Music Without Borders: a choral collaboration featuring American, German and Sephardic music
by Marie Caruso and Kathleen McClafferty for Vocal Area Network
Posted June 27, 2015

Coro Hispano-Alemán BerlinAngelica, a New York-based women’s chamber choir, is thrilled to welcome Coro Hispano-Alemán Berlin to New York this summer. The two groups will present collaborative concerts celebrating their unexpected shared love of medieval Sephardic music.

This growing musical friendship was born on a bright Sunday morning in the picturesque hill town of Lonigo in Italy’s Veneto province--all thanks to a broken-down bus.

Angelica participated in the Verona Garda Estate Choral Festival last summer, which took place in some of the most exquisite sacred spaces in the Veneto province in northern Italy. Angelica performed in the centuries-old churches of Montichiari, Pozzo, Altavilla and Lonigo. Sixty choirs from around the world participated in this five-day festival.

“Perhaps by providence,” muses Marie Caruso, Angelica’s Artistic Director, “Angelica's bus broke down on the last day of the festival, and we were asked to share a bus with the Coro Hispano-Alemán Berlin, who was performing with us that morning in Lonigo.” It was during that bus trip that Angelica and the German choir discovered their shared passion for medieval Spanish and Sephardic music.

“Spontaneously, both groups began to sing pieces from the Cantigas de Santa Maria and the Libre Vermell de Montserrat. Sephardic music followed, and the choirs taught each other songs. We were bonded by the love of this repertory and the joy of choral singing! When the festival was over, we agreed to stay in touch.”

They did stay in touch. And over the next several months, communications expanded into the idea of a New York concert. “We agreed to a shared performance,” Caruso explains, “each group singing a few pieces from its country, and both groups joining together to sing Sephardic music, our common repertory.” The groups decided to present the program at several venues Westchester and New York City, and they agreed on the idea of free admission— “a gesture of gratefulness for all the support we have received over the years.”

“We hope that people will find this story as special as we do, and that you will enjoy hearing the music as much as we will enjoy performing it,” Caruso adds. Admission is free, in gratitude for all the support Angelica has received over the years—especially the generous donations that enabled them to attend the festival in Verona last summer. “Without that support, we never would have met our new friends!”

The Coro Hispano-Alemán Berlin, directed by Frank Szafranski, will perform pieces by Mendelssohn and Brahms. Angelica will sing an American program featuring folk hymns, revival songs and modern works, including a piece written for Angelica by composer Julie Dolphin. The two choirs will join together to sing Sephardic songs Porke Yorash, Et Dodim Cala, Kuando veo ija ermoza, Adío querida and Hamisha Asar. Accompanying the groups will be guest artists Rex Benincasa on percussion and Jerry Celestino on guitar. The two groups will perform the concert three times at different venues:

  • Friday, July 17, 7:30 PM, Asbury United Methodist Church, 17 Old Post Road South, Croton-on-Hudson, NY
  • Saturday, July 18, 7:30 PM, St. Matthew’s Church, 616 Warburton Avenue, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
  • Sunday, July 19, 3:00 PM, Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, 869 Lexington Avenue (at East 66th Street), New York City

For more information, please visit www.angelicavoices.org.

Marie Caruso is the artistic director of Angelica. Kathleen McClafferty is a member of Angelica.