“Not Kosher:“ Viennese Jewish Choir Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (06/26/2009)

Vienna – A piece of Jewish life embodied in Vienna’s Jewish Choir celebrated its 20th anniversary today in Vienna. Founded by the Smolka family, the choir of forty singers performed their anniversary concert - “A bissele Glik“ (“A Little Bit of Luck“) in the Mozartsaal of Vienna’s Concert House -  under the direction of Roman Grinberg.  Together with their audience, they traced various facets of luck and happiness, offering a wide spectrum of Jewish songs at their best.  

Vienna’s Jewish Choir is an example of cultural exchange depicting the “harmony of cooperation between Jews and non-Jews, between born Austrians and immigrants,“ said president of the choir Timothy Smolka when addressing the audience. In terms of its composition, the Choir is by no means “kosher.“ It is made up of men and women, Jews and non-Jews, “who are bound by a common love of Jewish music and respect of Jewry,“ said Smolka.  

The Choir was founded twenty years ago by Smolka’s daugther Eva, who at the time was searching for an opportunity to offer Jewish culture in Vienna to the public. Initially it was an ensemble of eight singers, practicing in the Smolka family‘s living room. Today the Choir consists of fifty members and has become an indispensable part of Jewish life in Vienna.  

Choir director Roman Grinberg arranged the majority of songs himself. The Choir’s repertoire includes primarily Jewish, Hebrew and English pieces, popular songs and even some more traditional songs that were thought to have been lost. Grinberg maintains exchange with interntional musicians who have survived the Shoa and who have preserved songs that were thought to have been long forgotten. His wish is to have the choir contribute by salvaging the treasure of undiscovered songs and invest them with new life.  

One of the mentors of Vienna’s Jewish Choir is Ukrainian Klezmer musician Arkadi Gendlder. The eighty-seven year-old who was to be present at the anniversary concert as special guest was unable to attend out of health reasons. The highlights of the evening were, apart from the choir‘s soloists, the appearance of Russian violinist Aliosha Biz and Ukrainian panpipe virtuoso Igor Pilyavskiy. 

For further information, see: http://www.wjchor.at