Words and music to soothe the savage winter

Music ’N’ Mavens marks 25 years of providing stimulating talks and concerts at the Rady JCC


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Parents will tell you time sure flies while your kids grow up.

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Parents will tell you time sure flies while your kids grow up.

Count Karla Berbrayer among that group. The founding producer of Music ’N’ Mavens has seen her family transformed during the 25 years she has guided the concerts and talks with the Rady JCC.

“When I first began this series, my kids were little and I wanted to do something where I would be home from work around the time they would be home from school. They’re all adults now!” she says.


Andrina Turenne

The 2023 edition of Music ’N’ Mavens begins Thursday afternoon at the Rady JCC when another Winnipeg institution celebrating an anniversary, the 150-year-old Winnipeg Free Press, is the topic of conversation, with editor Paul Samyn at the speakers’ microphone.

In 1998, the Rady JCC was looking for afternoon events to host at the Rady JCC Fitness Centre on Doncaster Street, which opened the year earlier, and brought in Berbrayer to get it started.

She thought there were others in Winnipeg like her, looking for something to do in the long days of winter while their kids were at school.

“The concept was always that we would be able to offer, in the daytime, on the coldest days of the winter, for people who haven’t flown away, in Winnipeg and looking for cultural stimulation,” she says. “It’s almost like I’m running two series combined into one.”

The result was Music ’N’ Mavens, an odd mixture of entertainment and elucidation that takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m. from January to March: concerts featuring some of Winnipeg’s top musicians and a speaker series to create discussions on a variety of issues.


Music ‘N’ Mavens artistic director Karla Berbrayer

This year’s event includes 20 concerts and talks before it winds up March 23 with the Sadler Sisters, reimagining hits from the 1960s and ’70s.

Berbrayer has leaned on Winnipeg’s versatile music community, artists such as Andrina Turenne, for the concerts, and the French-language singer-songwriter returns Feb. 28. This time’s she’s part of Sweet Little Franco Trio, which shows off her fusion of jazz, folk and rock as well as the Métis and Franco-Manitoban heritage of the group, which includes bassist Gilles Fournier and drummer Daniel Roy.

One of the highlights of the musical series has Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra violinist Sonia Lazar playing one of the Violins of Hope, restored instruments played at concentration camps during the Holocaust. It’s a followup concert to one the WSO held last December.

”They are very generously providing the violin on which Sonia Lazar will be performing,” she says. “Those people that did not get the opportunity to attend the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra when Sonia performed on that violin will have the opportunity to spend a hour hearing her perform.”

Berbrayer often reaches out to professors at Winnipeg’s universities and colleges for the Mavens part of the event, which is free to the public, and the 2023 edition is no different, with three University of Manitoba faculty members on the bill.


Jillian Willems

This year’s event includes Myroslav Shkandrij, a professor emeritus in the U of M’s department of German and Slavic studies, who also teaches at Columbia University in New York, speaking about how the war in Ukraine will end; economist Gregory Mason on the future of Winnipeg and Barry Prentice, a professor of supply-chain management at the I.H. Asper School of Business, shedding light on why product shortages are causing shockwaves to consumers’ bank accounts.

It also includes city archeologist Matthew Singer, who will let folks know about some of his favourite hidden restaurants in the city.

“I think originally, he thought I was calling to ask him to speak about archeology, but I like to surprise people when I call them,” Berbrayer says with a chuckle. “As I often joke, (the next Mavens speaker) could be anyone I had dinner with last night that I find extremely interesting.”

Berbrayer has invited dozens of experts to talk on a variety of subjects over the years, but she’s also found audiences have risen to the challenge too.

“They’re all so knowledgeable and know so much about so many different things that they are mavens, especially for those who have been coming to Music ’N’ Mavens for many years,” she says.


Monika Wall

Ticket details for the music events can be found at radyjcc.net/ticketcentral.cfm.


Twitter: @AlanDSmall

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Myroslav Shkandrij


Matthew Singer

Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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