Music breathes life into seasons

By: Gwenda Nemerofsky
Winnipeg Free Press; April 15, 2011

MUSIC reviewers often bemoan the inadequacy of words to describe musical performances. Not so composers and writers when it comes to describing nature. In the case of Winnipeg composer Sid Robinovitch's contribution to Cantus Borealis: Song of the Forest, the 100 per cent organic nature of his compositional style became part of the landscape itself.

In a unique collaboration with writer Katherine Bitney, sound artist Ken Gregory and photographer Mandy Malazdrewich, Robinovitch created this extraordinary piece of art that takes audience members by the hand and walks them straight into the forest with him. The colleagues spent several days each season in regions of Manitoba boreal forest, listening, absorbing and observing the sights, sounds and smells of their surroundings. The project was a Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (MCO) commission supported by the Manitoba Arts Council.

A Choral Celebration

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir
Dec. 3-4, 1988
by Neil Harris
Winnipeg Free Press
Dec. 4, 1988

If we had been prepared to expect a great evening of singing and playing with the Beethoven Ninth, we were not prepared for the great beauty of Shireem, the new choral work by Winnipeg Composer, Sid Robinovitch.

Beauty is not a word often used to describe new music, but no other word will do.  Using a beautiful text, Robinovitch has composed a serious and serene work and in the process shown that he has a sensitive love for the human voice. He also had the maturity and courage to write music that honoured the text as well as the voice.  Theis was not lost on the audience, which responded to it with great applause.

There is a lesson here. The human heart will respond when it is touched by sincerity, truth and beauty.

It was that kind of evening and it will be repeated again today. 

Poetry, Music blend magically

Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Young United Church, Feb. 4, 1987
by Karen Clavelle
Winnipeg Free Press, Feb. 5, 1987

Last night's Manitoba Chamber Orchestra concert was a winner all around – the music can only be described as superlative, with a stellar cast.

Miriam Waddington, a bona fide Canadian poet, was present to read the poetry which inspired Sid Robinovitch to create Prairie Sketches for orchestra. And last night, the audience of about 600 heard the work's premiere performance.

Robinovitch's musical interpretation of the Waddington poems was insightful and sensitive. There was a perfect marriage of poetry and music which came out of the two artists' elemental understanding of the prairie and its ways.

The set's first piece, Things of the World, was a joyous exploration of the land and growing awareness of the life therein.  It was balanced by the closing piece, Liturgy, a work of rich, sonorous harmonies, homophonic and reverent.

City Street wafted over the listener like the scent of honeysuckle on a humid summer night.  Underlying the tranquil calm was a steady buzz, and the work gained the weight of summer heat as it moved toward the end, apropos of a long summer night.

Lullaby was lyrical work in the jazz vein, gentle and rhythmical, and lyrical in the poetic sense with the author's addition of lines referring to Winnipeg's snows and Seven Sisters lakes.

The remaining works in the set were contrasting and interesting, some with glimpses of prairie sunshine, come cheeky and full of vitality, and others containing hints of darkness and conflict.  The collection of works drew some of the warmest applause to come from a Winnipeg audience in a long time.  It was well deserved. 

New classical music fused with big band sensibilities

by Andrew Thompson
Winnipeg Free Press
March 30, 2003

Groundswell's concert last night at the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre was an interesting clash between big band sensibilities and those of the mainstream in the field of new classical music.  Changing the idiom of new music by fusing it with a form that is traditionally associated with the more composed and arranged side of jazz was a good idea, and its execution was equally successful. 

Ron Paley and his Big Band was the crucible, and new music by some familiar classical names provided the raw materials for the evening's fare.

The ubiquitous Sid Robinovitch provided the opening number which was a well-structured world premiere called Night Moods. An insistent jazz drum beat under some impressionistic chords and lines bookended a more traditional central section that featured a cool 4-4-2 theme that sounded really hot in the horn section. 

Some fine sax and trumpet solos came over top the riff-based guitar and bassmoping.  It was a fine ride that reminded one, in various moments, of some of the more slick New York jazz combined with the solid arranging skills of an Oliver Nelson.  

Record Review: ROBINOVITCH: Klezmer Suite with Saxophone Quartet Concerto; Camptown (Banjo Concerto) Finjan; Saxology Canada; Winnipeg Symphony/ Bramwell Tovey-CBC 5212-56:26 

Milton A. CAINE
American Record Guide
March/April 2002, p. 151-152

Klezmer is jazz or jazz-like music with a Yiddish accent. Though no more sectarian or chauvinistic than, say, soul or gospel music, like those, it may not appeal to all music lovers or jazz enthusiasts. For those who dig it, so to speak, it should prove tasty, delicious, and appetizing. 

Rather than recasting individual songs in a klezmer vein (even The Nutcracker has been given the klezmer treatment), Sid Robinovitch has created extended compositions: a suite in five movements, a concerto in the standard three movements, and a fantasia consisting of a theme and variations. All three works are rhythmic, energetic, and at all times imaginative in the various motifs employed as well as in the instrumentation. The klezmer effects and nuances add a particular special flavor to each of these works that infuses the music but does not dominate it. The accents in all instances are strong but not overpowering. Mr. Robinovilch is a talented and resourceful composer; we can hope works of such considerable skill and stature will in time find their way into major concert halls everywhere. 

The Suite combines a klezmer band with a symphony orchestra to often dazzling effect. They serve as equal partners In the music in the manner or a concerto grosso. The music moves fittingly from the brief boisterous Burlesque through a quietly lovely and somewhat melancholy ("even schmaltzy", according to the composer, but not to me) Arioso, to a rhythmic Gallicienne, a haunting Tango (talk about odd coupling!) and the short final movement, labeled 'Tzigane', which is the most folk-like in its sound and fury and brings the work to a rousing end. For the concerto, which also includes a tango, he combines a saxophone quartet with the orchestra, and instead of the noodling and blasting effects I expected from so many saxophones, Mr. Robinovitch has created a variety of textures and sounds that are sometimes surprising and always Iistenable. 

The last and shortest piece is based on Stephen Foster's famous song and covers what is by now familiar ground in a variety of fascinating ways. It is a delightful exercise, with the banjo the most surprising element, made to sound sometimes like a Javanese gamelan or an oriental lute and only at the end reverting to a conventional banjo timbre as the variations finally return to Foster's original piece, I found this last work especially delightful. 

Together, these three compositions prove how flexible and adaptable the klezmer idiom can be when used resourcefully and imaginatively. A highly skillful and talented composer, as Mr. Robinovitch here proves himself to be, can obviously expand the genre in compelling ways. For me, klezmer music has never before sounded so effective or so satisfying. It came as both a surprise and a revelation-the best use of klezmer that I've heard so far. 

New level of challenge

By: Gwenda Nemerofsky
Winnipeg Free Press; April 18, 2009

The least avant-garde of the offerings was also the most recent. Winnipeg composer Sid Robinovitch completed Passages late in 2008. Written expressly for this concert and for the two soloists, Pat Daniels, clarinet and Diana McIntosh, piano, it was a softer, gentler piece we could relax and enjoy.

Robinovitch, unlike many current composers, still writes melodies. He was influenced by Gail Sheehy's 1976 book of the same name, dealing with stages of one's life.

The work certainly had its different distinctions and, played lovingly by Daniels, with her warm tone, it gave us a little Paris sidewalk, a little Klezmer, then some regret and sombreness. Piano interludes provided momentary drama and crises. Then the clouds lifted and a fresh breeze blew through for an optimistically carefree outlook. The soft fade-out left us with a nice, calm feeling.

Shades of the farmyard! 

Concerto for Percussion and Strings

World Premiere by Manitoba Chamber Orchestra with soloist Victoria Sparks

by Jane Enkin, January 25, 2016

A delighted audience responded with great happiness to Sid Robinovitch’s invigorating new Concerto for Percussion and Strings.  Soloist Victoria Sparks played marimba and vibraphone, with assurance and fluency. She communicated warmly with both audience and orchestra, sharing her sense of fun and her inspiring energy.

Robinovitch is a treasured member of Winnipeg’s musical community. HIs compositions have been performed widely by orchestras and choirs in Canada, the United States and Israel. Many of his pieces incorporate traditional texts or folk material, including his compositions drawing on the psalms, klezmer music and Judeo-Spanish songs.  In this new piece, I heard the sounds of Spain and Latin America.

The whole piece was warm and filled with joy. It was fabulous visually -- Sparks danced as she moved back and forth from high pitches to low on her long instruments. Guest conductor Alain Trudel was dancing too.

Joyous sounds spring from concert of psalms

Wpg. Free Press - July 20/04
by Gwenda Nemerofsky

Fringe-goers take heed! There's another show in town and it's got a faithful audience.  Last night,  400 people crowded into a very hot Crescent Fort Rouge United Church to hear a concert of psalms.

Some were brand new, commissioned for this special program, part of the Winnipeg Organ Festival.  Some were familiar, traditional melodies and 3 were composed by Felix Mendelssohn.

Directed by Elroy Friesen, with Lottie Enns-Braun at the three manual Casavant organ, the Festival Chorus, comprised of many members of Friesen's regular choir, Prairie Voices performed admirably under difficult conditions.  While audience members fanned themselves and sipped from glasses of water, the choir and soloists executed 17 complete and often demanding psalms.

A true highlight of the program has to be Manitoba composer and Winnipeg resident Sid Robinovitch's Psalm 23 - The Lord is My Shepherd, one of the commissioned works. Just when you think you've heard every possible version of this most famous psalm, Robinovitch comes along with this charming and very listenable rendering. 

It had drama, varying colours and moods and was simply lovely. The tenors and basses sang it through the first time, showing good balance. 

The women joined them for the repeat and with the organ (which has as important a role as the singers in this piece), presented a stirring new hymn that deserves to become a tradition. 

Excitement of a three-ring circus

By: Gwenda Nemerofsky
Winnipeg Free Press,  02/2/2011

REMEMBER the line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: "What's in a name?" If there's one thing you can count on with New Music, it's works with intriguing names. They often set the scene for the music to come or set listeners' expectations.

That said, what does Raggabaloo sound like to you? Prior to hearing it, I envisioned something lighthearted and fun, a work that said the composer, in this case Winnipeg staple Sid Robinovitch, doesn't take himself too seriously.

Sure enough, this brief, kicky world premiere, commissioned by the WSO and played by the WSO's brass, woodwinds and percussion sections with Richard Lee conducting, was a refreshing mélange of ragtime and bluster. An introspective interlude showed the breadth of expression these talented musicians could summon.

Their clean, crisp playing made this the perfect palate cleanser for the heavier music to come.

Concert honours Selkirk settlers

Program provides beautiful tribute

By: Gwenda Nemerofsky
Winnipeg Free Press; Nov. 10, 2012

In a program dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Selkirk settlers in Manitoba from Scotland, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra presented a concert entitled Scottish Symphony: A Selkirk Settlers Celebration.

In contrast to the history of the occasion, both guest conductor and piano soloist for Friday night's performance were astonishingly young. American conductor Joshua Weilerstein is just 24, and already assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. 

In true pioneering spirit, Friday's audience was the first to sample Sid Robinovitch's four-movement Red River, written for this concert. Commissioned by the Seven Oaks Historical Society for the anniversary, the work is a historical tableau of the early days on the Red. Opening with an air of anticipation and adventure, the first movement colourfully portrays the river's flow and the creatures near it as expertly executed by the woodwinds, glockenspiel and harp. Weilerstein's direction was fluid and confident, as if he'd conducted this many times.

The second movement is excitingly urgent, full of rhythmic drive in the low brass and timpani. But the third movement, Reminiscence, truly touches the heart. A simple but beautiful melody was played with tenderness by harpist Richard Turner and enhanced by Jan Kocman on flute and Cristian Markos on cello. This is a true gem of a piece that we will want to hear often.

New Music Festival

Bart Kives  
Winnipeg Free Press; Feb. 5, 2005

Next up was the world premiere of Shadow Play, a fusion-inflected, new-agey composition by guitarist Greg Lowe and fellow Winnipegger Sid Robinovitch. Lowe's distorted electric phrasings and semi-improvised solos merged surprisingly well with the WSO, particularly during a prog-rockish passage dominated by harpist Richard Turner.

Record Review: Sacre Choral Works, Elmer Iseler Singers

Sacred Choral Works", with the Elmer Iseler Singers under the direction of their eponymous chief (MVCD1058). This is a recording of real distinction. The singing is of the highest quality, and much of the music is equally fine. The real surprise came with the final item in Elmer Iseler's programme, the Talmud Suite (1984), six settings of traditional Hebrew texts, by Sid Robinovich (b. 1942), for I didn't expect anything this good. It's wonderfully moving music, particularly the deeply felt "Funeral Oration" that forms the second movement. Robinovich, whose choral writing is utterly idiomatic, doesn't try to make his music sounds explicitly Jewish; though modern, the style is unashamedly tonal, with room for chromaticisms aplenty and some beautifully chosen chordal closes - like some eternal verity recalled through the trials of the past century. I have been back to this music again and again - indeed, at one point I went straight to the "Funeral Oration" and pressed the repeat button to let the music roll past me uninterrupted by the double bar-line; each time it became more affecting. From now on I shall be looking out for Robinovich's name with keen interest. The booklet contains the full texts. As good a choral disc to come my way for years - enthusiastically recommended.

Dreaming Lolita

Interchange, March, 1993
by John Becker

The WSO has a lot of nerve, kicking off this New Music Festival with a steel-toed boot in the balls like Dreaming Lolita by Winnipeg composer Sid Robinovitch. The piece is about rape – the seduction/rape of a twelve year-old girl by a much older man. The text, spoken and sung, is from poetry by Kim Morrissey, with a novel by Nabokov somewhere in the background.  Both romantic and unbearably stark, Dreaming Lolita ia very literal work, often graphic, all of it through the sight and mind of the girl. There are uncomfortable complications here. Anne-Marie Donovan delivered a performance of rivetting intensity. Unswervingly focussed, Robinovitch's score takes the lush soundscape of Mahler and packs it like gun-powder behind every word. 

Winnipeg Singers perform works of Jewish Composers

Reviewed by Holly Harris
November 15, 2014

Songs of war and peace, hope and healing rang through Congregation Shaarey Zedek's sanctuary last Sunday, October 19 as the Winnipeg Singers presented its 2014-15 season-opener Psalm and Song: Choral Music of Jewish Composers.

The program led by longtime artistic director Yuri Klaz included nine liturgical and secular works including, knobbly, the Canadian premiere of Winnipeg composer Sid Robinovitch's Songs in a Time of War. Now in his eleventh year with the organization, Klaz currently leads three other local choral ensembles including Shaarey Zedek's choir and the venerable Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir.

Originally commissioned and debuted by the University of Wisconsin, Robinovitch's four-movement work based on late Israeli poet Elisha Porat's evocativetext deals with different facets of war, including its crucible of wide-ranging emotion spanning love to loss.

The award-winnipeg writer, initially discovered by Robinovitch on the internet, had himself served in three Israeli wars, discovered by Robinovitch on the internet, had himself served in three Israeli wars, passing away on his kibbutz near Hadera almost exactly one year after the piece debuted in Oshkosh, WI on March 11, 2012.

The work itself is a masterfully crafted study in contrasts that also speaks to the times.  First movement Khamsin on the Hill reflects on happier days when two lovers meet during the time of khamsin – hot breezes that blow off the desert. To Die at the Springs of El-Hamma embodies the utter destruction of war, with pianist Lisa Rumpel's opening pounding chords evoking the fury of exploding bombs. Homecoming tells of anguished families waiting for loved ones to return from war. But the last movement, Falling Snow, quickly became the emotional heart of the entire piece, expressing remembrance for friends lost in battle with its final hushed line "where did this all go?" sung with harrowing poignancy. 

Choral program honours local musician, composer

By: Gwenda Nemerofsky
Winnipeg Free Press, October 20, 2009

The Music of Sid Robinovitch
Winnipeg Singers
Jubilee Place, Oct. 18
Attendance: 390
4 stars out of five

It's not often a living composer is saluted with a program dedicated entirely to his works. This is exactly what happened Sunday evening to Sid Robinovitch -- one of Winnipeg's most respected local musicians.

The Winnipeg Singers' season premiere performance was devoted to Robinovitch's compositions. Conductor Yuri Klaz directed this ambitious program, which was also going into the recording studio the next day.

Robinovitch's faith is a major player in his inspiration. The rivetingly moving Prayer at Night, with clarinetist Sharon Atkinson and pianist Verna Wiebe, is set to psalms and its first word is "Adonai," Hebrew for "Lord" or "God."

Its interwoven harmonies and rhythm give it a requiem feel. As silky clarinet phrases interspersed amongst the singers' reverent lines, listeners felt the urge to close their eyes and be transported to another place. What more could you ask of a piece of music?

A delightful addition was the Pembina Trails Voices Boys, a choir comprised of Grades 4-8 boys with unchanged voices.

Impeccably dressed and disciplined, they paraded onstage for Hymn of Glory, the third part in Psalms of Experience. They sang in perfect unison in lovely, clear voices, attentive to Klaz's direction. When joined by the Winnipeg Singers, xylophone and tubular bells played by Tony Cyre, they produced a gorgeous full sound with a rich timbre that was truly glorious.

Ex-Winnipeg Singer, soprano Stacey Nattrass took the stage for the cycle Song of Songs. She offered a perfectly understated approach to the atmospheric A Wild Flower, with guitarist Ryszard Tyborowski, who gave this a madrigal feel and clarinetist Atkinson, sounding somewhat tight.

Nattrass's voice carried prettily in My Lover is Mine and I am His with it intriguing rhythmic intricacies. Both singer and clarinetist shone in Bind Me As a Seal Upon Your Heart, enhancing its moody mystery. Nattrass wisely never let what is evidently a powerful voice become overpowering, but chose instead to honour the music. How refreshing.

Members of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra joined the choir for Canzoni Romane (Roman Songs), full of modal melodies sending singers to the heights and depths of their ranges. As the MCO played swinging rhythms, tenor PJ Buchan, sounding better with every outing, lent his flawless voice to a plaintive line. The entire ensemble had a wonderfully substantial, full sound and flair to spare.

The City at Night was sung with joy and a good dose of vigour. Klaz's wide-open arms let loose a floodgate of magnificent sound.

The Singers had fun with Canciones Por Las Americas, a lighter Latin-themed set. Klaz swayed as he urged the singers to be alternately sensuous, sharp, and rousing.

This retrospective of mainly choral works showed us something that can't be said with assuredness about many composers writing today.

Sid Robinovitch has a lasting place in choral repertoire.

Israeli piano duo dazzles Israeli Concert series crowd for second time

Review by Matt Bellan, Jewish Post and News, Oct. 11, 20-06

Israeli piano duo Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg returned to Winnipeg last month for their second concert in the Israeli Concert Series. In pieces for two pianos, each faced the other, seated at a Steinway grand piano.

One of he highlights of the concert was the word premiere of "journey to the East" for 2 pianos by Winnipeg-based composer Sid Robinovitch.

The piece has 3 movements – Tangier, Petra, and Tangboche. Each featured sharply contrasting musical styles. Tangier was melodious, with a Spanish-Moorish tone that conjured up imagees of someone browsing through a Moroccan bazaar.

Next came Petra, a slower, dissonant movement, with Garburg starting off by pounding out distinct bass chords, and Silver spelling out the dreamlike melody. The piece ended with some dizzyingly fast trilling, and a cascade of high notes.

Tangboche, the last movement, named for a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas of Nepal, was also dissonant, and appropriately oriental-sounding.  Both peered a little more often at the the music for this Robinovitch work, which they're less familiar with. 

New Music has fascinating history

Winnipeg Free Press, Feb. 2, 2005

Local composer Sid Robinovitch recently edited a new piece of music to be performed at Musici N' Maevens at the Rady Jewish Community Centre on Feb. 17. The mysterious piece, Symphonia, was brought to Winnipeg after the Second World War and was stored in a mailing tube for more than 50 years.

Robinovitch says the work was written over 60 years ago by war survivor Adam Rosenblum. Dr. Stefan Carter, a retired Winnipeg cardiologist, befriended Rosenblum during his medical studies in Munich in 1947 and 1948.  In 1939, Rosenblum was a prisoner of war, but didn't speak much about his experiences.

Carter says the witty composer gave him the piece of music before Carter moved to Canada. He kept the music under wraps for so many years because he was busy raising a family and pursuing his medical career.  Carter came across the music while going through his closet after he retired and thought he should share it with other people. 

Carter brought the music to Robinovitch and asked if he could make sense of it. Robinovitch says that while some parts of the music were illegible, the overall feel and character of the work was preserved. "It has a light-hearted and happy quality."

The piece will be performed by Cheryl Pauls at the Music and Maevens Concert. 

Diaspora: Robinovitch's "Rhodes Remembered"

Jerusalem Post Magazine: Nov 20, 2008
by Rhoda Spivak

When award winning Canadian composer Sid Robinovitch did a musical setting of a Spanish poem about a Sephardic Jewish woman believed to have perished in the Holocaust, he never imagined that he would learn of her survival and have her grandchildren in the audience the night his work was first performed in the US.

But that is what happened when Robinovitch's composition, "Rodas Recordada" (Rhodes Remembered) about the fate of the Jewish community on the Greek island of Rhodes, was performed two years ago in Seattle, Washington. This beautiful composition, as well as other music influenced by the Sephardic tradition, is on Sefarad, a new CD of Robinovitch's work on the Marquis Classics label.

The story behind "Rodas Recordada" is truly remarkable: In 1933, 24-year-old Guillermo Díaz-Plaja was one of a group of Spanish writers and scholars who traveled to several of the Mediterranean Sephardic communities in search of ancient Hispanic folklore. Díaz-Plaja went to the Sephardic community of Rhodes, where he made the acquaintance of a woman named Mazaltó de Jacob Israel, and she recited the "Ballad of Three Doves" to him in Ladino.

Forty years later, Díaz-Plaja, who by now had become a celebrated literary critic and a member of the Royal Spanish Academy, returned to the Sephardic community where his literary career had been born. As he well knew, a tragic change had taken place. After the Allies took Italy in 1943, the Germans occupied Rhodes. On July 23, 1944, they deported to Auschwitz the 1, 673 Sephardic Jews who were living on the island. All but 151 perished. Díaz-Plaja tried to retrace his steps to where Mazaltó de Jacob Israel lived, on the street running through the old "judería," which was now named the "Street of the Jewish Martyrs."

Stunned by the change, Díaz-Plaja wrote a poem, weaving memories of his first visit hearing the "Ballad of the Three Doves" with his shock and despair at the Jewish community's destruction. Believing that Mazaltó de Jacob Israel had died at the hands of the Nazis, Díaz-Plaja wrote in the last verse of his poem:

The songs are stilled -
Mazaltó de Jacob Israel.
My memory has become black
from tears and bitterness.
But your remembrance
I preserve Mazaltó de Jacob Israel.

Robinovitch, who has written music for symphonies, film, radio and television, discovered Díaz-Plaja's poem more than 30 years ago in a now defunct journal called The American Sepharadi. "When I was in Barcelona in 1979, I had the opportunity of meeting Díaz-Plaja, who died some five years later," Robinovitch recalls.

Robinovitch set Díaz-Plaja's poem to music at the request of Music of Remembrance, a concert organization in Seattle dedicated to performing music related to the Holocaust. Prior to the performance of "Rodas Recordada" in Seattle in 2006, Mina Miller, the artistic director of Music of Remembrance, sent him an e-mail in which she wrote: "We have started working with the Sephardic community to advertise the performance of your work... We have discovered something quite unbelievable. It turns out that Mazaltó de Jacob Israel did not perish... Apparently, she was rescued and came to Seattle! This is not a joke. Mazaltó even had a family here."

In a rather amazing turn of events, a woman named Lily Dejean, who was a member of Seattle's Sephardic community, had volunteered to assist Music of Remembrance in advertising the upcoming performance of Robinovitch's work. In the midst of the planning, Dejean realized that, some 40 years earlier, she had known Mazaltó de Jacob Israel. As Dejean, 79, recalls, "I was invited to join the committee [promoting Robinovitch's composition] and when they started to talk about the woman Mazaltó, I realized that the name sounded familiar. I put two and two together. Mazaltó had lived in my neighborhood [in central Seattle] with her son and his family, just a few houses away from where I lived!"

In fact, Mazaltó de Jacob Israel had two sons and a daughter, Rosa, who had come to Seattle. In 1939, they arranged to get Mazaltó out of Rhodes to Seattle where she lived until she died in 1945.

Dejean adds, "Mazaltó had actually boarded at my home from December to February in 1945, just before she passed away."

As Mazaltó's granddaughter Irene Eskenazi, now 76, says, "My grandmother got on a ship and landed in New York. My cousin, Ike Alhadeff, went to New York and brought her to Seattle. She lived with my parents. I remember her singing melodies when I was young. We never spoke Spanish or Ladino and the grandchildren couldn't understand her and she couldn't understand us. But I remember she was always laughing and happy..."

After escorting his grandmother to Seattle in 1939, Alhadeff, Mazaltó's grandson, went on to become a B-17 pilot in the 398th Bombardment Group in the US Army Air Corps that flew on D-Day.

Eskenazi and Alhadeff, and Max Israel, another of Mazaltó's grandchildren, as well as other family members, were all present for the US premiere of Robinovitch's "Rodas Recordada" in Seattle. Eskenazi says of the performance, "It was absolutely marvelous."

According to Eskenazi, her grandmother Mazaltó actually had "11 children who are scattered all over the world, including Africa."

Robinovitch's newly released Sefarad album marks the first time "Rodas Recordada," has been recorded on a CD. The piece is set for three singers along with guitar, clarinet and cello.

Robinovitch, who is Ashkenazi and grew up in western Canada, became interested in Sephardic music when he lived in Toronto.

"I started attending a Sephardic synagogue where the congregants were from Tangier. They spoke Spanish among themselves. I attended services and tried to soak up some of their music," he says.

Robinovitch originally taught social sciences at York University in Toronto, but since 1977 he has devoted himself to musical composition, having studied at Indiana University and the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. Robinovitch's album Klezmer Suite, a recording devoted entirely to his music performed by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, was nominated for a 2002 Juno award and received a Canadian Prairie Music Award for outstanding classical recording. In July 2006 a special concert including music by Robinovitch was presented in Tel Aviv under the sponsorship of the Canadian Embassy.

Bone Button Borscht is a tasty holiday entertainment

Bill Gladstone
Special to the Canadian Jewish News
Toronto, December 8, 2004

What do you get when you throw a popular shtetl folktale into a pot aong with a pinch of Chanukah seasoning, some flavourful music for full orhestra and klezmer band, and live narration by Barbara Budd, the toronto-based co-host of the popular CBC radio show As It Happens? The answer is Bone Button Borscht, a tasty holiday entertainment for the whole family, creatively assembled by Budd and due to be performed next week in Toronto.

The main ingredient of Bone Button Borscht is the children's story of the same name by Toronto author Aubrey Davis, published about a decade ago by Kids Can Press.

Set in an Eastern European shtetl, the tale tells the popular legend of a beggar who arrives in a poor village, claiming he can make a delicious soup using only the buttons of his coat - if only he had one more button.  But no one at first will help him with the soup.

"Gradually, everyone realizes they have something they can offer the stranger, and that if they do reach out their hands in generosity and sharing, then everyone profits," Budd recounted. "By sharing, they learn that sometimes the miracle is within every single person."

Eight years ago, on the first night of Chanuah, Budd read Davis's story without music on As it Happens. The story generated such a huge response from the show's international audience that she retold it the following year. Inspired to set the story to music, she spent four or five years searching for suitable classical accompaniment, and finally discovered Suite for Klezmer Band and Orchestra by Winnipeg composer, Sid Robinovitch.

"When I hear it, it was like a 'Eureka' moment for me." said Budd.  She obtained Robinovitch's permission to rearange the composition, pulling it apart and "quilting it back together" to suit the story.

Bone Button Borscht was warmly received when it premiered last December with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall.  Now Budd is readying to perform it again on Dec. 16 with the Toronto Philharmonia Orchestra and the local klezmer band, Beyond the Pale.  Performances are also scheduled in Winnipeg with the Winnipeg Symphony on Dec. 23 and in Kitchener with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony on Jan. 20, 2005.  A bilingual performance with the Montreal Symphony is slated for Montreal on March 20, 2005.

Budd grew up studying music in St. Catherines; she played the violin.  After studying theatre at York University, she acted for five seasons with the Stratford Festival, then joined As It Happens.

The experience of creatively assembling the words and music of Bone Button Borscht into an artic whole has been immensely satisfying for her, she said. "I was raised an Irish Caholic, and I learned a wonderful Yiddish word," she said. "The word is 'bashert' and it means they were meant to go together. It's kind of a lovely word."

Bone Button Borscht is being performed at the George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the arts, on Thursday Dec. 16 as part of Sounds of the Season, and evening of music with the Toronto Philharmonia Orchestra. 

Ethno-classical mix creates entertaining, eclectic show 

by Gwenda Nemerofsky
Winnipeg Free Press, Jan. 9, 2004

And now for something completely different... that certainly describes Saturday evening's eclectic concert presented by the Virtuosi series.

On Stage was San Diego clarinettist Robert Zelickman and the Milan Milosevic Trio, consisting of Milosevic, clarinet, Richard Tyborowski, guitar, and the late addition, Steve Kirby on double bass. The repertoire was an ethno-classical mix drawing from several eras, making for an entertaining evening. 

Winnipeg composer Sid Robinovitch's Klezmer Fricassee brought the entire ensemble to the stage for a rousing finale. There are a multitude of styles in this piece, yet they blend seamlessly into their own delicious confection of a work, rich with melody, colour and texture. 

Dancers and singers create stirring mix of motion, verse

by Garth Buchholtz
Winnipeg Free Press, May 24, 2002

El Rio
Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers
Franco Manitoban Cultural Centre

Most modern dance is performed to canned music, which is why the prospect of a contemporary dancers show that incorporates an onstage chamber choir seemed so enticing.  On Wednesday night, Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers offered the Free Press a look behind the scenes at their well-conceieved new show, El Rio, which is at the Franco Manitoban Cultural Centre. 

With a rich, soaring score by Winnipeg's Sid Robinovitch, taped exerts of txt by Mexican surrealist poet Octavio Paz, four dance artists and 20 members of the Winnipeg Singers, El Rio (The River, in Spanish) flows with currents of beauty, emotion and raw humanity. Rather than simply having the singers upstage from the dancers, as most companies would do choreographer Tom Stroud has them move as well as sing. 

Under the tall, cathedral ceiling of the Franco Manitoban, with graceful and often dramatic lighting design by Hugh Conacher, the 60-minute El Rio had a captivating, almost elegiac quality uinderscored by the powerful spoken verse. For the dancers, Stroud's sweeping, often circular movement phrases sung with as  much feeling as the extraordinary singers, who were not only challenged to work without sheet music, but to move in and out of configurations like a cadre of monks performing a ritual. 

While the tone of the show is elevated and even spiritual, the visual power of the corps of singers onstage, combined with crystalline voices that projected in different directions (depending on where each singer was facing at any moment), and the emotional intensity of the dance make for a stimulating experience. 

Major Jewish event coming to Beth Tzedec

by Rick Kardonne
The Canadian Jewish News, May 19, 1983

One of this season's most significant music events, in terms of ambition and creative scope tied into reinforcement of our Jewish tradition, will take place on May 31 at 8:30 PM at Beth Tzedec.  The premiere of Shir Hanagid (song of the Nagid) by Toronto composer Sid Robinovitch will headline a selection of Sephardic choral wors in both Ladino and Hebrew, performed by the Beth Tzedec Choral Group under the direction of Gordon Kushner.

Commissioned through the Ontario Arts Council and to be recorded for broadcast on CBC-FM, the text for this work is taken from the poetry of Samuel Ibn Nagrella, a poet, scholar and military leader of the Spanish medieval period. 

Ibn Nagrella served as a leader of Granada's army which was in constant warfare with neighbouring Seville. It was indeed truly remarkable that a Jew stood at the helm of a Muslim army, which, from 1038 to 1056, the year of Nagrella's death, knew only two years of respite from fighting. His triumphs were viewed by Jews as national victories. In addition to being a military leader, Ibn Nagrella was a scholar and communal leader. Writing in Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic, he produced numerous volumes of legal commentary based on both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. It is as a poet, however, that Nagreall has made is greatest mark on posterity.  He is the first important Hebrew poet in Andalusia, pioneering in the development of secular themes associated with the courtly tradition.

Shir Hanagid, which will be sung in both Hebrew and English, is an evocation in word and song of the life and times of Samuel Ibn Nagrella, involving narrator, soloists chorus and instrumental chamber ensemble.  A special CBC chorus has been engaged for this occasion with tenor soloist James Mclean and narrator, Henry Ramer. 

Seven Songs Captivate

by Neil Harris
Winnipeg Free Press

Aurora Musicale
Winnipeg Art Gallery
March 14, 1994

Aurora Musicale presented its own version of a new music festival Monday evening, and it was a very interesting concert.

Monday at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, there was no doubt that the five works presente were all of this century.  Three were new works, two of them by Manitoba composers.  All the composers of new worsks were present.

The most captivating work of the evening was Sid Robinovitch;s African Songs.  These seven songs, with text by African poets, were adroitly handled by Robinovitch.

He has the rare ability to write music that is constantly interesting with great audience appeal, without ever relying on easy tricks.  They were wonderfully sung by Heidi Klassen, who also distinguished herself in the dramatic Chansons Madecasses by Maurice Ravel. 

Wide open concert challenges audience

by James Manishen
Winnipeg Free Press

January 14, 1995

Last night's Groundswell concert was entitled Open Wide, andd that proved more an invitation to the audience's imagination than to the mouths of the eight singers who shared the bill.

New music concerts are oftn wildly variable, and this program of all vocal pieces was no exception.  But such was the commitment and expertise of singers Mel Braun, Scott Braun, Mary Jane Chausse, Therese Costes, James fast, Donnalyn Grills, Karen Jensen, and Victor Pankratz.

There was a vast range of styles on display, ranging from the accessible to the avant-garde. With such a mix, the challenge is to simply like the music, as well as admiring its creative resources.

That wasn't a problem with Winnipeg composer Sid Robinovitch's Soundchants. It proved very satisfying, born from the traditional bent which is a trait of his.  The second of th three was a typer-rhythmic, syncopated virtuoso display with primitive touches – Carl Orff in calypso perhaps, but plenty of fun.  The Third was a ghostly dirge with a Hebraic tang. 

Collage Night an intriguing mix of hits and misses

by Neil Harris
Winnipeg Free Press
January 27, 1996

Collage Night at the New Music Festival is fun and games night.  The audience sits on bleachers on stage, surrounding the performers. Many of the 1600 who attended Friday evening's concert had to sit out front, where what was lost in intimacy was made up for in comfort. 

Eleven works were presented and as might be expected in that number of new works, some were hits, and some were misses, but nearly all had some things of real interest in them. One of the most interesting pieces was the gifted Glen Buhr's Bassoon Concerto featuring Vincent Ellin.  His playing was incomparable. 

Another highlight, and the crowd-pleaser of the evening, was Sid Robinovitch's work for banjo and string orchestra, Camptown. Robinovitch is a composer who manages the near-impossible task of writing charming, accessible music that is, at the same time beautifully crafted and creative.  He was helped here by the delightful playing of Daniel Koulack on the banjo. 

Streatfeild leads WCO performance into the comfort zone

by James Manishen
Winnipeg Free Press
February 12, 1999

Congenial sentiments and warmly inviting performances marked Wednesday's Manitoba Chamber Orchestra concert. Simon Streatfeild was on the podium, leading the MCO in music by Schubert, Grieg, Vaughan Williams and Winnipeg composer, Sid Robinovitch. Any challenges in absorbing these wors were familiar and surmountable ones, making for a comforting pleasure quotient throughout. The 48-voice University of Manitoba Singers brought firm, warm tones to the Schubert and Robinovitch pieces.

An impressive work was the premiere of Robinovitch's Canzoni Romane (Roman Songs) for tenor, choir, and chamber orchestra. The texts were by Pier Paulo Pasolini, the congroversial film-maker murdered in 1975, yet here in fragrant poems about his native Italy.  They're supported in pictorial musical settings by Robinovitch, whose niche is accessibly inside the triad and comfortably melodic.

This is one of Robinovitch's most attractive pieces to date.  Again the University Singers acquitted themselves proudly. And with the MCO basking in the pride of its recent Juno nomination, one would hope Robinovitch's new effort merits consideration for another recorded project. 

Jazz-classical mix delights SSO audience

by Jenni Mortin
Saskatoon Star Phoenix
September 28, 1998

The Bassment Jazz Society came to the concert hall Saturday to kick off the Saskatoon Symphony's new season, and the jazz-classical mix honouring George Gershwin's birth a century ago bowled over the audience.

The knockout of the evenig was Winnipeg's Saxology Canada.  This saxophone quartet of Sasha Boychouk (alto and soprano), Shane Nestruk (baritone), Chuck McClelland (tenor), and Roger Mantie (alto) was making its first appearance with a symphony orchestra.  The mix was exhilarating. The SSO under artistic director Earl Stafford, joined them in two pieces demonstrating both the mooth and the snappy Gershwyn.

Saxology Canada returned after intermission to join the SSO in the world premiere of Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra by Winnipeg composer Sid Robinovitch. This demanding work featured some compelling solos by Sasha Boychouk on soprano sax.

Robinovitch's multi-textured music called for some unusual sounds from the orchestra, and a lot of sharp stops leading up to a crashing finale.  The great SSO percussion team had a field day. 

Festival ends on a grinding, pulsating note

duMaurier  New Music Festival
Centennial Concert Hall
Jan. 31, 1998

by James Manishen
Winnipeg Free Press

Though rhythm is the great common denominator in music, it also mirrors the personality of our time.

WSO compoer-in-residence Randolph Peters, Bramwell Tovey and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra closed the du Maurier New Music Festival Saturday night with a grinding, gyrating, pulsating look at rhythm's chief beneficiary, the dance.

Rave, the concert was called, Nine composers, four world premieres and a large, vocal audience riding waves of thythmic gear-shifting ,  sycopation and complexities whose scores surely resemble multiple road maps superimposed over each other. 

In a piece called On Being There, Winnipeg big-band leader Ron Paley's velvety main theme would have found a home in Nat King Coles songbook a generation back.  Paley is a sure-handed orchestrator and even managed a fugue in the tuneful go.

Slippery harmonies and echoes of Ellington jungle rhythms passed through Winnipeg composer Sid Robinovitch's Turkish Delight, which also premiered Robinovitch's own band, Terra Nova, partnered the WSO with adept sax work from Eli Herscovitch. 

Concert of Sid Robinovitch music dazzling

Compositions include tribute to Sephardic Jewish community killed in Holocaust

by Matt Bellan
Jewish Post and News, May 17, 2006

Winnipeg's Sid Robinovitch has had a fascinating career.  He started out as a social sciences professor wit a doctorate in Communications.  Since 1977, however, he has devoted himself to musical composition, after training in that area at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto.  

On May 7 the Winnipeg Classical Guitar Society performed some of his music, mainly on Jewish themes.  This memorable oncert demonstrated Robinovitch's billiance and versatility, and his deft blending of modern and traditional themes.

The highlight was the premiere of Rodas Recordada ("Rhodes Remembered") – a deeply moving composition with an intriguing history.

Most mof the piece is a ballad.  A Sephardic Jewish woman, Mazalto de Jacob Israel, a member of the Jewish community on the Greek island of Rhodes, recited this poem, The Ballad of the three Doves, to Guillermo Diaz-Plaja, a Spanish scholar visiting Rhodes in 1933.  She and other members of tht Jewish community were descendents of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.

Most of the community's 1,673 Jews were shipped off to Auschwitz during the Holocaust, and only 151 survived.

Diaz-Plaja returned to the island after the war, inspected the deserted Jewish quarter, and wrote a poem, reflecting on his encounter with Mazalto, and on the deaths of the Jews of Rhodes as a supplement to the centuries-old ballad. 

The ballad Mazlto old Diaz-Plja is a highly dramatic story about th daughter of a king. He gambles her hand in marriage away to a passing "Frankish Moor.'  In revenge, the bitterly unhappy princess slays the Moor with his own knife.

Soprano Stacey Nattrass, alto Kirsten Schellenberg and baritone Kris Kornelson sang the Spanish words of this ballad, with Connie Gitlin on clarinet, Mark Rudoff on cello and Ryszard Tyborowski on guitar.

The music was at times harsh and dissonant, often matching periods of conflict in this ballad, and at other pleasantly melodious – a combination that recus often in Robinovitch's work.

Nattrass's and Schellenberg's voices harmonized gorgeously, soaring operatically, with the deeper-voiced Kornelson sometimes joining in and singing the male roles.The musicians never overpowered the singers, letting the drama dominate, and the composition ended in a traditionally Jewish cantorial style.

Song of Songs, another particularly interesting Robinovitch work for soprano, clarinet and guitar, featured Nattrass singing solo, accompanied by Gitlin on clarinet, Tyborowski on guitar, and Jay Stoller, percussion. Robinovitch, who introduced several of the works, noted that the singer would alternate between Hebrew and English for this work, with words from the biblical Song of Songs. Nattrass, a singer with a rich, resonant voice, sang the Hebrew in a middle Eastern style and the English in more of an Elizabethan manner. Gitlin was especially on clarinet, playing high note that fused perfectly with the singer's voice.

Three Sephardic Songs, based on authentic Judeo-Spanish melodies, allowed the concert's three guitarists to display their polished techniques with Stoller, again accompanying them impressively on drums. 

A hauntingly beautiful, familiar-sounding Kol Nidre, and two upbeat, precisely performed klezmer tunes rounded out the concert, which started with three pieces without any Jewish associations.

Concertgoers and those who missed it can only hope Robinovitch eventually produces a CD including all the Jewish works – a milestone in the history of Jewish music.