To hear Sephardic music is to learn Sephardic history and culture. These are the songs that were passed down orally by the Jewish people in Spain and Portugal to their children where they settled around the world after their expulsion. These songs tell stories of small-town life, celebrate events, and honor loved ones.
The songs consisted of great range: haunting, joyous, childlike, reflective, mourning, saucy.
Susan Gaeta learned Sephardic music from Flory Jagoda, the leader in this style of music. Jagoda grew up in and near Sarajevo but when the Nazis invaded Bosnia, she and her family fled to Italy. While there, she married an American soldier and eventually made her way to Virginia. Gaeta and Jagoda then passed down what she learned to Gina Sobel. In this concert Gaeta and Sobel come together to celebrate Jagoda and this beautiful musical tradition. The songs are all in Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish.
Gaeta has a peaceful and comforting voice which warms the audience whether a cappella or accompanied. Sobel’s responses to Gaeta’s voice with the flute made for a beautiful musical relationship. Sobel’s singing voice carried with it lots of emotion and depth.
The songs consisted of great range: haunting, joyous, childlike, reflective, mourning, saucy. Each song had a story and a purpose.They told the story of millions of Jewish refugees who were forced to blend their culture with the culture they moved into. These stories never really go away.
Sobel performed a song she wrote that reflected a similar theme titled “All Day Long,” about finding your own home away from home. Folk music’s influence on contemporary musicians is also a vital part of keep these older art forms alive.
Gaeta and Sobel are both working to keep this style of folk art alive and relevant. The evening also included Trevor Pietsch on bass and Kevin Johnston on percussion. This ensemble of musicians created lively texture behind the music and gave it a more modern flair without diminishing the intention.
Running Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Susan Gaeta and Gina Sobel performed at the Mansion at Strathmore. For more information click here.