Monday, May 14, 2007


By Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng.

The Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble's Vocal Director Arthur Liffmann said to me, "If you have not heard Chai perform in a number of years, you will truly be blown away by this CD." And he was right.

There are so many positive adjectives to describe the music and dance that Chai debuted at their CD release party on Sunday, May 9th at the Gates on Roblin.

The new CD is entitled "Wanderings", signifying the wanderings of the Jewish people over time around the globe and the travels of the Chai Folk Ensemble around the world. The CD represents what Chai has been able to learn from all the places where they have travelled and performed and shows how they have used this knowledge to grow and mature musically.

Hillel Sommer, President of Chai, described the event as an intimate, up close and personal affair. The more than 200 people in attendance enjoyed a variety of desserts before listening to thirteen brand new songs performed by the seven member orchestra, 10 singers and numerous dancers.

The program began with "Heyaw" and continued with a new upbeat rendition of "Hava Nagila Gila" and then a Yiddish swing number called "Alle Brider". The highlight of the evening was a beautiful slower paced duet sung by Tracy Kasner Greaves and [The Illustrious D]. Their stunning voices complimented each other in "Avinu Malkeinu". The audience reciprocated with great applause after every song and dance number.

Chai performed a darbuka style tune with a middle eastern beat "Shirei Ro'im Ve'Ohavim" meaning songs of shepherds and lovers, "Ahava" a song about finding love, and "Nanua" a melodic tune originally by David D'Or and Achinoam Nini about love and music bringing people together. The dancers executed a flawless professional show in attractive brightly colored outfits.

Ruth Charach told the Winnipeg Jewish Review “I think they were great and I’ve seen them for years. The talent they’ve got is amazing, especially the new talent. The newcomers are first class performers.”

The audience was also treated to “Bab El Wad” with guest pianist Tatyana Smolyaninov. Sung by soloist Arthur Liffmann and interpreted by solo dancer Jeff Schacter, it is a tribute to the fallen soldiers of the War of Independence. Lastly, the Ensemble gave a grand performance of a medley of three Israeli folk songs.

Evita Smordin was also enthralled with the show. “Chai has been great for 46 years. Now you see children of past Chai members participating, you see two generations of the same family performing together, and you see brothers and sisters performing together. Chai is a close knit, Jewish community family affair”, she said.

Chai paid tribute to Mrs. Rachel Fink, the first accordion player of Chai in 1968. Fink is a former music teacher and mother and grandmother of a number of Chai performers over the years. She is also the grandmother of Chai’s Musical Director and Lead Producer on the CD, Ariel Posen. She was noted as “One of the Matriarchs of the Music of Chai.” Chai also paid tribute to the memory of Elana Palay, a valued Chai volunteer, who tragically passed away recently.

Chai DancersThe CD is available from the Chai office, McNally Robinson Bookstore in Grant Park and will soon be available on the Chai website.

Cheryl Barish summed up the evening by saying, “It was extraordinary. The orchestra never sounded so good. I enjoyed the new strings and jazz components that have been added. The dancers were wonderful and the singers were out of this world. I loved it.”

There will be a second CD release open to the public. The live performance with singers and musicians will take place Thursday, May 27, 2010, at the Park Theatre, 698 Osborne Street at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 - $15.To purchase a ticket, call the Chai office at 477-7497.

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