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Musicians Lache Cercel and Don Ogilvie team up to teach world’s first course in Roma jazz at the Shadbolt Centre

Lache Cercel Roma
Violinist Lache Cercel has blazed a new musical trail that's deeply rooted in his Roma heritage.

Nearly four decades after fleeing Romania and co-creating a new form of music in Canada, Roma violinist Lache Cercel is showing no signs of slowing down. The highly regarded Burnaby musician is looking forward to his next jazz concert on Saturday (February 3) at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. It will feature Laura Crema on vocals, along with musicians Don Ogilvie, Kit Eakle, Sergiu Popa, and Oliver Swain.

In addition, Cercel will join Ogilvie in co-teaching the world’s first course in Roma jazz at the Shadbolt Centre, starting on Wednesday (January 31).

“For many people, it’s a dream coming true because they like the music, but they don’t know where it’s coming from,” Cercel tells Pancouver over the phone.

Cercel was once an acclaimed violist in Romania. In 1986, the Communist government even crowned him as an “Artist of the People”.

The following year, he escaped the country, just two years before the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. Cercel initially settled in Victoria, performing with Original Balkan Jam.

While living in Romania, he developed a love of jazz through a smuggled Stéphane Grappelli tape. In 1997, he met Ogilvie, an accomplished jazz musician. Together, they created the Roma Swing Ensemble, which blends classical café sounds from Europe with Roma folk, and jazz.

In the process, this band pioneered a new form of music, Roma jazz, which they’ve performed in several countries.

“This is part of Canadian culture,” Cercel says proudly.

Meanwhile, Roma Jazz: A Masterclass with Lache Cercel and Don Ogilvie will run for six weeks in SCA Studio 210 at the Shadbolt Centre. From January 31, it will continue at 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday night for six weeks. It’s open to anyone 14 years and older.

Classes will be devoted to understanding the roots of Roma jazz music and instruments, rhythm and groove, and melodic structures and phrasing. Other classes will address harmony and chord progressions, improvisations, repertoire, and performance practice.

Watch the promotional video for the Roma jazz classes.

Roma influenced many musical styles

According to Cercel, this course will combine theory with practical demonstrations and discussions.

Cercel and Ogilvie will also offer another class, Roma Jazz: Ensemble Workshop, on the same days at 7:30 p.m. This will offer a hands-on opportunity for people to participate in an ensemble.

The Roma people have had a huge impact on many forms of music, Cercel notes. They played a major role in the rise of classical café music in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which influenced composers such as Johannes Brahms and George Bizet.

Moreover, these people, whose roots go back to Rajasthan in India, helped give birth to flamenco music in Spain. As well, they helped shape music originating in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans.

“The Roma jazz is following the jazz structure and theory, and East European melodic lines,” Cercel states.

Lache Cercel and Roma Jazz will perform on February 3 in the Studio Theatre at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby. For tickets and more information, visit the centre’s website. To enroll in the Roma Jazz Masterclass with Lache Cercel and Don Ogilvie, visit this link. Go to this link for the  Roma Jazz: Ensemble Workshop. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.