The Torah resonates with songs
like those of Solomon and Deborah. Jews celebrate their heritage
with song. And Shir Harmony, a group of eight Atlanta Jewish
women, not only celebrates Judaism through song but invites
others to listen in.
Billing itself as Atlanta's only adult women's Jewish a cappella
(unaccompanied) choir, the members' religious perspectives range
from Reform to "conservadox." Some are affiliated
Jewishly while others are not. Their repertoire ranges from
prayers to contemporary Jewish tunes.
But they all share some important common bonds - a love of
Judaism, a love of music and a delight in combining the two
through Shir (song, in Hebrew) Harmony.
"Being part of this group gives me an opportunity to both
explore my Judaism through music and to explore music through my
Judaism," said Tracy Warner of Dunwoody.
Half the group, which ranges in age from 24 to 31, lives in
Dunwoody; the others are from Decatur, East Cobb, Midtown and
Norcross. All are single, although Adina Marks is engaged.
Teachers, Jewish agency professionals and sales and high tech
careers are represented in the mix.
The choir began in 2000 as a mixed ensemble, but over time, some
of the male participants left to pursue other interests. Early
last year, the remaining members - Mindy Ellis, Bernice Isaac,
Marks and Warner - decided the group should become all-female
and auditioned for three additional singers.
Marian Gilbert, Heather Gottlieb and Kim London fit the bill and
Shir Harmony as a women's Jewish a cappella group was born.
Lauren Grossman became the eighth member in January. "I
wanted to sing in Atlanta and I love Jewish music. I have sung
it all my life," said Gottlieb, a member of Ahavath Achim
Synagogue and a fifth-generation Atlantan who lives in Dunwoody.
"I was looking for a group to sing Jewish music with when I
got to audition for Shir Harmony."
Gilbert, who majored in musical theater at Guilford College in
North Carolina, said she auditioned for Shir Harmony because she
was looking for a Jewish group.
"I'm unaffiliated, and while being in Shir Harmony doesn't
take the place of being in a synagogue, it helps me stay in
contact with my Jewish heritage," said Gilbert. "It's
also a good way to bond with other Jewish women."
Shir Harmony has appeared at a variety of events, including the
Jewish Book Festival, and will perform at Or VeShalom
Sisterhood's annual fund-raiser on Feb. 16. Members have also
volunteered their talents at the Cohen Home and EdenBrook of
Nancy Blumenfeld, EdenBrook's life enrichment director, said her
residents "loved [Shir Harmony], not only because they
crave Jewish music, but because the voices are so
Ellis, who handles Shir Harmony bookings, is a classically
trained soprano. A Chicago transplant who has lived in Atlanta
for 11 years, she's been a member of the Atlanta Symphony
Orchestra Chorus for eight seasons.
Ellis says there's something special about being a part of Shir
Harmony. "It's very rewarding to perform for Jewish
audiences and experience the kind of warm response we
receive," she said.
Shir Harmony not only sings Jewish music, but also conducts its
business in a Jewish manner. For example, there are no
rehearsals on Shabbat.
Ellis said the group opens its performances with Shehechiyanu, a
blessing of gratitude, and closes with "Hatikvah,"
Israel's national anthem, and "God Bless America." She
said it's Shir Harmony's way of demonstrating "our pride as
both Jews and Americans."