Jewish Times Article

     Shir Delight

Eight Jewish women express their love of Judaism and music

-- By Alan Friedman, The Jewish Times

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 Dunwoody.

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 beautiful."

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."




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