Reviews/Press




A Jewish Choir Extravaganza

March 19, 2017 – Cherry Hill, New Jersey

by Barbara Brickman
On Sunday, March 19, Kolot HaLev singers braved the morning snow showers and traveled north to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for the Jewish Choir Extravaganza. Our destination was the beautiful Temple Emanuel, where we were warmly greeted by welcoming temple members and singers of the two choirs with whom we were spending the day.

Dr. Julia Zavadsky is the Artistic Director of both Nashira, a community-based chorale drawing singers from the greater Philadelphia region, and Kol Emanuel, the synagogue choir of Temple Emanuel. We had the honor of singing under Dr. Zavadsky’s direction at the Shalshelet Sixth International Festival in December, and again for our annual Day of Learning workshop in February.

For the afternoon concert, the New Jersey choirs joined with Kolot HaLev to perform in various combinations.

...somewhere up there in New Jersey there are groups of people who are as passionate as we are about Jewish choral music.
During lunch and rehearsals, Kolot members had the opportunity to get to know our new New Jersey friends. We already knew we had in common a love of Jewish music and a love of singing. Our schedule for the day included time to rehearse our solo pieces, as well as rehearse the music we would later sing with one or both of the New Jersey choirs.

After working hard to blend the various groups, and become more familiar with the musicians and directors, we could begin to appreciate our new sound. What amazing music filled the sanctuary during the afternoon concert! Each choir shared some favorite pieces with each other and the audience. We sang together other pieces and were excited by the wonderful sound produced by so many voices.

We carried home the satisfaction of entertaining an appreciative audience, having the experience to sing again some of our favorites, and hearing new music we might want to learn. And, also, knowing that somewhere up there in New Jersey there are groups of people who are as passionate as we are about Jewish choral music.

Concert at the Italian Embassy

January 30, 2017 • 7 pm

Kolot HaLev choir, upon the invitation by The Embassy of Italy, performed at the Washington, D.C. embassy in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The event was organized by the Embassy of Italy / ItalyInUS, the Embassy of Israel and in collaboration with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The concert was been sold out. but was streamed live on the Italian embassy’s Facebook page.

In addition, the Italian Cultural Institute and Embassy of Israel presented the photo exhibit Return of Life - The Holocaust Survivors: from Liberation to Rehabilitation. The event includes the testimony of Rachel Mutterperl Goldfarb, Holocaust survivor, and the performance of Cantata Ebraica by Kolot HaLev, a Jewish community choir, in a musical program of Jewish Italian selections by Bolaffi, Marcello and Puccini.

The Washington Jewish Week



Teaching the World to Sing

by Lisa Traiger, Arts Correspondent
Ramon Tasat wants to teach the world to sing. The Buenos Aires-born cantor believes singing is everyone's birthright, even the guy whose high school music teacher told him he could join the choir only if he moved his lips silently. Or Aunt Sylvia, who everyone tries to hush at the family seder.

"I have noticed in my life as a musician that singing has been an outlet of enormous spiritual recognition for most people," Tasat said last week, "because one cannot separate cleanly the fact that when one sings, one is truly oneself." Tasat is the founder of Kolot HaLev, a Jewish community choir that requires no audition. This weekend the group celebrates its fifth anniversary with On the Wings of Song, a program celebrating contemporary Israeli composers, which takes place Sunday afternoon at Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase.
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Tasat, who also serves as cantor for Shirat HaNefesh, a relatively new post-denominational congregation serving southern Montgomery County, has found many American Jews are unfamiliar with the songs of Israel beyond, maybe, "Yerushalayim Shel Zehav" by Naomi Shemer or a version of "Oseh Shalom," which, Tasat remarked, people think "came from Sinai." "Hava Nagila," he notes, isn't really "Israeli music" at all. He hopes to change that with this program featuring choral settings of works by Shemer and Ehud Manor, but also music artists like Shalom Hanokh, Gil Dor, Sasha Argov and even Tasat's own arrangement of "Ana b'Koach."

Sunday's concert, On the Wings of Song, will focus on Israel's music from the past three decades, because, Tasat said, "people have a vision of Israel as a country that is mostly at war or, if not at war it's missiles or terrorist attacks." He wants to showcase another side of Israel: its artistic creativity. In doing that he hopes to introduce a new generation of Israeli songwriters and their songs to American Jews. Audiences may be familiar with Achinoam Nini, who opened the Jewish music festival here in the District late last month, because she sings in English as well as Hebrew, but Tasat hopes to open listeners up to the works of Israeli pop music composers like Yoni Rechter, Matti Caspi and Shlomo Gronich.

As a frequent visitor to Israel, Tasat noted a few trends in today's Israeli music scene, including the growing number of secular Jews who, he said, have found a new sense of spirituality and are beginning to approach liturgical music in a different way. The Kolot HaLev choir will sing a version of the "Unetaneh Tokef" from the High Holy Day liturgy. But it's a nontraditional setting created on the secular Kibbutz Beit HaShita to honor members of the kibbutz community who died in the Yom Kippur War.

"This liturgical piece has actually taken on a different meaning," Tasat said. "When we say who will live and who will die, it's not, in this case, a matter of what may happen. In this case it was a certainty, and this shows us how music can confront realities of our times in a manner that hardly anything else can."

Tasat sees a trend, too, in the growing interest in and acceptance of music from Arab and African countries, including music from the Jews of Ethiopia. The choir will sing a version of a Turkish song, "She-kshenavo" by Giorgos Kalamariotis and Argiris Kounadis, that is popular in the Jewish state. Cantor Rachel Anne Hersh of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, will perform as a guest soloist, and the choir will be accompanied by five-piece instrumental ensemble featuring flute, bass, keyboards, mandolin, guitar and percussion.

Comprised of about 45 members, Kolot HaLev, which translates to "voices of the heart," is open to anyone who wishes to sing. Unlike other choirs, Tasat doesn't require an audition, but he does demand a commitment. Kolot HaLev rehearses weekly for two hours.

"We rehearse methodically: no intermission, no cake. The socializing comes afterwards. But the two hours are full of rehearsal time," he emphasized. "It includes musical theory, explanation of Hebrew texts, Yiddish or Ladino or any other language in relation to what we're singing. It means explanation of what a musical phrase is and vocal techniques."

Chorus members range in age from their 40s through their 80s and span the gamut of denominations from secular Jews to those who are Sabbath observant. Some members aren't Jewish.

"I tell new members, 'Feel free to ask any questions, but you have to put the effort into it,' " Tasat said, "What's very interesting is that many people who felt they couldn't sing at all find out that they can, and they are doing it reasonably well, and that gives them pleasure."

"Choral music is enormously beautiful," he added, "when done well, it can also bring people together."

"We rehearse methodically: no intermission, no cake. The socializing comes afterwards. But the two hours are full of rehearsal time," he emphasized. "It includes musical theory, explanation of Hebrew texts, Yiddish or Ladino or any other language in relation to what we're singing. It means explanation of what a musical phrase is and vocal techniques."

Chorus members range in age from their 40s through their 80s and span the gamut of denominations from secular Jews to those who are Sabbath observant. Some members aren't Jewish.

"I tell new members, 'Feel free to ask any questions, but you have to put the effort into it,' " Tasat said, "What's very interesting is that many people who felt they couldn't sing at all find out that they can, and they are doing it reasonably well, and that gives them pleasure."

"Choral music is enormously beautiful," he added, "when done well, it can also bring people together."

Jan 13, 2009 - Shalshelet International Festival - "No Rock Like You: Songs for the Jewish Soul"


"What an absolutely amazing evening it was...The soloists were all first class, and the Choir was in TOP FORM. ... Hat's off to Dr. Tasat and all the others involved in this venture of love"