Checking for information, I found notes taken at the first meeting to discuss the possibility of a Yiddish Song Festival. It took place at the Baxter Theatre Coffee Shop on 22 January 2001 - so the premiere of ‘Leah, Teddy and the Mandolin’ on 21 January is fortuitously taking place exactly 17 years later! Fortuitous or bashert? Present at the meeting were Fay Singer, Matthew Reid, Aviva Pelham and Philip Todres. At the follow up meeting on 5 February, discussing content and context, the following is noted:
“Bottom line: the audience must walk out having been wonderfully entertained, but also knowing more about the genre, and wanting to hear and know more next year.”
And 17 years later, we hope that this documentary will do just that!
The coffee shop at the Baxter became the regular meeting place for planning future Yiddish Song Festivals. Ideas were thrashed out about themes. Fay would be a mine of information about potential songs and had that special ability to pick just the right song for a specific voice. Aviva had the ear for how things should sound and suggestions about songs too. Matthew as Musical Director with Fay, could always be depended on for getting it all to come together and accommodating singer’s individual needs. From year two, Irma Kesler, who had come in as stage director was also involved in these planning sessions.
The Baxter Theatre Centre became the home of the Annual Leah Todres Yiddish Song Festival and their management and technical team were unbelievably professional and supportive. Each year would start with a meeting to establish which Sunday in August would work, taking into account their theatre bookings and commitments. The working relationship that developed was outstanding and we need to pay tribute to their contribution to the show each year.