We are the Kol Sephardic Choir, a non-profit musical ensemble. Our goal is to preserve and celebrate Ladino, the endangered language and culture of the Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain during the Inquisition.
Their history is both tragic and inspiring. Driven from their home, Spanish Jews resettled all over the world, bringing their distinctive culture with them; Ladino - a beautiful mixture of Hebrew, Jewish, and Spanish language and traditions. Today, Ladino is spoken by minority communities in more than 30 countries, yet it is at risk of extinction. Kol Sephardic Choir is the only artistic group in Los Angeles dedicated to preserving this unique musical tradition, and the only Choir to perform with flamenco dancers. Pasión Flamenca de Los Angeles, the dance group that has been performing together since 2012 has created original choreographies for the Choir’s music. This collaboration highlights Ladino’s fascinating intersection of Hispanic and Jewish culture.
Founded in 1992 by the late Raphael Ortasse, a man with a huge heart and a great dream of preserving the language and songs he heard in his childhood. He always followed the mantra: "That man is a success- who leaves the World better than he found it; Who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had".
His dream became a reality, and today Kol Sephardic Choir is a diverse group of singers, representative of the rich cultural tapestry of Los Angeles. Members have ancestry from Israel, Eastern Europe, Uzbekistan, Libya, Turkey, Spain, Brazil, and Morocco, including choristers from Mexico who discovered their connection to Sephardic Jewry when investigating family histories. The Choir not only preserves Ladino music through performance but also through commissioning musical arrangements of Ladino folk tunes that have been passed down orally for centuries in secret, when Sephardic Jews were prohibited from practicing their traditions.
Ladino music is an endangered art form, and the Kol Sephardic Choir (ROSE) is the only artistic group in Los Angeles dedicated to its performance and preservation. The Sephardic Jews who were driven from Spain in 1492 resettled in many countries--Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Israel, and then Mexico and North America. They brought their distinctive music with them, although most tunes were passed down orally.
To preserve Ladino music, Raphael Ortasse founded the Kol Sephardic Choir in 1992. Mr. Ortasses’ passion was to collect the songs of his youth and save them from extinction. He traveled the world, recording Ladino tunes, then brought them to Los Angeles, his adopted home. Working with talented composers and musicians, Mr. Ortasse commissioned artists to musically arrange these songs for future generations. To honor Ladino’s Spanish origins, the choir performs with the dancers of Flamenca de Los Angeles, highlighting Ladino’s fascinating intersection of Hispanic and Jewish culture.
The goal of the Kol Sephardic Choir is to celebrate, educate, and preserve Ladino music. The choir does this through public performances throughout the year that feature singers, musicians, and flamenco dancers; educational outreach that informs audiences about this unique and historical tradition; and the commission of musical arrangements for Ladino songs that have previously only been passed down through generations orally. Since its inception, Kol Sephardic Choir has commissioned composers and artists to codify more than 50 traditional tunes into a catalog of Ladino music, making it one of the most impactful agents of Sephardic music preservation in Los Angeles.
Throughout the years of its existence, the Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble performed in local Synagogues and Jewish Community Center events in the wider Los Angeles area as well as in numerous public libraries and other locations in the Los Angeles and Orange counties. In addition, the Kol Sephardic Choir performed in spacious venues such as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the program sponsored by the Los Angeles County Art Commission Music Festival held every year. The Choir has been invited and participated in numerous musical Festivals in Santa Barbara and the San Diego areas.
From 2010 - 2011, the Kol Sephardic Choir took time off from performances and concentrated on its rehearsals for the recording of their first album.
In 2010, Kol Sephardic Choir released its first CD: "Las Romanzas & Cantigas de Sepharad" (Ladino Love Songs & Ballads from Spain), which consists of Ladino Melodies with contemporary arrangements.
The current Music Director and Conductor is Avi Avliav who arranged a number of the songs on this first album. However, the person whose contributions initiated the transformation from a «sing-along» group into a choir was the late Daud Peres. He made the first arrangements for some of the songs that we currently sing.
Research bears out what any Choir/Dance troupe member will tell you; communal singing and dancing are profoundly healing and have tremendous benefits for physical and mental well-being.
This is especially important post-pandemic. Numerous studies point to the mental health benefits of singing, including reducing stress and depression, and learning to dance flamenco, besides the obvious benefits of movement, is just plain fun! For these reasons, the Kol Sephardic Choir will build interactive singing and dancing into our community performances.
Kol Sephardic Choir (ROSE) performs at various events and venues throughout the year, sharing our love of Ladino with audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
The mere birth and existence of the Kol Sephardic Choir is a key asset to the different communities of California, and they will continue being an inspiration throughout the US and abroad.