On September 4th 2010 I spoke to Dr. Marina Minkin about the Renaissance Festival to be held September 26th, 27th and 28th at the Yehiam Fortress in the Western Galilee. In its 18th season this year, Marina Minkin took over as the festival’s musical director in 2009. Sponsored by the Matei Asher Regional Council and the Jewish National Fund, the event offers interest and entertainment for all ages and is a festive attraction for families. The theme for this year’s festival is “Mediterranean Culture”, focusing on that of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Turkey as well as on Jewish tradition. As in former years, music performed will not be only from the Renaissance period but will also that of the Middle Ages, the early Baroque and even contemporary music that has been influenced by Renaissance styles or modern arrangements of Renaissance works. There is an entrance fee of 30 shekels per person; this covers entry to all events (excepting the opening night’s concert September 26th) with daily performances taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last year’s festival attracted seven and a half thousand visitors.
PH: Marina, you are known to Israeli music-lovers as a performer, early music specialist researcher and educator. In this festival you are bringing much music but are also reaching out to other arts.
Marina Minkin: Yes. A Renaissance event will always bring together several art forms and will include arts and crafts, too. The Renaissance Festival at Yehiam traditionally features a wide variety of activities. There are creative workshops, craft stalls and workshops for children where they can try their hand at making Renaissance clothes, puppets and flutes. This years activities will also include glass-blowing.
And there will be musical instruments on display. Yaron Naor will bring an exhibition of early instruments and Ami Schneider from Rosh Pina will sell recorders and provide explanations about the instrument.
PH: I understand there will be much activity in the open.
MM: Yes, as in any Renaissance fair. There will be street theatre events all around the grounds. They will not be full productions; however, actors and actresses from the Balbalou Theatre will present Italian Renaissance characters and act small scenes. Another group of young actors will present scenes from Shakespeare plays. My aim is to familiarize the many children attending with this theatrical tradition. Actors will provide explanations about theatre in Renaissance times. The “wandering actors” will be accompanied by young musicians who will team up with them in various places.
We have also invited two actors from the Beersheba School of Theatre to give a display of fencing. Their dress will be in Renaissance style.
PH: Would you like to talk about the venue and events taking place in the fortress itself?
MM: Yes. The fortress actually has three wonderful halls: the Knights’ Hall, the Tower Hall and the Crusaders’ Hall. The opening event – “Celtic Fire” - will take place on the fortress balcony September 26th at 20:30 and will feature the Irish Dance Group, a local company that blends Irish music with Mediterranean “flavors”. Yair Werdyger will be their soloist. Joining them will be belly dancer Abigail Klein.
PH: Would you like to mention some of the vocal events?
MM: Yes. Most of this year’s performances are vocal. They begin on the morning of September 27th with the Thalamus Quartet; this will be a performance of madrigals especially for children. It will also include some Hebrew songs arranged in the style of the madrigal. In fact, the festival will offer several performances that are suitable for children and, indeed, the whole family. The organizers aim to keep these young visitors as interested and involved as the adults attending.
Visitors can hear the Bat Kol Girls’ Choir (Tel Aviv) conducted by Anat Morahg and the Shani Choir from the Jezreel Valley. The Shani Choir, conducted by Pnina Inbar, is a multi-cultural choir whose members are Jewish, Christian and Moslem girls from towns and villages in the central Galilee.
Among the Israeli singers appearing are Einat Aronstein, Jill Rogoff, Michal Okon and Bracha Kol. Bracha Kol will be joined by guitarist Oded Shoub to perform a program of Spanish music spanning from Renaissance to modern music.
The PHOENIX Ensemble (Myrna Herzog, director) is no newcomer to the Renaissance Festival. We will hear PHOENIX instrumentalists and singer Michal Okon in “This Night I Dance” - a rich and fascinating program of music from the streets and palaces of Baroque Latin America.
PH: What about instrumental works?
MM: Visitors will have a variety of instrumental ensembles from which to choose. “Fancy for Two”, for example, will feature Natalie Rotenberg and Alex Rosenblatt on two harpsichords. Boris Begelman (Baroque violin), Tal Arbel (viola da gamba) and Yizhar Karshon (harpsichord) will present “Portraying Marin Marais”. Listeners are invited to join an interesting journey “Following Dona Gracia”, outlined by Doret Florentin (recorders), Gil Evron (guitar) and Riki Peled (viola da gamba). Riki Peled has written the script and will be the narrator. Flautist Moshe Epstein will present Baroque music for flute solo.
PH: The festival always includes ensembles of young players and vocalists.
MM: Yes. Drora Bruck, the previous director, began this tradition and I am interested in continuing it. Young instrumentalists, mostly recorder players, from several music conservatories will perform on the “open stage”.
We will also host two interesting student groups who are already making their mark on the local scene. One is “Notnim Baroque” (Presenting Baroque”) in the program “Viva Italia”. This enterprising ensemble (recorder players Tali Rubinstein and Inbar Solomon and harpsichord player Gilad Katznelson) makes its own arrangement of madrigals and improvises on them!
Another is a group that calls itself “In Camera XV”, a wonderful group of eight students who are passionate about Baroque music. They meet in the Baroque studio (Room 15) of the Buchmann Mehta School of Music (Tel Aviv), hence their name.. They play harpsichord, strings and recorders; Einat Aronstein is their singer. In Camera XV will present “From the Italian Ball to Cleopatra’s Tears”, a program including music of Rossi, Marini, Marain Marais and Handel.
PH: I believe you will be hosting artists from overseas.
MM: Yes. A new guest at the festival, on her first visit to Israel, will be French mezzo-soprano Mariam Sarkissian. She will perform a program of French- and Italian music.
Another visitor is Pablo Lerner, originally from Argentina, now living in Budapest. He will be playing the hurdy gurdy and will hold workshops on how to play it. How many hurdy gurdy players do we hear in Israel?
We will also welcome other artists who divide their time between Israel and Europe: viol-player Tal Arbel, flautist Moshe Epstein and violinist Boris Begelman.
PH: What event will close the 2011 Renaissance Festival?
MM: We will sign off with a most festive performance in the Knights’ Hall – “The Princess, the King and the White Clown”. It will be in the style of the Commedia dell’Arte and is a joint production of actors from the Tiberias Theatre, the Coincidence Puppet Theatre, various musicians and, also, young members of the Lauda Ensemble (Jezreel Valley Arts Centre). The Lauda Ensemble is a Jewish-Arab group; we will hear them playing the oud, qanun and darbuka.
PH: You certainly have a fine line-up of attractive events.
MM: I believe so. All are welcome.