The revival of the Yiddish song is the central concern of the Vienna Jewish Choir. We create bridges between different cultures with music. We also try to live the principle of intercultural understanding within our diverse community.
The Vienna Jewish Choir is actually a folk song choir: We bring back to life the songs that have been passed on through generations, songs that almost vanished with the European Judaism. We do this on stage and with CDs/DVDs, proving that Jewish music has its place in the rich cultural scene of Vienna and Europe today.
Living intercultural understanding
In addition to the revival of the Jewish song repertoire, the Vienna Jewish Choir contributes to intercultural understanding since its foundation in 1989. We are not a “kosher” choir: We are a very diverse group of Jewish and non-Jewish men and women, from teenagers to people in their eighties with vocal ranges from soprano to baritone, establishing new harmonies, both in music and in our relationships with each other. Furthermore, we are a mixed choir, concerning the countries of origin of our members: Besides native Austrians, members come from the Ukraine, Moldova, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and even Japan. Anyone who understands what is meant by “mit harz un mit gefil” and who naturally hits the right tone is welcome.
Clear signal of cultural diversity in Austria
Our annual concerts at the Wiener Volkstheater or the Wiener Konzerthaus are usually sold out. In addition, we perform at a variety of events e.g., in the fall of 2012, at the first Jewish New Year’s Concert at the Jewish Museum in Vienna.
The ORF (Austrian public service broadcaster) has supported our work with the production of the CD „Ose Shalom“ as well as two concerts at ORF’s concert venue and reports on our activities regularly in documentaries as well as in television and online contributions.
Through our concert tours, we carry our message abroad to countries like the Ukraine (Chernovtsi), Moldova (Chisinau, Belz), Romania (Bucharest), Florida (Boca Raton), Spain (Barcelona), Poland (Krakow, Bielsko Biala), Italy (Rome) and the UK (London). With these international tours, we send a clear signal that cultural diversity can be lived successfully today in Austria.
From May 9–12, 2013, the Vienna Jewish Choir hosted the first European Jewish Choir Festival. Jewish choirs and singing groups with 400 singers participated in this event.
Repertoire with an emphasis on Yiddish songs
Our repertoire focuses on Yiddish songs. These include traditional melodies, the hits of Yiddish theater and film, as well as resistance songs. Liturgical songs and selected Hebrew and Ladino songs are also an integral part of our program. With a Hanukkah Special, we bring a festive mood to the Viennese Hanukkah celebrations every winter. The traditional songs that we sing are newly arranged by the choirmaster Roman Grinberg and thus “transposed” into the 21st century. With original compositions, receiving great applause from overwhelmed audiences, Grinberg continually develops the Jewish song repertoire.
Choirmaster Roman Grinberg
From 2002, Roman Grinberg has not only been artistic director of the Vienna Jewish Choir, but also pianist, arranger, composer, teacher, and friend. With loving sternness, tireless effort, and a generous dash of humor, he transforms the colorful group of dedicated individuals into a harmonious ensemble, who perform Yiddish, Hebrew, and Sephardic songs in the weekly rehearsals.
The artistic director of the Vienna Jewish Choir, Roman Grinberg, combines musicianship with a lived “Yiddishkeit”: Born into a musical family in the Shtetl Belz in Moldova, Grinberg grew up with Yiddish as his mother tongue and then lived in Israel for several years. He continued his music studies at the conservatory in Vienna—and stayed in the Austrian city of music.
Life mission: To care for Jewish music
Closely linked to the global Klezmer scene, Grinberg—solo and with his own band “Frejlech”– has contributed to the modern interpretation of Jewish music in local theaters and on inter – national festival stages, at Jewish weddings and celebrations for more than 30 years, and also as choirmaster of the Vienna Jewish Choir.
“I have found my professional mission in life in the conservation, restora – tion, and dissemination of Jewish music,” says Grinberg. A number of lost songs have been saved from oblivion and brought back to life through Grinberg’s close relationships with musicians who had survived the Holocaust and had kept these songs alive in their memories. However, Grinberg does not only see himself as a “preserver”, but also as an innovator in all areas of Jewish music: His compositions—some of them interpreted by the Vienna Jewish Choir—open up new perspectives on Jewish music today.