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Trio Sefardi brings Sephardic Jewish music to the Southwest this weekend

Maura B. McConnell

After Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, they migrated to the Balkans, North Africa, elsewhere in Europe, Turkey, and the Americas, carrying their language and music wherever they went. The ensemble Trio Sefardi, formed in 2010, performs music from those Sephardic traditions, especially that of the legendary Flory Jagoda, a Bosnian-born composer and performer who fled Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia in 1941 and came to the United States in 1946.

The Washington, D.C.-based ensemble is comprised of Howard Bass, Tina Chancey, and Susan Gaeta, each of whom has played in a variety of Early Music and world music groups over the years. Gaeta, the main singer in the group, became an apprentice to Jagoda in 2002, and she and Bass subsequently performed, toured, and recorded with Jagoda for many years before Jagoda died in 2021.

“Flory was incredibly joyful for the tragedy that she experienced in her life. I think music was her lifeline, and she wanted to celebrate the memory of her childhood, which was very rich in her village of Vlasenica,” Gaeta said in this interview with Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin. “She tried to bring so much soul and meaning to her music.”

Bass also studied with Jagoda in the early 2000s. “We worked with her quite a bit on how to perform those songs. She was very particular, and taught us her arrangements, her interpretations, her pronunciations, and the history and culture of the music.” Eventually, Bass and Gaeta started Trio Sefardi with Chancey, and in addition to Jagoda’s songs, they have added music from a variety of other sources to their repertoire.

This weekend, the Trio will perform three times in the region: Friday, April 5 at 6:15 p.m. at Temple Mt. Sinai in El Paso as part of Friday night services; Saturday evening at 8:30 p.m., in a concert called “Roots and Branches,” at Sunset Parlor in El Paso; and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Temple Beth El of Las Cruces, when they will present a multi-media event, “La Nona Kanta: The Remarkable Life of Flory Jagoda,” including music, video and stories.

Listen to the full interview to hear more about the many varieties of Sephardic music, Jagoda’s life, and the three musicians of Trio Sefardi.

Musical clips heard in the interview are all performed by Trio Sefardi:

1.) “Madre miya si mi muero,” by Flory Jagoda, from “Sefardic Celebration” cd;

2.) “Madame Gashpar,” arranged by F. Jagoda, from “La Yave d’Espanya” cd;

3.) “Ken Es Esto?,” traditional, from “Kaminos” cd;

4.) “La kapera,” by F. Jagoda, from “La Yave d’Espanya” cd;

5.) “Mose Salio de Misrayim,” traditional Tunisian, from “Kaminos” cd;

6.) “Las Tiyas,” by F. Jagoda, from “Kaminos” cd;

7.) “Sviraj Harmoniku,” by F. Jagoda, from “La Yave d’Espanya” cd.