On the Record: Canadian Jewish Musicians of Note

Oct. 15, 2020

Howard Shore (Oct. 18, 1946 – ) Composer, Orchestrator, Conductor/Bandleader, Music Producer, Film Score Writer

By DAVID EISENSTADT

“Charismatic with a charming smile” is how neighbour Mark Mager described his Forest Hill Collegiate high school friend, Howard Shore.

My earliest memory of Shore was on Lorne Michaels’ Saturday Night Live (SNL), where, from 1975 to 1980, he was the iconic show’s first bandleader/musical director. 

Shore and Michaels grew up in the same Toronto neighbourhood as Mager. Shore said SNL “started with a show that Lorne and I did at Timberlane summer camp. We would do an improv with music, comedy and acting.”

Shore wore sunglasses, never spoke or took credit as the leader of the “Howard Shore and His All-Nurse Band,” appearing in numerous musical SNL sketches.

For the Toronto-born son of Jewish parents Mac and Bernice (Ash) Shore, his music passion ignited at age eight. At 13, he mastered the clarinet, flute, organ and saxophone, and by 17, was on a career trajectory to write classical and orchestral music and film scores.

Howard Shore (Photo: Sam Santos, courtesy Canadian Film Centre)

Fast forward: His scorecard includes three Academy Awards, four Grammys, three Golden Globes, six Canadian Screen/Genie Awards, one opera (The Fly), over 80 films, and he was a five-time nominee for a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award.

In 2017, Shore became the third winner of the Lifetime Achievement Kilar Award of the FMF Krakow Film Music Festival, named after the late Polish composer Wojciech Kilar. The Order of Canada, an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France, and a Canadian Governor General’s Performing Arts Award grace his trophy case.

Mager told me that while he and his friends took off for various universities, Shore enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, “which shocked us because no one realized how deeply entrenched he was in music.” At Berklee, Shore studied with choral composer John Bavicchi. In the late 1960s, Shore, on saxophone, was one of the original members of the Canadian rock group Lighthouse.

But he really excelled at writing film scores with heavy emphasis on violins and cellos. In 1978, he connected with David Cronenberg for The Brood, and continued as Cronenberg’s composer of choice for most of the director’s future productions.

In the ‘90s, Shore also scored films by Jonathan Demme, Chris Columbus, Tim Burton, David Fincher, Michael Lehmann, Tom Hanks, and Kevin Smith. Titles included M. Butterfly, Philadelphia, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Client, Ed Wood, Nobody’s Fool, Seven, The Game, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, That Thing You Do!, Dogma and The Cell. He worked with Martin Scorsese and Penny Marshall and was a BAFTA Award nominee in 1991 for Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs.

A major triumph came in 2001, when he was selected to score the first of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, netting him his first Oscar and Grammy, as well as nominations for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA.

It was “the beginning of my journey into the world of Tolkien, and I will always hold a special fondness for the music and the experience,” Shore noted at quotab.com.

Shore won his second Oscar for Best Original Score, and a third for Best Original Song, for Into the West, shared with Fran Walsh and Annie Lennox. He also garnered his first Golden Globe, his third and fourth Grammys (the fourth for Best Song), and was nominated for a third BAFTA.

The scores for The Lord of the Rings, performed primarily by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, became one of the most successful film scores ever written “and the biggest success in Shore’s career,” reported the BBC.

With a filmography listing 80-plus works, the in-demand Shore continued to collaborate with Scorsese in 2004 on The Aviator and Hugo in 2011. He scored Cronenberg’s A History of Violence in 2005 and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series in 2013.

Since 2004, Shore has conducted local orchestras across North America, Europe and China, playing new symphonic arrangements of his Lord of the Rings scores. He is a coveted speaker at film festivals and master classes.

Modest about his accomplishments, he said, “I never shied away from a challenge and love doing big epic films. They’re interesting to me just on a pure music level, in terms of the amount of music I could create for a symphony orchestra and chorus.”


David Eisenstadt
David Eisenstadt

David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com, and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.

On the Record: Canadian Jewish Musicians of Note

Sharon Hampson (Mar. 31, 1943 – ); Lois Lilienstein (July 10, 1936 – April 23, 2015); Bramwell Morrison (Dec. 18, 1940 – )

Sharon, Lois & Bram – Children’s Music Trio, Family Entertainers

Sept. 15, 2020 – By: DAVID EISENSTADT

Skinnamarinky dinky dink
Skinnamarinky do,
I love you!

Kids, parents and grandparents the world over love that memorable tune, thanks to the inspired creativity of three Toronto Jewish actors/singers/musicians, Sharon, Lois & Bram, who sang those easy-to-remember but differently-spelled lyrics.

“That word actually means nothing,” confides supersimple.com. “It’s just a silly, made-up word originally from an early 20th century Broadway musical, and over the years, it has been sung (spelled) as skinnamarink, skinnymarink, skinnymerink, and more.”

At a recent Shabbat dinner, friends Marilyn and Frank Kisluk said their three-year old granddaughter loves the song, prompting me to look at this trio’s musical contributions, which generates lots of memories and smiles.

The threesome met in the mid-‘70s at a Mariposa in the Schools program, according to Jason Ankey, writing in artistdirect.com, and they shared a common philosophy of creating quality music for people of all ages.

A&M distributed their first album One Elephant, Deux Éléphants. With that, the pachyderm became an important visual element throughout the group’s 42-year career.

Sharon’s daughter, Randi Hampson, said Lois often joked that the trio lost their last names when they became Sharon, Lois & Bram. Hampson told me that for their first live performance, they borrowed a costume from a touring production of Babar, “and that’s when the dancing elephant made its first appearance.”

They had several elephant friends over the years on tour, appearing on their The Elephant Show, which aired on the CBC in the 1980s, and later on U.S. cable network Nickelodeon through 1996, featuring 30-minute episodes with children’s entertainer Eric Nagler.

They also worked with other children’s stars, including Raffi and Fred Penner. The show attracted other well-known performers and morphed into a second series called Skinnamarink TV, broadcast on the CBC and the Learning Channel in the United States from 1997-99.

They performed in major concert venues around the globe and headlined many stage and screen gigs. The trio were named Goodwill Ambassadors for UNICEF in 1988, and in 1996, were appointed spokespersons for UNICEF Canada’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Sharon Trostin
Sharon Trostin

Born in 1943 and raised in Toronto, Sharon Trostin started singing in coffeehouses and at hootenannies across North America as a teenager. She married Joe Hampson of the Canadian Travelers and had two children. A three-time survivor of breast cancer, Sharon is one of the founders of Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada and has spoken publicly about her journey. She also speaks about the importance of music for children and their families. In 2007, she received the YWCA’s Woman of Distinction Award.

Lois Ada Goldberg
Lois Ada Goldberg

Chicago-born Lois Ada Goldberg was a classically-trained singer and pianist who studied music at the University of Michigan, where she met her future husband, Ernest Lilienstein. They moved to Toronto, where he taught sociology at York University. They raised one son. She retired from touring with the trio in 2000. 

Lois, said Randi Hampson, would occasionally appear for special charity events, the last of which was an outdoor concert in Toronto to celebrate an outdoor playground named in their honour. A music garden followed after Lois died in 2015 at age 78.

Bramwell Morrison
Bramwell Morrison

Bramwell Morrison, born Toronto in 1940, began playing coffee houses in the 1960s with iconic Canadian folksinger Alan Mills, who inspired him to become a music teacher. In 1975, Bram met Sharon and Lois at the Mariposa program and they began to play as a group. He and Sharon celebrated the trio’s 40th anniversary with a farewell tour in 2018, then retired from touring in December 2019 after releasing their first duo album, Sharon & Bram and Friends.

In 2002, they became members of the Order of Canada; Lois was named an honourary member as a non-Canadian. Their combined career track record includes numerous awards. The group produced 17 recordings, three songbooks, many compilations and a best-selling picture book, Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Skinnamarink. Their one-year TV series in 1997 was called Skinnamarink TV. In 2020, a Sharon, Lois & Bram YouTube channel was successfully launched.

Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Sharon has been performing virtually with daughter Randi, a family law lawyer who said she’s looking forward to returning to in-person, live performances.


David Eisenstadt
David Eisenstadt

David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com, and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.

Chatting With…Karen Goldenberg: ‘I Want to Build Bridges’

With the following, the CJR begins a new occasional feature: Question-and-answer style interviews with frontline workers in the Jewish community. We intend to find out what drives these leaders, using as a template the “4 C’s: Compassion, Community, Capacity, and Connections. We’ll find out what makes these tireless leaders tick.

We begin with veteran community worker Karen Goldenberg, whose accomplishments are many: An Order of Canada recipient, she was co-founder and the first executive director of the Community Occupational Therapy Associates (COTA); was executive director of Jewish Vocational Services; interim executive director of Ve’ahavta, the Jewish humanitarian organization; longtime volunteer with the United Jewish Appeal; and senior vice-president and acting CEO of the Addiction Research Foundation, now part of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

By DAVID WINTRE

Karen Goldenberg

CJR: What’s keeping you busy these days?

Two quite new projects are the Regent Park Music School and Project Abraham. The music school is located in downtown Toronto and gives children in that area their first introduction to music by learning an instrument and playing in an orchestra. For these children, it’s a life-changing experience to be able to find another world of sound and beauty away from their day-to-day lives, which sometimes can be pretty tough.

Project Abraham concerns the integration of the 250 or so Yazidi people that the government brought to Canada, and [who] literally have to begin their lives again. The Yazidis were originally from Iraq, and over centuries, have been almost “genocided” out of existence. They speak no English, of course, don’t have a numerical system of calculation, and are a 100 percent agrarian society. Project Abraham is a very challenging project but we are slowly gaining their trust, which is very exciting and rewarding.

Where and when did you learn compassion?

[From] my parents and particularly my father. He was another “frontline worker.” A small, quiet man with an enormous heart, he was a sole proprietor accountant who gave personally to virtually anyone in need. The money wasn’t a loan, it wasn’t charity. It was a “hand up.” There’s a big difference between interest on a loan, a charitable receipt, and “just like that.”

Later on, he founded, with the UJA [United Jewish Appeal] the “Casa,” [now Toronto Jewish Free Loan], which formalized what he had been doing personally for years. The Casa is still operating today. When he died, dozens and dozens of people paid their respects to my father, and some [of those] are pretty important people today. I hope they won’t forget and will teach their children.

We’re focusing on “the four C’s”: Compassion, Community, Capacity, and Connections.

All of those “C’s” are important – Compassion, of course. Put them all together and you have compassion for societies that are different from your own 

But it’s not easy. I’m involved in Israel in a project called Rosanna, which is a medical initiative between Israeli doctors and Palestinians, particularly [for] children, to help provide medical care for some severe problems. Not everyone on either side of the political spectrum is comfortable with Rosanna. In our own country, when politics and/or religion enter the picture, compassion for Native peoples or persons of colour can become compromised. I want to build bridges across cultures…political bridges, societal bridges, and religious bridges.

What about Community?

I am all about community. It is the glue that holds our society together and when it unsticks, such in the current pandemic, with the catastrophe in the nursing homes for example, society takes a big hit and thousands die unnecessarily. The personal cost is horrendous. Likewise, the economic cost to our communities.

Capacity and Connections?

Building capacity is related to sustainability and a bit of business acumen thrown in as well. The majority of frontline non-profits are generally underappreciated and underpaid for the critical work they do. The current pandemic exposed the soft underbelly of our healthcare systems, both in and out of the hospital settings.

Capacity is the ability for an organization to start up, to support itself while it grows, and then to maintain itself, remain agile, and continue to thrive so that it can help others. Many non-profits are cash-starved and work night and day to service their clients with little time or expertise for the “back room” – the board of directors, business development, strategic planning, etc. I consult to these situations and it is critical work. Not sexy, just essential for success.

“Connections” is the mother’s milk of our society, particularly when it comes to fundraising and therefore sustainability. While I am, and have been, active in large non-profit situations, my great love and passion are startups. I am a “nurturer” like my father and I like to grow things, like flowers and my family, of course.


David Wintre is a retired businessperson who is concerned about the less fortunate people in our Jewish world. And particularly those other “front line workers “who have been looking after our ill, aged, and economically disadvantaged so long and so well, every day, and how it has taken a global pandemic to recognize and properly thank all of them.