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Eli Herscovitch, Jane Enkin, Jeremy Rusu
all photos by Rhonda Prepes

Eli Herscovitch, Jane Enkin, Jeremy Rusu

Jane Enkin and Sherman Lang

Dan Leonherdt, Keeley Xavier, Terry Youmans




by Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng., November 13, 2011

This past weekend, the Grant and Wilton Coffee House presented three terrific bands. The audience grew to a full house of 70 by evening’s end.

The opening act  called " Phil and Friends" consisted of  Phil Spevak and his friends who put together a hamish (cozy and homey) sing along of Remembrance Day tunes in the basement of the Temple Shalom.

The main act was singer Jane Enkin, accompanied by Eli Herscovitch on the saxophone and harmonica, and Jeremy Rusu on the electric piano, acoustic guitar and fretless bass.

Jane Enkin, who is a singer, baalat tefilah (prayer-leader), songwriter and storyteller, has brought her talents to performance venues and synagogues in Ottawa, Toronto, and to Winnipeg’s Mameloshen festival of Yiddish culture in 2009 and 2010. Jane leads a Yiddish song circle for seniors, and nigunim (wordless spiritual folk melodies) and spiritual songs at Shaarey Zedek synagogue events. Winnipeg's Holocaust memorial programs have included Jane's presentation of songs from the ghettos. Last year, Jane with the ensemble Flowing Source inspired dancing to Hasidic melodies at Nachmanifest.

Enkin, who moved to Winnipeg in August 2008 from Kingston, Ontario is married to Justin Jaron Lewis, the co-coordinator of the Judaic Studies program at the University of Manitoba.

Enkin sang a mix of soul, jazz, southern, folk, blues and love songs with her rich and melodic voice. Unfortunately, there were no Yiddish songs in her repertoire this evening.  She was emotionally involved in every song she sang whether it was about her garden, her children, waiting at a bus stop or swimming.  Enkin wrote most of the songs she performed from her own personal experiences, and each song told a unique story similar to the songs of Chris de Burgh or Cat Stevens. 

Phil’s friend and my third cousin, Sherman Lang joined Enkin on stage for her encore song.

It  was a real treat to hear Jeremy Rusu, a 27-year-old Winnipegger who has been described as a musical genius. Rusu, who has been completely blind since he was age six, plays a dozen instruments and sings. At the event,  he accompanied Enkin on the keyboard, guitar and fretless bass.

Rusu has been compared to Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Jeff Healey – and rightly so. He has composed and sung his own songs since he was twelve, and  plays different styles of music including jazz, blues, rock, pop, reggae, funk, Celtic, bluegrass, and even country. You have to see this young blind man play to believe it--he can play music and play it well.

Rusu studied as a jazz pianist at the University of Manitoba for three years, and has performed with many musicians around Winnipeg and busks at the Forks and Kildonan Place. If anything, his blindness has served to enhanced his tremendous musical talent.  Rusu also plays in a band entitled Dot Five O - an abbreviation of the word 'one' in braille. The group is a progressive rock band that plays original tunes written by each one of its members, as well as some covers. Rusu  is truly amazing.

Herscovitch did not disappoint either.  After 25 years in the music business, Eli Herscovitch is a well-known Winnipeg musician who plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet, flute, guitar, and blues harmonica. He was born in Montreal, received his Bachelor of Music from McGill University and Bachelor of Education from the University of Regina. He is the talented master of the saxophone and his suitcase full of harmonicas.

Keeley Xavier rounded out the evening with Terry Youmans on the guitar and Dan Leonherdt on the drums. Xavier had just returned from a year in Thailand and she performed modern soft rock songs with animated flair. The increasingly popular Xavier is inspired by the likes of Norah Jones and Jack Johnson as she mixes jazz with a little pop. If you closed your eyes, you would swear that you were listening to Mariah Carey. This young woman has a big, big voice.

Up Next:

Temple Shalom and the Grant and Wilton Coffee House (1077 Grant Ave. at Wilton) are hosting a benefit concert for Sharon and Neil Klippenstein on Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Music by special guest performers. Tickets $10.00.

The Grant and Wilton Coffee House presents Don Amero on Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. Tickets $10.00.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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