Q: What is Grief?

Grief is a new bilingual choral performance by The Holy Gasp. Written for 10 vocalists, 2 pianists, and 2 percussionists, Grief is intended to fabricate a communal mourning ritual for anyone who has suffered the sorrows of losing a loved one. The performance will be live streamed from The Historic Kiever Synagogue in Toronto’s Kensington Market from sunset to sunrise on the evening of July 1st until the morning of July 2nd, 2020. 

Q: Where and how can I watch Grief? Over what streaming platform(s) will it be available?

Grief will be streamed over our Facebook page, our YouTube channel, as well as our homepage.

If you’d like to see Grief streamed in other places, you can help! Please feel free to post and share our live stream over your own social media pages, and please encourage your friends and family to do so as well.

Q: At what times does Grief begin and end?

We will begin our performance of Grief precisely at sunset on July 1st, which is 9:03pm Eastern Standard Time. We are committed to performing Grief until sunrise on July 2nd, which is 5:41am. That being said, if we have not read every name in the scroll by sunrise, we will continue the performance until every last name has been committed to voice.

Q: How much does it cost to stream Grief? What is the cost to enter a name into the Database of the Dead?

Grief is entirely free to everyone. You do not need money to participate—neither as a viewer of the live stream performance, nor to enter names into the Database of the Dead.

That being said, we would greatly benefit from your monetary donations. Please see the following question for more details.

Q: How can I donate to Grief? What are some ways that I can help?

As an un-ticketed performance, we are relying solely on revenue earned from arts councils, sponsorships, and donations to pay our many artists and crew members. If you or your company would like to make a donation or sponsor Grief, here are some great ways that you can help:

  1. You make a secure donation through our PayPal.
  2. You can mail cheques to, or drop them off at, The Historic Kiever Synagogue in Toronto’s Kensington Market: c/o The Holy Gasp/ 25 Bellevue Avenue/ Toronto, Ontario./ M5T 1K8
  3. You can contact us at TheHolyGasp@gmail.com to discuss sponsorship opportunities and/or in-kind donations. We would be happy to discuss advertising opportunities with you, and we are particularly interested in finding sponsors to assist us by providing kosher catering for our cast and crew. If you’d like to help, we’d love to hear from you.

Q: How can I participate in Grief?

You can participate in Grief:You can enter names into the Database of the Dead. Every name entered into the database will be inscribed by hand into a scroll by Rochelle Rubinstein. Each name inscribed into the scroll will in turn be read by Benjamin Hackman on the night of Grief. This is a simple and powerful way that you can participate.

Q: Can I enter the name of a person I’ve never met, but whose life has had a significant impact on me, such as a celebrity?

If the loss of a celebrity you’ve never met has indeed caused you to grieve, then please do enter their name, and we will honour their life on your behalf. We do ask, however, that you consider whether the name you’ve entered into the Database of the Dead is ironic or authentic, and whether it is coming from a sincere place of reverence for the dead. Only you can answer this for yourself.

Q: Can I include the names of deceased pets?

Anyone who has done a close reading of The Holy Gasp’s lyrics will see that we are indeed animal lovers. That being said, we kindly ask that you limit your entries to human loved ones only.

Q: I fancy myself something of a jokester. I would like to enter some names that are intended to provoke laughter, such as Seymour Butts, or Amanda Hugandkiss. Would you advise against that?

Please do not do that. We have put forth a policy stating that all names entered into the Database of the Dead, and subsequently entered into the scroll, are to be interpreted as only possessing positive intent. That means that if you enter Seymour Butts or Amanda Hugandkiss into the database, that name will be entered into a scroll, and we will recite those names at the event itself. We will assume they are real dead people worthy of memorial.

The Holy Gasp employs a lot of humour in many other projects, and we promise we want to facilitate opportunities for you to laugh, but Grief is not a comedic performance, and we ask that you pay appropriate respect to the dead and the grieving. We trust that you understand, and we thank you for your cooperation.  

Q: Is there a limit to how many names I can enter into the Database of the Dead?

None whatsoever! Do not be shy to take up space in the Datbase of the Dead with the names of those who have impacted your life.

Q: How can I see if a name has already been entered into the Database of the Dead? What if I enter the same name as someone else?

We recognize that many people are born, coincidentally, with the same name as others. The About The Dead section in the Database of the Dead has been included specifically to help prevent the same person from being entered more than once. We want to give you the best chance of figuring out whether a name which has already appeared is due to a shared name, or because it is the same person.

Before you enter a name into the Database of the Dead, please search the database to see if that name has already been entered. Let’s say, for example, that you would like to enter the name of your aunt, Sally Waxner. You search the database for Sally Waxner and discover that the name has already been entered, but in the About The Dead section, you read that Sally Waxner was beloved for her famous coconut macaroons. Well… your Sally Waxner, as everyone knew, despised coconut. It would then stand to reason that the two Sally Waxners are indeed different, and that you should enter your own Sally Waxner, making note of her strong distaste for coconut.

Q: What if the dead went by a nickname, or a name not assigned to them at birth? Or what if they have a name separate from their common name which is specific to their culture or religion? How should I enter their name into the Database of the Dead? And which names should I enter?

Here are two ways you may chose to creatively respond to this problem:

Add nicknames in quotation marks, such as: Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong or “Iron” Mike Tyson.  

For names of cultural or religious significance, you may also include an AKA (also known as) at the end of the name, such as: Moishe Myer ben Joseph haLevi Hackman, AKA: Morris Hackman.

If in doubt, try your best to enter the name by which people were known by most, make a note in the About the Dead section, and trust your instincts.

Q: In what languages will Grief be performed?

Grief is a bilingual composition, and will be performed in both English and American Sign Language. Our ensemble is made up of 9 hearing vocalists and 1 deaf vocalist.

Q: Am I expected to watch the entire performance of Grief?

You are encouraged to try. You are also encouraged to make decisions about your participation that best reflect what is meaningful and authentic to you. Grief is, by design, intended to be difficult. Regardless of how much or little of the performance you watch, please write to us and let us know how the piece effected you. We would love to hear from you: TheHolyGasp@gmail.com

Q: Will The Holy Gasp really be performing from sunrise to sunset without break? Won’t that be difficult?

Yes, the entire ensemble will be performing straight through the night, only allowing for short breaks to nourish and relieve themselves. The crew, too, will be working for the entirety of the night. Grief is, by design, intended to be difficult for everybody involved, whether artist, crew member, or audience.

Q: Is Grief appropriate for children?

The Holy Gasp subscribes to the principle that if a child is old enough to ask about something, she or he is old enough to discuss it. Many children, sadly, must grieve, and those who have not yet grieved, will indeed be required to do so one day. As it is written in Ecclesiastes: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” Parent your children as you see fit, and if your child does watch all or part of Grief, please do encourage them to write to us and share their experience. We’d love to hear from them: TheHolyGasp@gmail.com.

Q: How many names can fit into the database? How many names can be recited from sunset to sunrise?

By our estimates, it will be possible to read 25,000 names by the time the sun rises on July 2nd, 2020.

Q: What measures is The Holy Gasp taking to safeguard against the spreading of Covid‑19.

We are reassessing every day what is possible for Grief. Originally, Grief was intended to be performed by a choir of 27 hearing vocalists and 3 deaf vocalists, and to be presented to a physical audience. In the context of Covid‑19, we have decided to reduce the size of our ensemble significantly, and to eliminate a physical audience altogether. Our ensemble will be separated from each other by a minimum of 2 meters, and/or separated by Plexiglas baffling. Anyone who is able to, will also be wearing gloves and masks to safeguard further against infection. We take the health and safety of our cast and crew seriously, and will continue to reassess what is possible moving forward. We accept that it may be deemed necessary for us to postpone the performance, and we will cross that bridge when we get there. For now, however, we feel a great urgency to present grief, especially within the context of Covid‑19.

Q: I’d like to write a story abut Grief, or interview The Holy Gasp. Who can I contact about this?

Thank you so much for your interest in Grief and The Holy Gasp. Please direct all media inquiries to our publicist Damien Nelson.

If you’d like to see Grief streamed in other places, you can help! Please feel free to post and share the live stream over your own social media pages, and encourage your friends and family to do so as well.

  • Kiever Shul
  • Paul Hahn and Co.
  • SoCan Foundation
  • Canada Council for the Arts
  • Ontario Arts Council