HomeLocalLocal NewsChai Folk Ensemble to honour Charachs at multicultural concert

Chai Folk Ensemble to honour Charachs at multicultural concert

By LESLIE MALKIN A passion for multiculturalism is something father and son, Barney and Avrom Charach, share. “My mother said, ‘we should send our kids to Hebrew school,’ and my father said, ‘they should be exposed to everything, not just the Jewish community.’ He always had this idea that we should be part of the bigger community,” says Avrom. 

As a young man, volunteering with both Folklorama and the Manitoba Ethnocultural Youth Committee Avrom learned that “by learning about other cultures, we learn to understand them, celebrate them together. Education and prejudice are diametrically opposed,” he says.

So, a multicultural theme is fitting for the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble annual spring concert, at which Barney and Avrom Charach will be honoured for their lifetime commitment to the folk ensemble. Chai has invited four other cultural groups to share the stage for the June concert: Hungarian Kapisztran Folk Ensemble; the Tamil Pavilion Performers; Hinode Taiko – Rising Sun Drums; and the Asham Stompers. 

“Chai is still the feature, but we’re showcasing the multiculturalism in Winnipeg and Manitoba and tying that to our honourees, the Charachs, and their key roles within Folklorama,” says Sarah Sommer, co-artistic director for Chai along with Jesse Popeski. (Both Barney and Avrom have also volunteered with Folklorama, for decades). “These groups are representative of their experiences in Folklorama, and we honour them in that,” continues Sommer, whose past roles with Chai include performing as a singer and vocal director. 

Barney Charach began volunteering for Chai with his wife, Ruth, z”l, in the late 1960s. Together they worked behind the scenes well into the ’70s, Ruth helping with costumes, Barney as assistant stage manager until taking on the role of treasurer. Together with Hartley Gale, z”l, Barney overhauled the ensemble’s financial books.  

As a boy, Avrom often accompanied his parents to their Chai commitments and soon began helping with small tasks. Eventually, he became a vital member of Chai’s production crew as lighting designer/stage manager, a volunteer position he held for two decades.

“My parents taught me how to give back, that it’s important to share, and invite others, and become friends with others. It’s their example that I follow to this day,” Avrom says, adding he has been volunteering with Chai for six decades.

“In the ’70s, I was eight or nine, helping, floor tape and whatever. In the ’80s, ’90s, and early ’00s, throughout my teens, twenties, and early thirties, was my 20-year stint (as lighting designer/stage manager). And then every decade (since then), at least once, I’ve helped with something. I’m not 60 yet. I hope I can do it for a seventh decade.” 

With Chai a flagship of Shalom Square, Folklorama’s Israel pavilion, Avrom’s work with the ensemble led to his involvement with Shalom Square, too. He sat on the pavilion steering committee from 1982 through 2014 and has worn the hats of pavilion coordinator (and assistant-coordinator), ambassador, and chair of various sub-committees. And through his work with the Israel pavilion, he became engaged with Folklorama too, assuming various roles over several decades, including president, board member (with various portfolios), and bus tour guide/trainer. 

While Avrom’s parents introduced their son to Chai through volunteering, it was Avrom who brought Barney to the Israel Pavilion steering committee as co-chair of finance, then later to the board of the Folk Arts Council (Folklorama) as treasurer, vice president, and president. Barney continued to volunteer for Folklorama until he no longer could.  

Avrom couldn’t be prouder sharing the spotlight with his father. But he wishes his late mother were alive to partake in the glory. “They should have honoured all of us,” he says, sadly.

“The tradition of sharing, of giving, of caring, that all came from my parents,” Avrom continues. “Sharing the stage with my father, it’s hard to put into words how wonderful it’ll be to be honoured together.”

The June 22nd concert, the first full-fledged production to be co-directed by Sommer and Popeski, is billed “The Mountains Will Dance.”

 “We took it from the title of a new piece we are working on and having choreographed,” explains Jesse Popeski, who was musical director prior to being co-artistic director and still plays guitar with the Chai band. “It was through our relationship with Avrom and Folklorama, and the idea of having it include these other cultural groups that led to the title as kind of a fun, creative theme.” 

Tickets for The Mountains Will Dance go on sale online at  February 1st! Celebrate this extraordinary family team NOW by calling (204) 955-0069 to secure your seats immediately.

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