a jeweller’s legacy
It started with a poem Jen Schaffer wrote for and recited at her father’s 80th birthday celebration some four years ago. Phrases like “a quiet care” and “jeweller’s legacy” were included in this rumination on the 80 reasons that Hank was the season to outlast all the rest. But of course his time did, in fact end, though sooner than was hoped and imagined. Jen’s father, Henry Schaffer, died on April 30, 2022 at St. Raphael’s Palliative Care Home in Montreal. This was after a far too recent diagnosis of mesothelioma – a rare form of lung cancer that he contracted from his work as a jeweller, with its historically inherent exposure to asbestos fumes.
Henry Schaffer was so many things. A Polish jewish child survivor of the Holocaust, born in Warsaw a week before the Nazis invaded. A lover of knackwurst from Basel, Switzerland and jazz from the likes of Miles Davis and Charlie Mingus. A loving and beloved son, husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather and dog owner. And he was a jeweller – initially pressured into his father’s business, Hank worked for and then took over Platinor, a fine jewelry manufacturing company started by Jen’s grandfather, Simon Schaffer.
The song, titled “a jeweller’s legacy” takes the listener on a journey through this father’s life. Jen wrote, sings and plays acoustic guitar on the tune, with arrangement, recording and production from her partner in music, crime and life, Simon Law. Likely to their father’s delight, Jen’s sisters – twin Lauren Schaffer and older sibling Arianne Schaffer – sing harmonies on the song, with Emmanuel Szeptycki, joining them on the high part. The impetus for this rare blood vocal appearance on a Shiner recording? Good, old fashioned Jewish guilt… and a desire to please, if only posthumously, their father and grandfather, Henry Schaffer, for whom the song is written. The recording includes a special guest appearance by virtuoso cellist, Margaret Gay, from Tafelmusik, The Gallery Players of Niagara, and Eybler Quartet, who adds rich urgent dynamics to the bridge. Simon Law, on grand piano responds to these darting phrases, propelling the energy of the bridge with tom-heavy drums and bookending cymbal swells. Throughout the piece, Emmanuel Szeptycki, Jen’s violinist offspring and Concordia music major, brings to life the warm evocative textures of Simon’s string arrangement. John Teshima’s acoustic guitar beautifully compliments and extends Jen’s original guitar part, a beautifully symbiotic sound that permeates many a Shiner tune. Multi-instrumentalist John also joins on bass, as he did some fourteen years ago on the band’s first recording, Angel Ridge.
The song was lovingly recorded and mixed at Studio Wolfrey in Toronto, Canada in the spring of 2023, just shy of Henry Schaffer’s yartzeit – the one-year anniversary of his death.
The art work was lovingly created by visual artist Lauren Schaffer, at her own studio on Withrow Avenue, just down the street from Studio Wolfrey. The image uses treated photography of old ring moulds that lauren has been sorting through – remnants from Hank’s jewelry business. Lauren says the piece is meant to be a consideration of what author Jacob Wren calls “the many overlaps between making and unlearning.”
And a music video was also released on December 15, 2023, the last day of Chanukah, based on the footage I took on the early evening of April 29, 2022. I was in a cab in Montreal, driving along Van Horne, back to our family home in Westmount from my father’s palliative care home in Outremont. A stunning sunset kept peeking out between the buildings and I felt the need to capture the journey. I had a sense in that moment that this was also the sun setting on my father’s life. And by midnight that evening, my father took his last breath. So coming out of Chanukah 2023, and in honour of my father, I put forth this video and the hope that we keep hold of some light through these darker times – that we find our way back to a moment of peace, coexistence, resilience, respect, dignity and enlightenment.
Released April 30, 2023
Words and Music – Jennifer Schaffer (SOCAN)
Jennifer Schaffer – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Simon Law – Piano and Percussion
John Teshima – Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Margaret Gay – Cello
Emmanuel Szeptycki – Violins, Background vocals
Arianne Schaffer – Background Vocals
Lauren Schaffer – Background Vocals
Arranged, Recorded and Produced by Simon Law at Studio Wolfrey, Toronto, Canada – Spring of 2023
Album art work by Lauren Schaffer