Sholem Aleichem: The Ger Mandolin Orchestra
In March 2011, at the Jewish Music Festival in Berkeley, Calif., 11 of the world’s finest mandolinists came together to create a new musical ensemble, remarkable not only for its artistry but for the story behind its creation. The group was the brainchild of Israeli-American businessman Avner Yonai, whose search for his family roots had led him to a dusty photograph of his grandfather and other relatives playing in a pre-Second World War Jewish mandolin orchestra in the town of Gora Kalwaria (Ger in Yiddish), Poland. The photograph inspired Yonai to create a contemporary version of the orchestra, as a memorial project for his own family and for a central, but nearly forgotten, tradition of Polish-Jewish musical life. Six months after its premiere performance in California, the new Ger Mandolin Orchestra travelled to Poland to perform in the town of Gora Kalwaria, filling the remains of the local Tzadik Synagogue with Jewish music for the first time in 70 years.
This short version of an in-progress feature-length documentary about the Ger Mandolin Orchestra includes stunning live performance footage and interviews with the major figures involved in its creation. Avner Yonai will be in attendance and will host a Q&A session following the screening.
Co-presented with the Toronto Jewish Film Festival.