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"Magillah : Fotografie"

The Montreal group "Magillah" is led by accordionist Henri Oppenheim. He created it in 2008 to put emphasis on Yiddish song, and he gathered the best musicians from his hometown, from the worlds of classical music as well as from jazz and worldbeat. On the cut "Sirba" one hears Oppenheim's talent as a player, but his real skills can quickly be heard in the complex arrangements. Michelle Heisler sings the Yiddish songs in a jazz style, most of them old standards like 'Abi Gezunt' and 'Rozhinkes un Mandlen'.  Morris Rosenfeld's 'Mayn Ruhe Plats" is sung in a very moving way, and she adds a French introduction and an English translation.  

Fiddler Julie Triquet plays in a genuine Jewish style, but it is Andy Dacoulis' electric guitar that plays the main role in the sound of this group. His 1970's rock-style transforms "Sapozhkelekh" into a rock'n'roll song. Drummer Samuel Harrison takes the songs even further away from a folk style, but it is certainly not a sin that, through this sound, Magillah wants to reach out to a wider audience in Montreal. Both traditionalists and modernists will enjoy this recording. 
- Yiddish Forward (New York, 2013)

"Fotografie (4 stars)"

Dating back, almost, it seems, to the beginning of time, Yiddish and Klezmer music is a judicious blend, often handed down from generation to generation, of multiple influences. Founder of the group Kleztory, accordionist / guitarist Henri Oppenheim has now given birth to Magillah, a tight ensemble that covers both of these musical currents. A massive project with no less than 12 musicians, including Maxime St-Pierre, trumpet, Muhammad Abdul Al-Khabyr, trombone, drummer Samuel Harrisson and singer Michelle Heisler, in a format that swings straight, with beautiful musical ideas and a thorough knowledge of the "territory". Tap your foot, while rediscovering these worlds. - Le Journal de Montreal (Canada, 2013)

"Klezmer etc."

Ex-leader of Montreal's Kleztory, accordionist Henri Oppenheim takes his group "Magillah" and plunges into something more pungent.The Jewish soul is preserved through klezmer and Yiddish song. The singer-actress Michelle Heisler is deeply expressive, sensitive with a touch of theatricality, while the violinist Julie Triquet, reflecting the range of emotions carried by this music, is by turn punchy and then poignant.
In both cases, it makes you want to dance and cry, at full intensity. Key points of reference are often to be expected, but the drummer nails it and guitarist grooves like it's the 1970s. Then it goes to fusion with jazz and lounge ballads, with  blues, reggae, shuffle and even a little disco.
In the end, there is even a reel in the style of Ti-Blanc Richard intertwined with the lyrical and highly ornamented violin. There is no big stylistic revolution here, but it brings a unique mix and it sounds very "Oppenheim": nothing but the real thing, heartfelt and great stuff.
- Le Devoir (Québec, Canada) - 2013

"Yiddish Music in the 21st Century : The Merovitz Project"

Yiddish Music in the 21st Century: The Merovitz Project - Compiled by Itsik Gottesman

Musical projects come and go; before one notices, bands have split up; groups that one would have wanted to hear again. For example, I received a new CD from Montreal, produced in 2009, called the Merovitz Project + Brass (Live in Montreal) with the singer Alan Merovitz. The recording is not among the very best of the last few years, but nevertheless one hears talent on this CD, and it is a shame that it won’t be possible to see or hear them in the future.
According to Henri Oppenheim, the accordionist and arranger for the group, the Merovitz Project began in the fall of 2008 and ended in the fall of 2010. The same musicians continue to play, but without Merovitz; with another singer, the Montreal actress Michelle Heisler. Naturally the band changed its name, and is now known as Magillah (
Alan Merovitz is known in the wider klezmer world outside Canada as the first singer of the Flying Bulgars, a band founded and led by Toronto trumpeter David Buchbinder. This band was for many years the best of its kind in Canada. However, according to their website, they have not performed together for the last two years. Merovitz became famous for his unique singing style – emotional, but not theatrical, with a great need to pull the audience into the performance. After the “Flying Bulgars” Merovitz performed with “Ot Azoy Klezmer” (Amsterdam) and “Beyond the Pale” (Toronto). With his personality and voice, he takes center stage with whatever band he sings with.
Henri Oppenheim, the musical director of the “Project”, was formerly a mathematician. In 1998 he decided to devote himself entirely to music and became the leader of the Montreal group “Kleztory”. (Incidentally, he is not the only mathematician-klezmer; one can add to the list the saxophonist Alex Kantorovitch and the pianist Adrian – both mathematics professors and researchers). In 2007 Oppenheim won an important award from the Quebec Music Organization (?) for his recordings. The ensemble “Merovitz Project” consisted of 7 musicians, featuring the violinist Julie Triquet (?) and brass instruments.
Oppenheim writes that with “Merovitz Project” the musicians wanted “to reflect the roots and crossroads of the musicians in the multi-cultural city of Montreal – Québecois, English-Canadian, French, Jewish and non-Jewish; klezmer, jazz or world-music specialists” – a reflection of the musical traditions in the city – both old and new.
The CD, recorded during a live concert, begins with the Sephardi-style “Shalom Aleichem”, with a Middle-Eastern rhythm. Merovitz sings the song with perhaps too much enthusiasm, and one can feel that the emotion is contrived. There is more sincerity in his rendition of the other songs, like his own composition “In Calgary” :
In Calgary there lives a klezmer, With his faithful wife and daughter
And so they start to revel/celebrate, Ay day day, day day
In Toronto there lives a rabbi, Near his friend, even a gentile
And when he starts to pray, Boy, boy boy boy
Merovitz is a fine singer, but definitely not a Shakespeare. In his arrangements, Oppenheim has added new rhythms to old songs, and the combinations are mostly successful. For example, in “Tantst a Freylekh” the Jewish melodies are played to a Caribbean reggae beat. A hip-hop rhythm was added to Molly Picon’s “Abi Gezunt”. But calling these arrangements “experimental”, as Oppenheim does in the CD-booklet, is too extreme – klezmer musicians around the world “experiment” in the same manner these days.
As a singer Merovitz is at his best in Moyshe Oysher’s “Dray Dreydelekh” (Three Small Dreydls), a lively Khanuka song. While it’s clear that Merovitz likes to party, he can also sing a slow song like “Mayn Ru’eh Plats” (My Resting Place) by Morris Rosenfeld with heart and feeling. He also does a good interpretation of “Sapozhkelekh”, a folksong from Bronia Sakina’s repertoire. Oppenheim has added a a rhythm that sounds more Turkish-Greek than Jewish to the folksong “Lomir Zikh Iberbetn” (Let’s Make Up); and Merovitz improvises while singing that the whole world must make up in order to make peace in the world. Oppenheim’s only original piece, “Yonas Stocato”, played by the violinist, makes a deep impression and the listener would like to hear more original compositions.
The recording ends with the campfire song “Arum Dem Fayer” (Around the Fire) played to a tango rhythm. Why such a rhythm? I really don’t know; it seems to me that not all rhythmic changes make sense. In general however, the playing is very good and Merovitz is among the best contemporary Yiddish singers. We look forward to new projects by the group, if not together, then as individuals.

(Translation from the yiddish by Rivka Augenfeld and Henri Oppenheim, September 25, 2011)
- Yiddish Forward (New York) - 2011

"Vitrine du disque"

Though it is only two years old, Merovitz Project has won the MMM-Étoiles Galaxies 2009 Prize. Merovitz Project is a new initiative, spurred on by well-known Henri Oppenheim, composer, arranger and accordionist, of the renowned Montreal band Kleztory. Merovitz Project is an exciting new musical experiment, somewhere between klezmer, marching-band, yiddish and hebrew musical genres. Together with the great singer Allan Merovitz, this versatile band plays here in its full size with brass section.
Merovitz Project explore arrangements that are more modern and contemporary than the more classical approach of Kleztory. You will hear soulful prayer and incantations, melodies and rhythms straight from the streets of Eastern Europe, some spectacular tempo changes, gut-wrenching song/stories and blues laments, some current political reminders, klezmer on reggae rhythm, some wild and daring artistic choices, matched with the amazing guest saxophonist Remi Bolduc, who glides and soars on two numbers. It is jubilant, joyous, full of emotion, and totally crazy on fire music. - Le Devoir (Québec, Canada) - 2009


2013: "Fotografie" (Fidelio, Naxos)
2011 : Scènes 2008-2011 (Ind.)
2008 : "Live in Montreal" (Audience, SRI)



(Bio in 100 words)

Winner of the Radio-Canada Etoiles-Galaxie Prize in 2009, MAGILLAH is a Yiddish/Klezmer band that performs Jewish music that is both nostalgic and melodic. It is song (in Yiddish), violin, drums, heart & soul, humour, great melodies, and groove.

In 2013, they released their first CD : « FOTOGRAFIE » featuring the groups sizzling blend of blues, indie rock and Québécois fiddle techniques mixed with traditional Yiddish songs and tunes. Some of Quebec's finest musicians, in the styles of world music, jazz and classical music, assembled for the album "FOTOGRAFIE" and the show of the same name.


(Bio in 300 words)
Winner of the Radio-Canada Etoiles-Galaxie Prize in 2009, MAGILLAH is a Yiddish/Klezmer band directed by Montreal accordionist-composer Henri Oppenheim (ex-Kleztory) and featuring lead singer Michelle Heisler. MAGILLAH performs Jewish music that is both nostalgic and melodic. It is song, violin, drums, heart & soul, humour, great melodies, and groove.

MAGILLAH has toured in Canada since 2008 and in 2013 released thier first CD : « FOTOGRAFIE » featuring the groups sizzling blend of blues, indie rock and Québécois fiddle techniques mixed with traditional Yiddish songs and tunes. Some of Quebec's finest musicians, in the styles of world music, jazz and classical music, assembled for the album "FOTOGRAFIE" and the show of the same name.
In 2010, Henri Oppenheim received an award from the Quebec Arts Council « Le Conseil des Arts et Lettres du Québec) to compose songs set to poems by three generations of Yiddish Poets based in Montreal. With renowned jazz-singer Karen Young taking the lead vocals on this project, MAGILLAH began performing this new program in 2013. A recording of this totally original repertoire will be available in 2014.

In addition, Henri Oppenheim has been asked by the Orchestre de Chambre de McGill, and conductor Boris Brott, to present a two part program of works for orchestra of « Klez-Kabaret » and also arrangements of his new Yiddish songs.

After ten years experience as an arranger, orchestrator, and Master of Ceremonies for the Montreal band Kleztory, Henri Oppenheim creates shows which treat MAGILLAH’s audience to a taste of Yiddish culture and Jewish soul : humour, joy, doubt, nostalgia, irony, tenderness, contradictions, endless questioning and reasoning.

MAGILLAH places emphasis on the beauty of the Yiddish language and its surperb sonorities and vibrant colour. Likewise, it offers energetic hybrid traditional Jewish music, influenced by a contemporary global sound world.