Sid Robinovitch


On Wednesday, November 6, our community will be commemorating the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht – the infamous Night of the Broken Glass – with an evening of music – one of the highlights of which will be a relatively new composition by Winnipeg’s own Sid Robinovitch.




The prolific local composer’s contribution to the evening will be “Eddy’s Story”, based on the memoirs of Dutch-born Holocaust survivor Eddy Sterk.
Kristallnacht is the name given to the first widespread Nazi pogrom – which took place November 9 and 10, 1938 – against the Jewish citizens of Germany and Nazi-occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia. The alleged trigger was the assassination of a German embassy official in Paris a couple of days earlier by 17-year-old Polish Jew Herschel Grynszpan, after learning that his parents were among the thousands of Polish Jews with German citizenship who had recently been expelled from Germany.
Kristallnacht saw the widespread destruction of Jewish homes, synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses, along with the internment of more than 30,000 Jewish males in concentration camps. The death toll ran into the hundreds.
Robinovitch first met Eddy Sterk in Toronto in 2014. “It was during Holocaust Remembrance Week,” Robinovitch recalls. “I had written a piece for the Jewish Folk Choir which the choir was performing at Temple Sinai. After the performance, I was introduced to Eddy, an elderly fellow who had lost all of his family in the Holocaust. He asked me to write a piece of music in memory of his family members who were murdered.”
The composer based his new composition on Sterk’s memoirs, which he wrote with the help of the Azrieli Foundation which, Robinovitch explains, pairs Ryerson students with Holocaust survivors in writing their stories.
“I took some of the text and wrote music around it,” Robinovitch notes. “The work includes a narrator.”
Robinovitch premiered the new piece in Toronto on November, 2014. “The reception was quite good,” he says of the audience reaction. “I was glad that Eddy was able to attend. He died a few months later.”
“Eddy’s Story” and the other Winnipeg Kristallnacht compositions – including “Kaddish” by Ravel, a piece by American composer Paul Schoenfeld, and a couple of others – will be performed by Trio Exchange (consisting of Madeline Hildebrand on piano, Elation Pauls on violin and Micah Heilbrunn playing the clarinet). Local playwright Bruce Sarbit (who has previously collaborated with Robinovitch) will be the narrator for “Eddy’s Story”.
The commemorative evening begin at 7:00 at Eckhardt Gramatte Hall at the University of Winnipeg. Admission is free.

Originally from Brandon, Robinovitch and family moved to Winnipeg when he was 13. After graduating from the University of Manitoba followed by post-graduate study in the U.S., he relocated to Toronto where he taught at York University for a number of years. In the late 1970s, he says, he left academia to follow his true passion – creating music – and moved back to Winnipeg shortly thereafter.
Over the years, Robinovitch’s music has been performed by the Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras, the Elmer Iseler Singers, and the Vancouver Chamber Choir. He has written works for Finjan, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and many choral groups, such as the Winnipeg Singers. In addition to his concert works, Robinovitch has written music for film, radio and TV, including the theme for CBC-TV’s satirical comedy series, “The Newsroom.”
Klezmer Suite, a recording devoted entirely to his music performed by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Bramwell Tovey, was nominated for a 2002 Juno award and received a Prairie Music Award for outstanding classical recording. Sefarad, a CD featuring his music for guitar, was released in 2008 on the Marquis label, and received a Western Canadian Music Award nomination for classical recording of the year.
“A lot of my music is based on Jewish themes,” he notes, “although ‘Eddy’s Story’ is only my second Holocaust-themed work.”
He reports that he is currently working on new pieces for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and the Winnipeg Children’s Choir and Orchestra – the latter based on the story of Jonah.