Thursday 13 August 2015

Montrealers Nic and Sabrina end their run on The Amazing Race Canada

The Montreal presence on CTV’s The Amazing Race Canada is over after   Nic La Monaca from Anjou and  Lachine’s Sabrina Mercuri became the fifth team eliminated.  

The Montreal-based couple were in “jeopardy” early in the leg, struggling at the crime scene Detour, before their race took a turn for the worse when Nic was last to complete the CPR Road Block. In the end, Nic and Sabrina were the last team to reach the Pit Stop at Bell Park in Sudbury where they were greeted by host Jon Montgomery and eliminated from the race. 

“I’m not disappointed…you always think of me before you think of you, and I love you for that,” said Sabrina about her relationship with Nic.

“The bond that we have is never going to be broken,” added a heartfelt Nic, a graduate of the English Montreal School Board's Lester B. Pearson High School Sports √Čtudes Program.

Despite a 10 year age difference – Nick is 22 and Sabrina 32 – this looks like one rock solid couple. If anything can test a relationship it is this type of experience.

I spoke to Nic and Sabrina today. They joined me by telephone from Toronto where they are doing the media rounds. “Testing our relationship was certainly not the reason to do the show,” said Nic. “We know our boundaries. If anything this validated our love for each other.”

Because the show will still be airing for several weeks, there is a lot the couple did not want to say. “Life will kind of get back to normal,” said Sabrina. “While we cannot talk too much, this experience was very stressful and difficult. Nobody can ever imagine. You cannot understand by just watching the show for one hour.”

Having interview Montreal physicians Brett and Holly, first year contestants, I know all of the intimate details of what the contestants go through. For starters they cannot tell anyone in their family where they are nor communicate with them during the shoot.  When they check into hotels, the phones, TVs and radios are disconnected. No newspapers are permitted. Just some magazines. A guard stands outside the room and they do not mingle with their competitors when filming is not taking place.

Nic and Sabrina.
Nic is now busy coaching youth soccer for Les √Čtoiles de L’Est in Laval. He also returns to class full-time in September at Concordia, where he is studying political science. Sabrina works in human resources for an engineering company.

During the show Nic actually had one challenge that involved soccer. Competitors had to get the ball in the net while blindfolded. He was unable to complete the task and the couple actually took a two hour penalty to skip the experience. That choice almost got them eliminated two weeks earlier. “That was a tough one,” said Nic. “The thing is that challenge ended up not being about skill, but rather communications.”

One of the interesting developments of course when you are on a show seen by millions of Canadians each week is the recognition factor. “We do get recognized,” said Sabrina. “It is quite flattering.”

The most recent  episode will encore this Saturday, August 15 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and Sunday, August 16 at 5 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO – and is also now available on demand at CTV GO. All-new episodes of THE AMAZING RACE CANADA air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO. Episodes 1–5 are also now streaming on CraveTV™, with new episodes available a week after the broadcast premiere. Previous seasons are also now streaming on CraveTV.

On the next episode (Wednesday, August 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO), teams race to Canada’s heartland, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where the Road Block has some teams bouncing ahead of the pack, and others falling behind. Tensions drive Brian and Cynthia to the edge, and at the Detour, some teams are spinning in circles, while others jump through hoops to stay in the race.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

KlezKanada 2015 to conclude August 23 with Theodore Bikel tribute

Another edition of KlezKanada will take place August 17 to 23 at Camp B'nai Brith in Ste. Agathe and Dr. Hy Goldman,  who founded the event with his wife Sandy, could not be more proud. 
Each summer KlezKanada’s Laurentian Retreat draws people from around the world to Camp B’nai Brith. On the shores of a calm lake, nestled amongst the beautiful Laurentian mountains, participants celebrate the tradition, innovation, and continuity of Jewish/Yiddish culture. Intergenerational, interdisciplinary, and international, KlezKanada’s Laurentian Retreat has grown into one of the leading Jewish cultural events in the world. KlezKanada features an all-star faculty, world-class concerts, and a KlezKabaret that  keeps participants singing and dancing late into the night. There are also films and classes on Jewish history, culture, Yiddish language, and literature, workshops for instrumentalists, singers, dancers, and visual artists of all levels, creative programs for the whole family, and so much more!
Dr. Hy Goldman

This year KlezKanada will conclude  with its  Der Groyser Kontsert - A Tribute to Theodore Bikel on Sunday evening, August 23 (7:30 p.m.) at Oscar Peterson Concert Hall in NDG. The evening  will showcase four generations of the most highly acclaimed musicians on the international Jewish music scene – all paying homage to the career of masterful performer, singer, actor, raconteur and author Theodore Bikel, in support of the KlezKanada Youth Scholarship Fund.
Born in May of 1924, the legendary Bikel led a unique career spanning over seven decades. An Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner, he was perhaps best known as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, a role he performed on stage over 2,000 times. As a folksinger and storyteller he recorded over 30 albums and  captivated audiences on virtually every continent. A true Renaissance Man, he viewed his work and life in terms of survival, saying, “You must explore your roots in the past in order to pinpoint your place in the present or to be entitled to a future.”  
Theodore Bikel
“Bikel was scheduled to appear and perform at the concert and when I spoke to him in Los Angeles about a month ago he was looking forward to it,  but he was gravely ill and it was 50/50 whether he would be able to appear  in Montreal,” Dr. Goldman explained. “Well, he died a week later to our sorrow. Incidently he was a member of KlezKanada’s Board and had already performed in 2007 and 2011.”

Born and raised in Montreal, Dr. Goldman moved to New York in 1946. Drafted into the U.S. Army, he was sent to Japan and South Korea before receiving his discharge 18 months later. The GI Bill of Rights enabled him to attend university, and it was there, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, that Goldman began his flirtation with music. He organized musical events, but also a pep rally that starred Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.
“I used to be a pretty good singer, but I realized that singing was not what I wanted to do. I decided to become a doctor,” Goldman recalled.
Yet the music bug never left him. In the 1980s, when Goldman was involved with Montreal’s Akiva School, arranging concerts and other fund-raisers, he brought in Boston’s Klezmer Conservatory Band. The group played a type of music with which most of the public was still relatively unfamiliar. He initiated his summer klezmer festival eight years ago.
Dr. Goldman is an Associate Professor of Paediatrics and Biology at McGill University and an Emergency Room pediatrician at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. KlezKanada, though, is a 12 month obsession leading up to the actual evengt,
“KlezKanada makes Jewish music and the arts accessible to everyone,” says Dr. Goldman. “It gives people a chance to learn about Jewish history and their roots in a contemporary way, and discover who they are.” The curriculum includes world-class concerts, workshops for instrumentalists, singers, dancers and visual artists of all levels, films, literature, language and culture, and children’s and teen programs. When you come to KlezKanada you have a supermarket of activities to choose from.”
Klezmer’s roots date back hundreds of years in Eastern Europe. Itinerant musicians would travel from shtetl to shtetl playing events, Goldman said. There are Romanian, Turkish, Greek and Russian elements in klezmer, but the essential part comes from synagogue music.
 “Music is a very important part of the human condition,” Dr. Goldman says. “Ongoing research shows music’s role in the brain. I think music can heal in a way that’s difficult to determine. It provides an atmosphere where that individual is relaxed and less preoccupied with his or her ailments.
The extraordinary line up for August 23, coming together for that one-night-only, includes Grammy award-winning klezmer supergroup The Klezmatics; Montreal's own Yiddish hip-hop sensation Josh Dolgin (aka Socalled); New York's finest post-war klezmer tribute band The Tarras Band; the golden-voiced Shura Lipovsky from The Netherlands;pioneers of the post-Soviet klezmer renaissance, Efim Chorney and Suzanne Ghergus of Moldova; and – pulling it all together as MC – Yiddish author and bon vivant Michael Wex.
Tickets are $50 for the orchestra and balcony  and $36  and available at Oscar Peterson Hall Box Office or through at 1-855-790-1245. For more information go to