New Jewish music festival
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New Jewish music festival

The Shir Madness music festival in Melbourne is passing the baton to a new event for 2019.

Jesse Lubitz (left) and Lior Albeck-Ripka at the Melbourne Recital Centre where they will hold next year’s music festival.	Photo: Peter Haskin
Jesse Lubitz (left) and Lior Albeck-Ripka at the Melbourne Recital Centre where they will hold next year’s music festival. Photo: Peter Haskin

THE inaugural Festival of Jewish Arts and Music (FOJAM) will be held in September next year at the Melbourne Recital Centre in Southbank packed with performances by local and international artists.

At the helm of the new festival – which has replaced Shir Madness Melbourne – are directors Lior Albeck-Ripka and Jesse Lubitz.

Well-known musicians Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier, who ran the past two Shir Madness Melbourne Jewish music festivals held at the Classic Cinemas and Temple Beth Israel, will remain involved with FOJAM as patrons.

And they will continue to program Song of Songs, one of the highlights of Shir Madness where well-known Australian singers perform songs by their favourite Jewish composer, in FOJAM.

Albeck-Ripka and Lubitz have more than 15 years experience in Melbourne’s music and arts industry. They run Hear Them Holler, which manages award-winning performers Husky, Tinpan Orange (which Lubitz performs in) and Jazz Party and produce events such as the Amy Winehouse music program held last year in partnership with the Jewish Museum of Australia’s successful exhibition Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait.

“It’s very exciting that we are taking the Shir Madness Melbourne festival to the next step,” Albeck-Ripka said after the announcement of the new festival.

“We want to broaden the festival beyond music to include dance, theatre, film, installations and panel discussions.

“The aim is to showcase the diversity and vitality of Jewish culture and identity and life, which broadens the festival.”

FOJAM 2019 will program more than 30 performances throughout the Melbourne Recital Centre from 11am to 11pm, with events in the centre’s multiple performance areas as well as the spacious foyers.

“The theme for our first festival is Walk on the Wild Side – our whole programming will be connected to this theme,” said Albeck-Ripka.

The festival will also pay homage to Jewish musician Lou Reed, famous for his 1972 hit song Walk on the Wild Side.

“The theme will be different for each festival – the themes give us a framework for going deep into an aspect of the Jewish experience,” she said.

“We are aiming for a younger audience. In the past more than 80 per cent of the Shir Madness Melbourne audience was aged over 60. We are looking at keeping that audience, but bringing in younger audiences to ensure the sustainability of the festival in the future.

“It is critical that it has a relevance to the Jewish community, which is our core audience, but we also want to appeal to the wider community.

“We want it to be an important part of the Melbourne music and arts scene and calendar.”

While early bird and VIP tickets have gone on sale, the first announcement of artists taking part will be in March 2019.

“Shir Madness has always featured an amazing array of talent and we plan to continue that with FOJAM,” said Albeck-Ripka.

While the festival will be predominantly music-based, it will also feature other performance mediums including dance, theatre, film and installations.

The Festival of Jewish Arts and Music will be held on September 8, 2019 at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Bookings: fojam.com

REPORT: DANNY GOCS

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