Two Faiths, One Voice
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Two Faiths, One Voice


Band World Folk


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"Chance Meeting Yields Harmonious Collaboration"

As a young man working in his family’s textile business, Gerard Edery once traveled the world looking for raw material that could be assembled into new and attractive shapes.

It’s been more than 15 years since Edery left textiles for a career in music, but in some ways, his life hasn’t changed that much. He still scours the globe for material, though it’s now of the musical kind. With as many as 80 concerts a year, he’s still constantly on the move. “I’m always on the bus or plane or train,” he told the Forward in an interview, while briefly at rest in his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. And he is still very much an entrepreneur.

In fact, Edery gives the impression of being a one-man Sephardic music industry. Not only does he lead a bewildering array of groups — ranging from the Gerard Edery Ensemble to Flamenco Sepharad, which combines Sephardic songs with Flamenco rhythms and dance routines — but he also runs Sefarad Records, a label dedicated to documenting his own output. And he always seems to be working on something new.

His latest project — and his 14th CD — “Two Faiths, One Voice,” a collection of Middle Eastern and Eastern European songs performed with Lithuanian singer Maria Krupoves, was the result of some good, old-fashioned networking.

Three years ago, Edery and Krupoves caught each other’s acts at the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters showcase, held in New York City. Edery was trying to drum up interest in Flamenco Sepharad, while Krupoves was singing material from “Without a Country,” her album of songs associated with the so-called stateless peoples (Roma, Tartars, Jews) of Central and Eastern Europe.

According to Edery, they felt an immediate connection. No wonder: They could hardly be more complementary.

Edery sings in 15 languages and speaks four; Krupoves sings in 12 languages and speaks seven, including Yiddish, which she teaches at Vilnius University. He specializes in presenting music drawn from every corner of the Sephardic world, from medieval Spain to the contemporary Diaspora; she specializes in preserving the folksongs sung by Muslims, Christians and Jews who had (or have) no proper home. As a result, there is significant overlap between their repertoires — and their interests.

One of the tunes that Krupoves sang at the APAP showcase was “Gülpembe,” a Turkish Sephardic song with Ladino verses and a Turkish refrain. She also has been known to sing the Hasidic song “Fun Kosev,” which she acquired from Yosl and Chana Mlotek’s songbook, “Pearls of Yiddish Song.” “She’s a practicing Christian, very devoted to her faith,” Edery said. “But she knows more about Jewish culture than probably I do. And she’s completely enthused about the connections between Christians and Jews.”

The two began to collaborate almost immediately. He traveled to Lithuania to sing with her, and she came to the United States to perform with him. Before long, they were laying down tracks for “Two Faiths, One Voice” in a friend’s home studio, a process that took nearly a year and a half — and three different engineers on two continents — to complete. “It was not easy,” Edery said.

Still, it seems to have been worth it. “Two Faiths, One Voice,” which had its official American release May 27, just might be the most culturally eclectic item in Edery’s already diverse catalog. Along with Sephardic material like the Turkish “Gülpembe” and the Spanish “La Rosa Linda,” it includes the Tartar “Ayrylymagyz” and the Belarusian “Vyarba.” Most astonishingly, many of these songs — some plucked from Edery’s repertoire, some from Krupoves’s — bear strong musical and textual similarities to one another.

Both “Vyarba” and “La Rosa Linda,” for example, relate the tale of a beautiful young woman asked to draw water for a male admirer. The stories are virtually identical, right down to the manner in which the girl refuses a gift of shoes. And while the tongue- twisting “Ayrylymagyz” might have originated in Crimea, it bears more than a passing rhythmic and melodic resemblance to some of Edery’s Middle Eastern and North African tunes — the result, no doubt, of the Tartars’ own Turkish origins.

In some cases, these cross-cultural parallels are the result of migration, of people traveling from place to place and carrying their music with them. In others, they’re probably the result of cultural orthogenesis, of different people in different times and different places thinking along similar lines.

“There are incredible synergies and borrowings and cross-cultural influences that affect all the repertoire,” Edery said. But at the same time, “human experience repeats itself, and there are certain universal human experiences that are reflected in all oral traditions.”

Highlighting those intercultural connections and common experiences is as important to Edery as Sephardic music is to a wider audience. It’s why he’s so hell-bent on bridging the divide between different cultures and - The Jewish Daily Forward

"Under The Sephardic Musical Tent"

It is the hottest day of the year, but Gerard Edery looks totally cool, calm and collected as he sits down with his iced coffee in a café on the Upper West Side. Perhaps that’s because he has come from his home nearby, but on a day like this one, his utter ease is more likely the product of the same self-assurance and relaxation that make him comfortable singing in a dozen different languages, playing guitar in a multitude of styles and negotiating more than a half-millennium’s worth of Sephardic cultural history.

In his latest project — Edery always has three or four projects in progress — the tall, shaven-headed musician is trying “to pool the various strands of my Sephardic roots, trying to make people aware of the incredible richness of Sephardic culture.� The fruits of his efforts will be on display on June 25 under the formidable title “The Spirit of Sepharad: From Casbah to Caliphate, a 500-Year Musical Journey.�

“We’re trying to celebrate the many facets of Sephardic culture,� he explains eagerly. “The program will involve eight or ten languages and will highlight the music of the lands of the Sephardic diaspora.�

With that goal in mind, Edery has assembled what is probably the strongest ensemble of musicians in his lengthy and highly productive career, including Glen Velez, the outstanding fusion jazz and worldbeat percussionist; Amir Vahab, one of the world’s great interpreters of Iranian classical music; flamenco singer-dancer Barbara Martinez (a frequent Edery collaborator); oud master and composer Ara Dinkjian; and the multi-instrumentalist Meg Okura, whose works ranges from the avant-garde chamber jazz of her own group, the Pan-Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, to collaborations with Pharaoh’s Daughter and Cirque de Soleil.

About two weeks into rehearsals, the band cut a few demo tracks, and those cuts found their way into the hands (or ears) of this reporter. They have to be considered among the very best things Edery has done — particularly a pulsing up-tempo “Adir Hu� that is downright electrifying.

Edery, although pleased with my response, downplays the tracks with a wave of the hand.

“That was after only two weeks of rehearsal,� he says lightly. “We’ve come far from there since.�

That “Spirit of Sepharad� features Edery’s most ambitious ensemble is only fitting, because the overall production is by far the most complicated and multifarious he has attempted. In addition to the many musics included in the program, there will be elements of dance and a multimedia presentation that will include projected images of paintings, photos and film footage spanning the centuries and continents inhabited by the Sephardic Jews in the five centuries since the explusion from Spain.

“Initially we had the idea of just presenting the music, but it kept on growing,� Edery says. “Finally I decided to write a narration, and we came across images that were so powerful we just had to include them.�

The result is an appropriately dense, textured look at a densely textured culture.
Or cultures, to be accurate.

“The Sephardim were impacted by every culture they came in contact with and they impacted those cultures as well,� Edery says. “There is an intercultural richness here; the Sephardic presence in Morocco, Algeria, Syria —those are all reflected in Sephardic music.�

Add to that list the Balkan cultures that these Jewish exiles touched — the Persian court, the Ottoman sultans and the many other locales where the Sephardim ended up — and you have a map of the Sephardic Jewish experience since 70 CE, not just 1492.
“I like to think of Sephardic culture as a huge umbrella that welcomes many cultures under its shelter,� Edery says. “It’s like the tent of Abraham, with room for anyone who wants to enter.�

Edery’s resume is something of a huge umbrella in its own right. Earlier this year, he released an album made in collaboration with the great Lithuanian ethnomusicologist, Yiddishist and singer Maria Krupoves, and the duo embarked on a global series of concerts, beginning in Vilnius, Lithuania. Before the Second World War, Vilnius (aka Vilna) was one of the world’s great seats of Jewish learning; now it is the capital of Lithuania and something of a focus of controversy regarding regional Jewish history.
“Clearly, under Soviet rule Vilnius was thought of by Lithuanians in terms of Jews who were Communists,� Edery explains. Krupoves has told him that a large part of the meaning of their collaboration resides in reintroducing Lithuanians to the positive contributions of Jews to the national culture and heritage so that the Jews are seen as part of the enormous release of energy and pride that the country experienced in the aftermath of the fall of Soviet Communism. If audience reaction is any indicator, the musical collaborators have succeeded in this endeavor, with huge ovations afte - The Jewish Week, George Robinson

"Two Faiths, One Voice from Medieval Spain to modern Eastern Europe"

The 2000-year relationship between Jews and Christians has been marked by hatred, cruelty, ignorance, anti-Semitism that has run rampant. Down through the ages Jews in Europe have been treated, at the very least, as a despised minority. At the very worst deportation, destruction, devastation, the Inquisition, the Holocaust.

Not that one can downplay these facts, but there is a surprising counterpart. In spite of all, there were always the arts. As people migrated across many lands and cultures impacted, the arts have allowed diverse peoples to reach across barriers, to surmount insurmountable differences.
And now we discover, in a newly-released and very exciting recording, that Jews and Christians have indeed sung the same song for centuries. Two gifted performers, who are also noted folklorists, have collaborated on a recording of Jewish/Christian music pointing to the similarities and the influence that each genre has had on the other.

The new recording, titled “Two Faiths, One Voice,� traces the surprising synergies between Eastern-European (Jewish and Christian) and Middle-Eastern (Jewish and Arabic) music down through the centuries. It follows Sephardic music as it wanders from country to country, from Medieval Spain to modern Eastern Europe.

The duo which compiled this remarkable material are Gerard Edery, a Morroccan-born musical folklorist, singer and guitarist, and Maria Krupoves, a folklorist, performer and professor at the Vilnius Jewish Institute in Vilnius, Lithuania. Though Edery is Jewish, and Krupoves of Christian heritage, they share mutual goals and comparable talents. Edery sings in fifteen languages and speaks four fluently. In preparing recordings, he continually researches and finds music and stories from Europe, the Middle East, South America and ancient Persia. Krupoves sings in twelve languages and dialects and is fluent in seven. She, too, has played an important role in preserving Jewish folk tradition. Their CD, produced by Edery and Frank Wolf, was recorded in Vilnius, Warsaw and New York City under Edery’s label, which is Sefarad Records.

Recently we were treated to an evening which celebrated “Two Faiths, One Voice� at a cabaret in the East Village, Manhattan. Both Edery and Krupoves, having traveled to the States, were on hand to take us on their magic carpet. The music was haunting, always in a minor key, and indeed it was difficult to determine whether the melodies came from Jewish or Christian sources. In spite of their formidable academic credentials, both are compelling performers and accomplished musicians. - All About Jewish Theatre, by Irene Backalenick

"Their songs celebrate good, childhood, love"

A few years ago, Maria Krupoves, a native of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, met a man named Daniel Berg on an elevator in Bloomington, Ind. Also a few years ago, Krupoves met Gerard Edery at a world music showcase at the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

Both encounters led to partnerships — Krupoves, a professor at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University, married Daniel and lives in both her native city and Bloomington. With Edery, she found a kindred musical spirit, a Moroccan-born Sephardic Jew with the same multiethnic inclinations as Krupoves, a self-proclaimed "Christian Zionist."

Krupoves and Edery released their first recording together, "Two Faiths, One Voice," on Tuesday. The disc borrows from ancient Christian and Jewish material, spanning everything from secular folksongs to liturgical verses. The album is available on, the homepage for Edery’s own label, Sefarad Records.

"When I sing some of these songs that are centuries old, whether it’s Jewish or Christian or Arab, the feelings are the same, the emotions are universal," said Edery, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Regardless of ethnic or religious origin, he said, the songs all celebrate "human values. They’re celebrating good, they’re celebrating childhood, they’re celebrating love. So I choose to focus on the commonalities between the cultures, between the faiths, to try and sidestep the ironclad divisions that keep us apart."

Edery was born in Casablanca, but moved to Paris when he was 4. At 8, he moved to Manhattan. Those first years in Morocco, however, were culturally invaluable. One grandfather, an Argentinian, spoke to Edery only in Spanish. His paternal grandparents communicated in Arabic, because "they didn’t know anything else."

At the time, Morocco was a French protectorate (the north-African country gained independence in 1956), so Edery was immersed in French, the day’s "lingua franca," he said. Additionally, Edery heard and spoke Hebrew in synagogue.

Said Edery, "A lot of the music that I do reflects the fact that I was born in an atmosphere that celebrated a real transparency, a real interface kind of feeling, where you heard Arabic and you heard French and Hebrew and Spanish."

The linguistic diversity, he said, represented an even deeper cooperation between the faiths, where "the Jews and the Christians and the Arabs [found] a way not just to coexist but to be inspired by each other."

Edery’s work with Krupoves exemplifies the same spirit. According to Krupoves, who in 2005 performed at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, "Two Faiths, One Voice" includes songs from the "Sephardic tradition, from Turkey, and from Greece. Some of them are folk songs and some of them are religious songs, like ‘Adir Hu,’ which is a Pesach song."

The album also features a medieval Portugese-Christian composition, a fourth-century Armenian-Christian work, and a number of songs from Eastern Europe. Edery speaks four languages but sings in 15, which he attributes to his opera training. Krupoves speaks even more — she estimates "six or seven" — and sings in 12 languages and dialects.

Among her favorites, Krupoves said, is Yiddish.

"I started singing folk songs and got interested in vocal studies in university [in Vilnius]," she said, "so I decided to write my doctorate dissertation on Polish folk songs in Lithuania. A great part of this culture is Jewish culture and Yiddish so I started singing in Yiddish. After I finished my dissertation about 10 years ago I met a professor who came to Vilnius and he started teaching Yiddish.

"I very much enjoyed collecting the Sephardic and Yiddish neshama" (soul).

Like Edery, Krupoves traces her expansive cultural tastes to her family history. She said that her Catholic grandparents helped save Jews from the Nazis in Poland, and "Jewish people are my people."

Asked whether her family is supportive of "Two Faiths, One Voice" or of her Christian Zionism, Krupoves said, "My family is excited, very much."

On June 25, Edery (sans Krupoves) will premiere "The Spirit of Sepharad: From Casbah to Caliphate" at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. The multimedia presentation follows the migration of Sephardic music from medieval Spain through North Africa and to the Middle East using music, dance, projections, lighting, sound, set design, narration, and acting. has information on the show, which will tour the world through 2010.

"Some people say this is not the way a Sephardic song would have sounded in 1500 or 1400," said Edery of the show. "But we’re talking about an oral tradition here, and oral traditions are not museum pieces. They’re meant to be added to, to inspire. To me, it’s something very living."
- The Jewish Standard, By Joseph Leichman


Gerard Edery and Maria Krupoves:
Two Faiths, One Voice, 2008 Sefarad Records

Gerard Edery:
Amid the Jasmine, 2006 Sefarad Records

Sons of Sefarad, 2002 Sefarad Records

Morena, 2002 Sefarad Records

Sing to the Eternal, 2002 Sefarad Records

Oigo/I Hear, 2000 Sefarad Records

Chansons d�Amour, 1997 Sefarad Records

Linda Amiga, 1997 Sefarad Records

Guitar Give Me Your Song, 1994 Sefarad Records

Romanzas Sefarditas, 1991 Sefarad Records

Maria Krupoves:
Without a Country, 2004 LATGA/ncb BIEM

Songs of the Vilna Ghetto,



An ecumenical program that honors Christianity and Judaism, �Two Faiths, One Voice� traces the peripatetic wanderings of Sephardic music over the centuries -- from Medieval Spain to modern Eastern Europe -- singer and folklorist Maria Krupoves and the singer and virtuoso guitarist Gerard Edery uncover the surprising synergies between Eastern-European (Jewish and Christian) and Middle Eastern (Jewish and Arabic) musical faiths.

A celebration of the deep-rooted parallels between Christian and Jewish traditions, "Two Faiths, One Voice" features two renowned musical poly-culturalists -- Maria Krupoves, a specialist in Central and Eastern European folksongs, and Gerard Edery, a master player in multiple languages and styles. Together for the first time, they uncover the haunting, captivating and magical dimensions of a wide array of traditional music. Whether these songs are secular or devotional by origin, each has retained a special power to move and uplift.

Gerard Edery (guitar, vocals)
One of the world's foremost experts in the wide-ranging music of the Sephardic Diaspora, Gerard Edery is recognized as a leading musical folklorist and a master singer and guitarist. Edery has at his command a remarkable range of ethnic folk styles and traditions from around the world. He sings in fifteen languages and speaks four fluently. He regularly uncovers and preserves songs,
stories and melodies from Europe, the Middle East, South America and ancient Persia.

He and his ensembles have performed at Zankel Hall (at Carnegie Hall); The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia; Royce Hall in Los Angeles; The United Nations in New York; Victoria Hall and the Palais des Nations in Geneva; The Smithsonian Institute; The Library of Congress; The Holocaust Museum; Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood; Alice Tully Hall; Merkin Concert Hall; The Jewish Museum; The Museum of Jewish Heritage, and at The Cervantino International Festival in Mexico; The Fez International Festival of Sacred Music in Morocco, and the Vilnius International Folk Festival in Lithuania, to name a few.

Born in Casablanca and raised in Paris and New York City, Edery trained as a classical baritone at The Manhattan School of Music, from which he graduated in 1985. He has been honored with the Sephardic Musical Heritage Award and is the recipient of a Meet the Composer grant for his original songs. His musical "Song of the Turtledove," co-written with Noa Ain, was presented by the Premieres Festival at Lincoln Center. Edery is also a cantorial soloist in great demand at distinguished synagogues and Jewish Community Centers throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

Maria Krupoves (vocals)
Dr. Maria Krupoves, vocal artist and folklorist, is internationally acclaimed as a singer and interpreter of the folksongs of Central and Eastern Europe, especially those of her native Vilnius. She has traveled extensively to find songs in Yiddish, Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Gypsy (Roma), Karaim, Tatar, and other languages. Multilingual herself, she sings her entire repertory in the original languages.
She has performed in Lithuania, Poland, Germany, France, Israel, Japan, Canada, and the United States, sometimes in collaboration with the BBC, the WDR (West German Radio), and Lithuanian and Polish radio and TV.

She sang in Yiddish and other languages of Eastern Europe at the Yiddish Summit (Strasbourg, 2000), the UNESCO Conference Dialogue among Civilizations (Vilnius, 2001), the Frankfurt Book Fair 2002, the Berlin Cultural Festival 2003, the Sara Rosenfeld Yiddish Festival (Montreal, 2004) and other international gatherings. She sings in the Holocaust documentary film 'Out of the Forest' (Tel-Aviv, 2003) and will be heard in the documentary film of the prewar Vilna Jewish community 'Vilna, the Vanished City' (New York).
Dr. Krupoves is also a scholar. She teaches the history of Jewish music and the history and folklore of the stateless cultures of Lithuania (Yiddish, Karaim, Tatar, Roma, and Russian Old Believers) in the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, Department of History at Vilnius University. Her repertory of Yiddish songs includes some she herself recorded from Holocaust survivors. She speaks Yiddish fluently and has published articles in Yiddish in the Forverts (New York) and in YIVO Yedies / YIVO News (New York).
In 2001, Dr. Krupoves was awarded a Vladimir and Pearl Heyfetz Fellowship at YIVO in New York. While in the United States, she lectured on the Yiddish culture of Lithuania and performed at YIVO, at Columbia, Indiana, Yale and Yeshiva Universities, and at Brooklyn College.

Meg Okura (violin, erhu)
Composer, violinist, erhu player, and the founder of the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, Meg Okurahas toured internationally as a soloist, concertmaster, sideman and a lecturer for the past decade. Her performance credit includes David Bowie, Kanye West, Philip Glass, Cirque du Soleil, Diane Reeves, Michael Brecker, Gill