In Los Angeles recently for a “girls’ trip” to visit an LA friend, our little Toronto group visited the Skirball Cultural Center (skirball.org), a Jewish museum where I would have been happy to spend more time.
Enjoyed the Jews on Vinyl exhibit, on now until Sept. 5. It features a display of record album covers from the 1940s to 1980s in a room with comfortable seating and headsets so visitors can listen to the music.
The mix of “American Jewish” albums includes cantorial and even Christmas music by Jewish artists, and ranges from the Barry Sisters (whose Yiddish albums my grandfather liked) to parodist Allan Sherman (more my parents’ generation) to Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond (whose music still resonates for me).
But my personal favourite – the one I least expected to see – was a 1977 album by the Stan Hiltz Orchestra, which I remember as a popular Toronto wedding band in the ’70s and ’80s.
The orchestra, which had a 38-year run, started in 1965 as a rock ’n’ roll band, Hiltz told me when I reached him this week by phone. Kosher Style, the band’s only album, was a promotional item used as a giveaway at weddings and bar mitzvahs. It was also distributed in the United States, where it was heard on Jewish radio stations.
The album is included in the book, And You Shall Know Us By the Trail of Our Vinyl: The Jewish Musical Past As Told By the Records We Have Loved and Lost, a couple of copies of which were on hand at the exhibit.
It was fun to happen on some local content, especially when we noticed the CN Tower on the album cover.
And we didn’t realize until we arrived at the museum that admission is free on Thursday. Two nice surprises in one afternoon.