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by Rhonda Spivak, November 13, 2016


Canada's first Klezmer group, Finjan will  return to play with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra [WSO] on November 26  at the Concert Hall in what promises to be an unforgettable evening of infectious music and entertainment.


"It's been a long time since we performed  with the  WSO. It was with the WSO that we first premiered Sid Robinovitch’s Suite for Klezmer Band and Orchestra, which Finjan commissioned and first performed in the 1990's, and which is on the program for our  upcoming Nov 26 concert, " says Kinsey Posen, who sings and plays bass in Finjan. 




"Robinovitch's work is really  a beautiful piece of music which shows off the orchestra and our band," he adds. “It’s full of fun, emotion and the symphony players enjoy playing it as well.” “There are a lot smiles all around.”



Finjan recorded  Suite for Klezmer Band and Orchestra in 2001 and it won a Western Canada Music Award for Best Classical Recording. "Finjan went on to perform it with orchestras throughout North America," Posen says..


The program for the upcoming WSO concert includes also traditional klezmer works such as  Roumania, Ot Ot,  S’vivon, sov, sov, sov, Bukovinska Polka, Kolamenkaplus, And The Angels Sing.



"We all really enjoy playing with an orchestra. It's a completely different experience than playing by ourselves and the sound is augmented with such colour. When you think of 60 plus people all playing the same piece, with all the different parts, it's a remarkable feeling. We’ll also take our song Ot Ot and use it as vehicle for jamming, with some of the members of  WSO, including the conductor."


Myron Schultz who plays clarinet in Finjan told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that "We have been so incredibly lucky to have forged such as strong rleationship both musically and personally over these past 34 yearsie


Finjan (which in addition to Posen is comprised of  Shayla Fink on accordion and vocals, brothers Myron and Victor Schultz on clarinet and violin respectively, plus Daniel Koulack on guitar and mandolin and Sasha Boychouk on saxes.) was first formed almost 35 years ago. Originally Eli Hercovitch played sax. At the time Finjan was formed, many of the six musicians were working independently playing music for Jewish simchas.


Myron Schultz  told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that "We have been so incredibly lucky to have forged such as strong relationship both musically and personally over these past 34 years. And now we are most appreciative that the WSO has given is this opportunity to reconnect with our audience."


Posen says, “It’s always difficult to come up with a band name, but we went through quite a few until we came up with Finjan.” “It means cup in Turkish actually, but has entered the Hebrew language and can also refer to the pot in which you make the coffee.” He goes on to say that, “It’s not a real klezmer related name, but we were drinking coffee when we picked it and it’s served us well.


"In 1982, Myron Schultz approached Mitch Podolak from the Winnipeg Folk Festival, to see if he'd like a local  klezmer band to perform. When he said yes, we put together the band! Our debut concert was at the University of Winnipeg and was recorded for a National CBC show, called 'Identities.' Our second gig was at the Winnipeg Folk Festival  that year, and it just took off from there . We got calls from all across Canada" Posen recalls and adds“We also got a ton of exposure on CBC and became their klezmer house band.”


"Not only were we the first klezmer band in Canada, but there weren't that many klezmer bands in the United States at the time either. It was just the beginning of the klezmer revival," Posen recalls, noting that Klezmer is a musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe.(As an aside, the term klezmer comes from a combination of the Hebrew words: klay, meaning "tool, or utensil" and zemer,,leading to k'lay zemer,  literally "instruments of song". 


When asked how he  first became familiar with Klezmer music, Posen recalls that "My father had a wonderful record collection which formed the basis of my initial musical education. Some of it was klezmer so I heard it from a young age.”


Myron Schultz told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he first  was first introduced to klezmer music "when I was in the Cahi Folk Ensemble" but at the time "I didn't know it was klezmer."


Posen's wife  Shayla, who plays the accordion and sings in the band, also heard klezmer growing up as a child since her Zaida from France, operated a store in Belfort, also used to be a klezmer musician. "So I guess you can say Shayla comes by it very honestly," Posen adds.


The Schultz brothers come from a well known musical family and were immersed in all kinds of music also from an early age.



Finjan recorded five albums, three of which were nominated for Juno Awards. The first was “Where Were You Before Prohibition,” “From Ship to Shore”, “Crossing Selkirk Avenue,” Dancing on Water” and “Robinovitch: Klezmer Suite.”   "We played coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. performing at concerts, folk, jazz and Jewish festivals and special events.  We even performed at a private birthday in Monaco for a klezmer fan, who was turning 70," Posen says. The band also performed with Garrison Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion, the Lonesome Pine Specials on PBS and in the movie The Outside Chance of Maximillian Glick and The Saddest Music in The World

The band went on "a hiatus" in  2005  since, as Posen explains, "everyone was busy with their other jobs and it was hard to find time to rehearse and takes a lot of time to work out the arrangements for Finjan. It's a labour of love. We all joke that when we finally retire from our other jobs, we'll we'll be able to devote ourselves full time to Finjan. At the very least we'll have more time for rehearsals," Posen says.


In the meantime, he says that  "Shayla and I still perform with other musicians and Victor, Myron and Danny have a group called 'Black Sea Station', plus the Schultz brothers along with their sister Erica, play in the 'Mayors of Sambor."  Daniel Koulack is a multi-instrumentalist who leads his own band and teaches violin.



Finjan did do a concert in Toronto for Ashkenaz for its 30th Anniversary and in 2013, the group performed to a sold out audience at the Rady JCC 's  Mameloshen Festival of Yiddish Entertainment and Culture. 


In 2013, Myron Schultz, who plays clarinet, shared a favourite memory with CBC, which was from their first concert. " Al Simmons was the MC, and wanted to bring us back for an encore, but we had no other material...NONE. Al told the audience that we were 'leaving them wanting more'. Right! "


The Women's philanthropy of the CJA and WSO are having a pre-concert reception featuring speakers James Manishen, WSO Artistic Operations Associate, Tracy Kasner Greaves, Cantor of Etz Chaim Synagogue, Sid Robinovitch, composer, and Finjan members. 




 The concert sponsor is the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.





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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.