellists of the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra

The Gideon Vigderhous Quartet were sensational performing many jazz swing standards. Their talent and improvisation and passion are written across their faces and worth following to their next appearance.
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Jazz vocalist Nicole Arrage wows the audience

 

Another treat was the vocal accompaniment to both the quartet and the symphony by Nicole Arrage.
Earlier this year Arrage was co-narrator of the CSL Dramatic Society (her second year on stage with CSLDS) performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. She is a McGill University Schulich School of Music student in jazz voice performance. She sang beautifully with an impressive range in style and pitch. Nicole performed a terrific number with the quartet called ‘After Midnight’ showing her talent in jazz and scat. She also joined the symphony in a rendition of ‘Summertime’ as well as a playful number called, ‘Everyone Wants to be a Cat.’ Clearly she is full of personality and talent.
The symphony filled the music hall with Broadway numbers, golden oldies and classics. They are an extraordinary group that is a must-see. Hats off to Cohen for producing this concert, locally, each year. It is an exceptional extravaganza, a delight to attend and a unique experience for a neighbourhood outing.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s return. It truly was the cat’s meow!

N

See: Video I shot at a previous MWSO concert

Shana Tova

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Wishing friends and family, near and far, happiness, peace and prosperity.

Video: Acceptance speech at D’Arcy McGee Citizenship Medals 2018 Ceremony

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D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the National Assembly goes to…, Nashen Notes

D’Arcy McGee medals awarded, The Suburban

The Late Gerry Weinstein among citizenship medal recipients, Canadian Jewish News

 

 

D’Arcy McGee medals awarded

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From left, Sarah Buzaglo, Lina Fortin, David Birnbaum, Glenn Nashen, and Lynn and Jeff Weinstein.
Joel Goldenberg Photo

The annual D’Arcy McGee Citizenship Medals, conceived by area MNA David Birnbaum, were awarded at a ceremony recently to École des amis-du-monde principal Lina Fortin, former Côte St. Luc councillor Glenn Nashen and, posthumously, community activist Gerry Weinstein.

As well, Maimonide secondary IV student Sarah Buzaglo won the third annual Victor C. Goldbloom Vivre ensemble essay contest.

The ceremony was held outside the Bernard Lang Civic Centre in Côte St. Luc. The jury was made up of former D’Arcy McGee MNAs Herbert Marx, Robert Libman and Lawrence Bergman. The latter two attended the ceremony, but Marx could not due to illness. Also on hand were CSL Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and members of his council, and Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg and Councillor Michael Goldwax.

Of Fortin, Birnbaum said: “During her tenure, Lina has made it her mission to create a positive and inclusive school for her students — a school open to the world and ready to accompany every student on a positive journey as they strive to master French, and every other subject.”

Of Nashen, Birnbaum said he has “matched an exemplary professional career with an equally impressive record of volunteer community service. Glenn conceived, organized and initiated ‘Volunteer Citizens on Patrol’ (vCOPs) 11 years ago. They help individuals with safety and security matters and assist in crowd control at local events and in emergencies. Glenn was also actively involved in Emergency Medical Services for over 30 years. One of the highlights as CSL City Councillor was his initiation and introduction of Canada’s first municipal legislation requiring bike helmets in 1992.”

Birnbaum praised Weinstein as a “true and selfless community activist who would leave no stone unturned in order to do good for those more vulnerable. Gerry was instrumental in the development of B’nai Brith House, a 95-unit residence of affordable housing in Côte St. Luc. The residence that now bears his name along with that of Ted Greenfield is a model for fulfilling seniors’ housing needs in a dignified and fulfilling manner.”

Weinstein’s son Jeff, on hand with his mother Lynn, accepted the medal.

In her winning essay, Buzaglo wrote: “In order to ‘live together’, the world must unite and live as a whole. In other words, we must work together to better ourselves and evolve. We must take into account all the external conflicts that set barriers in order to achieve this.”

Premier Philippe Couillard also offered congratulations to the winners in a video shot with Birnbaum, praising each of the medal winners for their accomplishments.

Montreal complètement Cirque best pick: Scotch & Soda

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If you even remotely enjoy Montreal’s uber-artsy circus scene you won’t want to miss Scotch & Soda. This  extraordinary and zany show by Company 2 is on stage until July 21 at Theatre St. Denis in collaboration with the Just For Laughs festival.

We attended opening night last night. The theatre was completely sold out and there’s no wondering why. This show was spectacular from beginning to end. Two groups of performers, one circus-artistic and the other jazz-musical intertwined for 95 minutes of pure sensation. Both artistry and musical components were outstanding.

Scotch and Soda performed at The London Wonderground. David Carberry, ©Alastair Muir 20.05.15

Scotch & Soda is the result of an exciting mixology between two groups of artists and friends. On the one hand, we have the acrobats of Company 2, an ensemble of multidimensional circus artists. On the other hand, the Uncanny Carnival band is a tight-knit group of musicians from Sydney, Australia. Each musician brings their own flavour, and like the best single malt whiskey, this creates a unique blend. Scotch & Soda is the result of this mix: circus and jazz, served straight up.

A show that is an actual cocktail of exciting backgrounds: world-class circus and heart pounding jazz. It’s a perfect blend of art, fun, and friendship. This cocktail needs just one final greeting… the audience.

The show is brilliant. Ultra-creative. Exciting. You’ve never seen anything like it. I give it a 10 out of 10. Don’t miss it.

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