Bringing the Vibrant Past into the Living Present
Trio Sefardi combines the “compelling” (Washington Post) voice of Susan Gaeta with expert instrumentalists Tina Chancey (kamenç, rebec, fiddle, viol) and Howard Bass (lute, guitar) to enchant audiences with the songs of the Sephardim. Most Sephardic Jews were exiled from Spain in 1492, leaving with few possessions, but they took their language, their customs, and a wealth of songs and memories with them. The trio has committed itself to sharing this treasure trove, spotlighting the legacy of their mentor, the Bosnian-born composer and tradition-bearer, Flory Jagoda, a Holocaust survivor whose own compositions, including her beloved Hanuka song, “Ocho Kandelikas,” have become Sephardic favorites. Susan and Howard toured extensively with Flory for more than fifteen years, and Tina often participated in programs presented in the DC area.
“Trio Sefardi’s beautiful harmonies and skilled accompaniment movingly translates the joy and soul of the lost world I remember so well. Along with my own family, I am proud to call them my musical heirs.”
- Flory Jagoda
MUSIC OF THE SEPHARDIC JEWS
Expelled from Spain in 1492, many Spanish Jews settled in lands controlled by the Ottoman Empire. In exile their language coalesced into what is now called Ladino, and communities grew in cities like Istanbul, Sarajevo, Salonika, and Izmir, and in countless villages in the Balkans and Turkey. The madness of WWII destroyed most of these communities, but their song traditions have survived, thanks in large part to women—like Flory Altarac Jagoda (1923—2021)—who continued to make and preserve songs and to pass them down to the next generation. The distinctive flavor of Sephardic music, with its lively Balkan rhythms, sinuous Middle Eastern modes, and evocative Ladino poetry is sure to delight fans of other Jewish music, such as klezmer. Like all musical traditions, Sephardic songs tell of love and loss; courtship and marriage; families, food, and holidays; and ballads, known as romansas, tell intricate and inspiring stories, both Biblical and secular.
“Flory’s flame continues to burn brightly in the most capable hands of Trio Sefardi, who have not only deftly mastered Flory’s music but have put their own indelible mark on it, infusing it with new energy and making it distinctly their own.”
– Jon Lohman, Director, Center for Cultural Vibrancy
“What a thrill to listen to Rikordus, Trio Sefardi’s new CD honoring and remembering our mother, Flory Jagoda. We know she would have been overjoyed to hear her compositions so beautifully interpreted and performed by Susan, Howard and Tina. Susan’s voice on Rikordus di mi Nona and Sviraj Harmoniku hauntingly captures Flory’s own voice and projects the emotional depths that Flory was so proud of. Bravo Trio Sefardi for “continuing ….”
–Betty Jagoda Murphy and Lori Jagoda Lowell
The Trio with Flory Jagoda
TRIO SEFARDI FEATURED PROGRAMS 2023-2025
MULTI-MEDIA SHOW: La Nona Kanta: The Remarkable Life of Flory Jagoda
This multi-media tapestry weaves together live songs from Flory’s repertoire, filmed interview segments of Flory and her husband (from “Flory’s Flame” JEMGLO 2014), images from the Altarac family archives, spoken word, and animation. The year 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of Flory’s birth, and what better way to celebrate than to introduce your audience to her life and legacy with this show?
Requires a DVD projector, screen, and sound system.
CONCERT: Of Hope and Heartbreak: Women in Sephardic Song
Created for Women’s History Month (March), the concert shares songs and stories celebrating the strength, courage, and spirit of Sephardic women through the ages, from the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, where the Sephardim settled after the infamous Edict of Expulsion in 1492.
Requires a sound system in halls with more than 200 seats.
FAMILY PROGRAM: The Key from Spain: Flory Jagoda and Her Music
As a single, half-hour event, Debbie Levy’s beautifully illustrated picture book about Flory can be read out loud by a teacher or parent, interspersed with live excerpts from ten Sephardic tunes that help tell the story. In a workshop setting, children can also use the stories in the book to act out, write about, develop dances, or create an opera.
Trio Sefardi’s educational specialist is happy to work with presenters to shape the ideal family program for their audience.
Please consider presenting a day of Trio Sefardi concerts in your community: “The Key from Spain” for young audiences and “La Nona Kanta” or “Of Hope and Heartbreak” for the whole family.
“Not only did Trio Sefardi share music, history, and culture from the Sefardic world but they brought their own special Ruach and Koach, spirit and strength. Each member of the trio brought a different facet of energy and insight to the whole experience. They did not just perform, they connected and shared, weaving the life and culture of the Sephardim into our community.”
– Rabbi Michael Birnholz, Temple Beth Shalom, Vero Beach, Florida
“Trio Sefardi gave lovely and luminous performances of [Sephardic] songs. . .Gaeta’s [voice is] compelling.”
– Ann Midgette, Washington Post
TRIO SEFARDI, a northern Virginia-based ensemble, performs traditional songs of the Sephardim, the descendants of Jews exiled from Spain in 1492. Their repertoire draws on the song traditions of Sephardic communities from the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, and North Africa, with a special emphasis on traditional and original songs they learned from their mentor, Bosnian-born singer/composer and 2002 National Heritage awardee Flory Jagoda. The trio has performed extensively at prestigious East Coast concert venues, festivals, synagogues, and Jewish community centers since forming in 2010.
Members of the trio are Susan Gaeta, lead vocals, guitar; Tina Chancey, back-up vocals, viola da gamba, Renaissance violin, Pontic lyra, rebec; and Howard Bass, lute, guitar. The members combine Susan’s extensive experience with jazz and folk music, Tina and Howard’s early music background, and the influence and inspiration that Susan and Howard derived from fifteen years of working and touring extensively with Flory Jagoda. Trio Sefardi programs provide audiences with an opportunity to hear songs sung in Judeo-Espanyol (commonly known as Ladino) that have been passed down through the generations as well as newer songs composed by Flory that celebrate the memory of now-lost communities of the Balkans.
The trio has produced four CDs: Sefardic Celebration (2011), Kaminos (2016), La Yave d’Espanya (2019) and Rikordus (2021). In addition to their standard programs that include songs of love and loss, holidays and hope, they offer a multi-media program about their mentor entitled “La Nona Kanta: The Remarkable Life of Flory Jagoda,” which combines filmed interviews with Flory, live music, animation, maps, still images, and spoken narration. “La Nona Kanta” is presented in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum’s International Outreach Office Jaime Monllor says of this program, “We believe “La Nona Kanta” will give audiences, young and old, Jews and non-Jews alike, a shining example of one person’s triumph over adversity and will lend new meaning to the on-going battles against hatred and prejudice.”