L to R: Phil Belanger, Yona Bar-Sever, Moshe Denburg, Amy Stephen, Saul Berson, Tim Stacey, 2014

TZIMMES: Noun, from Yiddish, pronounced tsi’-mess. A sweet cooked dish of mixed vegetables and fruits; a mash-up.

TZIMMES AT 35—An Update from Musical Director Moshe Denburg

It has been 23 years since the last Tzimmes release, KlezMyriad, and I ought to do some explaining. Tzimmes has not been idle, but since around 2006 our work has mainly entailed doing local gigs in various configurations. From 1998 until 2005, we still did some concerts, and some larger scale projects, and even went into the recording studio in 2005-06. Six of the works on this compilation are tracks that we began to record then.

One of the main reasons Tzimmes has not released this material sooner is because I became very involved with establishing an intercultural orchestra in Vancouver. Called the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra (VICO), it was begun in 2001 and turns 20 this year! At the time of my 70th birthday in 2019, having wound down my administrative commitments to the VICO, I hatched a plan to get back to the tracks we had laid down, and to add to these other materials old and new. This impetus has led to the creation of the present offering, a two-disc compilation of songs that span everything from the liturgical to the secular. There are pieces that go back to my youth, others to my middle years, and some more recent creations as well. The album entire is called The Road Never Travelled, while most of the sacred songs are on a second disc subtitled Liturgy Lane.

It is impossible to encapsulate 23 years into a cogent statement of a paragraph or two. We have gone through some transformations, as is usual and normal in our profession; still, we continue to be a family of musicians and colleagues, bound together by a common musical purpose. Most significantly, Adel Awad, our beloved friend and masterful hand drummer, passed away in 2007 at the untimely age of 51. May his memory be a blessing. In his honour, we reprise a track—“Vechitetu” (Swords Into Ploughshares)—from our first recording, Sweet and Hot, which includes his playing the daf, a Middle-Eastern frame drum. In fact, we were able recently to take our 28-year-old 8 track tape recording of this first album, and transfer it to the digital realm; so, we reprise three pieces from there, in freshly remixed versions.

Tzimmes turns 35 in 2021, so The Road Never Travelled is also a celebration of this milestone. On this recording many of the Tzimmes members, past and present, make appearances. Most of us are now ‘elders,’ hopefully wiser in spirit as well as aging in body. Staying young is an old story, isn’t it? Music can keep us active and alive with purpose, every stage of life is unique—and there is a mysterious thread that holds it all together. The Hassidim regard the Nigun, the melody, as a thread which binds the human being to God, and I dare say there is hardly a musician to be found who would disagree. We hope that we have honoured all those that have been part of our journey, who have walked with us in the past, and now in the present, and into whatever future we wish to construct together. This is, and has always been, The Road Never Travelled.

Moshe Denburg

March 2021