African-American by birth and Jewish by choice, Anthony (Mordechai Tzvi) Russell is a fresh new voice in the contemporary Yiddish music scene. Trained and experienced as an operatic bass, Russell has more recently discovered in Yiddish art song an ideal canvas for the expression of his own multifaceted identity. He has deeply immersed himself in the recital repertoire of the famed Sidor Belarsky (1898-1975), one of the 20th century’s most celebrated and prolific performers of cantorial music, Chassidic nigunim, and Yiddish folk songs.
Striving in his interpretations to “embody the aspirations, desires and struggles of one diaspora culture enriched with the colours and experiences of another,” Russell’s rich basso cantante evokes Paul Robeson as much as Belarsky himself. His earnest and heartfelt interpretations reveal the narrative, melodic, and cultural riches of a timeless repertoire, now given refreshing new life by an emerging talent.