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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » October 27, 2017
Culture
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Sephardic Music in Warsaw
October 27, 2017   
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On September 15, Gerard Edery played as part of the prestigious Wisłostrada Sztuki Festival, "An Evening of Sephardic Songs" (a concert under the "Joli Bord de l'Art".)

The concert explored the vast geographical, historical and cultural breadth of the music of the Sephardim - Spanish Jews - throughout their diaspora. Secular and liturgical songs from Ancient Persia, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, The Balkans, and Syria, from the Middle Ages to the present, told a rich musical story promoting the cause of cross-cultural appreciation and understanding. From joyous hymns of celebration to poignant ballads of loss, from flamenco-inspired pieces to holy works of praise this program interpreted a beautiful ancient repertoire as a living legacy.

Gerard Edery speaks to The Voice (excerpts):
How long you’ve been living in Warsaw and how do you like the city so far?
- My first time in Warsaw was 15 years ago while performing at the International Folk Festival at the Palace of Culture with Lithuanian/Polish singer Marija Krupoves. The festival was wonderful but I must say that coming from Manhattan where I was living Warsaw did not impress me much. Fast forward to 2011 when the US Embassy sent me on a tour of Poland which included concerts in Warsaw, Radom, Cracow, Wroclaw and Bialystok where I met the love of my life. We are now married and have a 3 year old child. So, yes love brought me to Poland! I returned the following year for another US Embassy musical tour which included some of those same cities and others as well. Since then my wife and I had been traveling back and forth from Warsaw to New York City where our son was born. We decided to move permanently to Warsaw in May of 2016 as we both wanted our son to grow up surrounded by my wife’s large and loving family living in Warsaw and Bialystok. I have come to love Warsaw and, amazingly, I have not missed living in Manhattan at all. It had been for me the center of the universe for most of my adult life and could not have imagined living anywhere else. Warsaw is so calm compared to New York and life is lived at a much more human pace. You can find parking almost anywhere. The parks and greenery everywhere are beautiful and inviting. The medical system is incredible, affordable and efficient. In general, Polish people are friendly and work with great integrity. People really take their work, whatever it might be, very seriously. The quality of our lives here has greatly improved and we are extremely happy to be here.

How is it to perform here versus the rest of the world? How is the Polish audience?
- I have thoroughly enjoyed performing here as well as in other cities in Eastern Europe such as Vilnius and Klaipeda in Lithuania. The audiences are respectful, attentive and so appreciative. The bouquets of flowers given to artists at the end of concerts is such a beautiful and thoughtful gesture. I have done hundreds of concerts in the US, Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, Morocco and in cities across Europe but have come to particularly love the audiences in Poland.

Do you know the Jewish community of Warsaw?
- Yes, during my first musical tour I performed at the Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw. The sanctuary where I sang was beautiful and awe-inspiring, especially given the tragic history of the Polish Jews. I also performed one of the first inaugural concerts at POLIN - The Museum of the History of Polish Jews - with my ensemble of great musicians here in Warsaw.

What are you next projects in Warsaw? Rest of the world?
- Following my September 15th concert I will be traveling back to the US for concerts in Omaha, Nebraska; Atlanta, Georgia and New York City. When back in Warsaw I will be collaborating with visual artist Martin Nielaba in a multi-media project entitled “Gate for Peace” dedicated to promoting a peaceful coexistence, understanding and mutual respect among all peoples. The project brings together an exhibition of Nielaba’s installation art titled “I.Auschwitz-Birkenau” and my concert ’’Treasures of World Song” to include musicians from many cultures and a repertoire of songs in at least 10 languages.
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