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HCHC’s St. Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir Performs at Vilna Shul

HCHC’s St. Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir, under the direction of Dr. Grammenos Karanos, performed by invitation at an event titled “Embracing the Journey of Spanish Jewry: An Evening of Music, a Fusion of Traditions,” held on 14 September 2014 at the Vilna Shul, an historic Boston synagogue on Beacon Hill that now functions as a Jewish community center. The evening’s theme was the Sephardic diaspora, the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and who subsequently emigrated throughout Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and eventually the Americas.

The event’s organizer, Gastón Bogomolni, cantor at Temple Aliyah in Needham, invited the St. Romanos Choir to acknowledge that Thessaloniki was one of the major centers for the Sephardic diaspora. Dr. Karanos prepared a musical program principally comprising settings of texts from the Psalms, intending to emphasize the centrality of the Psalter both to Jewish and Orthodox Christian worship. In addition, the choir sang a song, Ὁ σπίνος (“The sparrow”), composed in the manner of Greek folk songs.

Following a sounding of the shofar to open the program, the evening consisted of a variety of speakers and performers. The musical centerpiece was a set of folk songs sung in Ladino (the Sephardic dialect of Old Spanish) by the Guy Mendilow Ensemble. Other participants included Ladino poet Dr. Gloria Ascher of Tufts University, the Consul General of Spain to Boston, and the former U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra.