Classical music: Vancouver’s Tzimmes celebrates ‘sweet’ anniversary
A 35-year anniversary is an accomplishment for any performing group. The Vancouver-based ensemble Tzimmes is celebrating its milestone with a new CD reflecting repertoire they have loved and loved presenting for more than three decades.
Moshe Denburg, the force behind the long-running project, explains for those unfamiliar with Jewish culinary arts that the ensemble’s name comes from a festive dish: “Tzimmes is a sweet culinary concoction made variously of stewed carrots, honey, raisins and prunes; it is considered the perfect complement to the main course of a Jewish feast. In another, more humorous connection, Jewish people are warned not to complicate a simple matter with the adage: ‘Don’t make me a big Tzimmes!’
“It is safe to say that the warning is usually ignored.”
The term is an apt metaphor for what the ensemble has tried to do over the decades, says Denburg. “A Tzimmes seems to go in many directions at once. You can eat it, you can think about it, you can ask for the recipe, you can compare it with the one your grandmother used to make, etc., etc. The same goes for our music.”
Denburg was born in Montreal in 1949. His father was an orthodox rabbi; his mother sang the folk songs of the Jewish people, both in Yiddish and Hebrew. He studied at New York’s Yeshiva University, then moved on to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. Travel and study in India and Japan followed before he returned to Canada in 1986, settling in Victoria.
Tzimmes began there, but in a few years Denburg relocated to Vancouver where, after a year of hiatus, the ensemble revived. As with any group that has stood the test of time, personnel changed, but the ensemble took a pragmatic approach, adding or subtracting members as required.
He’s passionate about Jewish music, but equally in thrall to multicultural fusions. His other big project is the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra, which he founded in 2001.