Montreal Memories

Barry Zbar.

Who would have known six years ago when Barry Zbar launched a Facebook page called Montreal Memories how successful it would become. Recently, membership surpassed 20,000 and it shows no sign of stopping. The more ex-Montrealers log on, the more they miss our city. You can tell by the pure nostalgia.

Zbar, a semi-retired accountant, moved to Toronto in 1983 but never really forgot his hometown. On Nov. 8, 2010, he created the Facebook page as a hobby. You must log in and request to become a member. Zbar moderates the page to ensure that it stays clear of political debate. Food remains one of the most popular topics. It is remarkable to see the conversations that ensue when news or tidbits about a popular restaurant is posted. “At least 75 percent of our members are not current Montrealers,” he says. “We have representation from over 50 countries.”

Assisting Zbar in this endeavor are co-administrators Bev Ikeman of Florida, Margot MacKinnon of Montreal and Joan Alvarez of Toronto. A couple of Montrealers, Eric Doudeau and Clifford Schwartz work on the marketing end of things, including a one year old website which sells merchandise. There are gatherings such as dinner tonight (March 22) at Mr. Steer organized by Irving Silverman and Paola DiClemente.

CINEMANIA USA: The 23rd edition of CINEMANIA will take place in Montreal from Nov. 2 to 12. This fabulous festival showcases top-notch French films with English sub-titles. Next week CINEMANIA will be part of the American film festival “Focus on French Cinema” (FFC) when its 13th edition takes place from March 27 to April 2 in Greenwich and Stamford Connecticut and New York. The “Tribute to Quebec” comprises 12 films presented by their creators, and reflects the close and ongoing collaboration between CINEMANIA and the programmers at the FFC. Among the screenings will be by Xavier Dolan.

BOTWINIK MUSIC: I recently received a CD containing the music of the remarkable David Botwinik, whom at 96 years young is still going strong. Entitled From Holocaust to Life – Yiddish Art Songs, the CD features soprano Lisa Willson with heldentenor John Packard and tenor Ian DeNolfo, who produced the project with David’s son Alexander. Two bonus songs are performed by world-renowned tenor Louis Danto. The CD includes a 32-page booklet with Yiddish lyrics, transliteration and English and Hebrew translations. In 2010, the League for Yiddish published From Holocaust to Life, a 392-page book which includes the musical score, lyrics, transliteration and English translation of these 15 songs as well as 41 more. “These Yiddish art songs are truly beautiful. David Botwinik has a gift for the art of melody,” said Willson. “Each song lends itself beautifully to the voice and each note is inlaid with beauty and pathos.”

In his 35 years as a music teacher and choir director at Montreal Jewish day schools, Vilna-born David Botwinik taught more than 30,000 students. He has also written scores of Yiddish songs, which have been circulated around the world. Info

COHEN CHATTER: On Monday, March 27 (7:30 p.m.) CHW is inviting people to learn how to create beautiful flower arrangements with florists from Fleurs des Jardins at Elna Bistro in Décarie Square. Tickets $45. For reservations call 514-933-8461 or online did an outstanding job last week covering the major snowstorm. Hats off to the likes of Dan Spector, Luciano Pipia, Kelly Lapare and Dave Kaufman...I will be on CJAD’s Gang of Four next Tuesday.

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