It was late last summer when the Triangle Jewish Chorale traveled to Buenos Aires. There they met up with their director Lorena Guillén, who was on sabbatical in her native Argentina. While in the country, they performed widely and were well received. The group’s latest Triangle performancewas held at the Levin Jewish Community Center in Durham and featured music from the choir’s Argentinian tour and selections celebrating Hanukah.

The 8th annual Rishie Baroff Memorial Concert, under the heading of “A Medley of Melodies,” began with Charles Osborne’s warm, chorale-like reminiscence of Hanukah – “HaNeyrot Halalu.” The next selection, “Lo V’Chayul,” a canonic setting of text from Zechariah 4:6 by Elliot Z. Levine, provided joyful charm with its lively and interesting counterpoint. The first set was wrapped up with a setting taken from Psalm 118:4 and 24:8 – “Ozi V’zimrat Yah,” arranged by Eleanor Epstein with material by M. Lazar and J. Jacobson. Percussionist Fernando Martinez Lopez accompanied this traditional round that praises the strength and might of the Lord of salvation.

From their recent tour, we heard “Serenata Para la Tierra de Uno” as written by Maria Elena Walsh and arranged by Lillana Cangiano. It is a beautifully written love song with imitative passages like waves of love. Stunning piano accompaniment provided by J. Samuel Hammond underscored the work.

The choir then brought vigor and enthusiasm to the traditional spiritual “Didn’t my Lord Deliver Daniel?” in an arrangement by our Raleigh neighbor Jay Althouse.

With lyrics from the Song of Songs poetically laid out by Moshe Dor and with music composed by Josef Hadar and arranged by Jack Klebanow, “Erev Shel Shoshanim” is a rhapsodic love song with piano accompaniment played sensitively on this occasion by Hammond.

The deeply moving “Earth Song” by the popular composer Frank Ticheli followed. In this work, music and singing are embraced as a refuge in the cruel time of war and power. The piece ends with a striking cadence and the word “peace” repeated prayerfully. It was sung with a persuasive intensity that bespoke the meaning it held for the choir. Closing out the selections from the Argentina tour was the lyrical and sentimental “Samachti B’omrim Li” – a setting of verses from Psalm 122 by Charles Osborne.

“Kleyne Likhtelekh” (Rosenfeld/Low/Moore) returned us to the Hanukah theme with this meditation on the candles and their meaning in the past and for the future. Sung next was a version of “Maoz Tzur” (“Rock of Ages”), collected and preserved from the Ashkenazi communities by the Italian composer Benedetto Marcello (1689-1739). 

“Ocho Kandelikas” (“Eight Little Candles”) (Jagoda, arr. Jacobson) featured soprano Susan Cohen, guitarist Peter Goldberg, and percussionists Annie Lang, Lopez, Arlene Saper, and Mike Volow. Like all Sephardic music it has the fiery passion of southern Spain merged with the srong sentiments of the devout and practical people who inspired the song. It was very nicely performed!

The concert closed with “Hanukah Tarantella,” a pastiche both of Sephardic and pop Christmas music, all in the name of fun; it certainly did put a smile on many faces!

For an encore, Guillén led the audience in a mini Hanukah candle lighting and the singing of “B’rachot” and “Maoz Tzur.” It was a lovely ending to a lovely afternoon.

It was a special joy to welcome director Guillén back from her sabbatical in Buenos Aries. She has brought this chorus a long way from their humble beginnings, and we hope that the Triangle Jewish Chorale will continue on its mission to prepare and enjoy singing this important music for wider and wider audiences.