Sephardic music has its roots in the Jewish Communities of medieval Spain. After their expulsion, the Jews migrated to Italy, Turkey, North Africa and other places which influenced the music that accompanies the poems and stories of songs.
The songs are in Ladino, the language of the Jews in Spain of the 14th & 15th centuries.
Raphael Ortasse Sephardic Ensemble (R.O.S.E.) shares beauty and passion of Sephardic music.
A Bit About choir
The Kol Sephardic Choir is an upbeat and inspirational musical Choir and Ensemble comprised of a diversified group of singers who come to us from the Los Angeles and Orange Counties. It is reflective of the diverse interests and ethnicities within these two communities. Their common bond is musical talent and a passion for music. In this case, their repertoire consists of Sephardic Romanceros sung in Ladino and Liturgical/Religious songs in Hebrew with Sephardic
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, Kol Sephardic Choir performed in auspicious venues such as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the program sponsored by the Los Angeles County Art Commission Music Festival held every year.
Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble was formed on April 22, 1992, on the Westside of Los Angeles. It is an unaffiliated group and the only Sephardic Choir in California and most likely in the United States that sings primarily Sephardic Romansas", "Cantigas" and "Coplas" in Ladino. Though initially, it was a "sing-along" group, it was gradually transformed into a Choir of professional quality. This transformation began in 2005.
Raphael Ortasse is the Director and Founder of Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble. The current Music Director and Conductor is Avi Avliav who arranged a number of the songs on our first CD. 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 to some of the songs that we currently sing.
The mere birth and existence of Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble here in Los Angeles is a key asset to the local community that has a large number of Sephardic Jews among its residents. Not only does it allow its members to express the Sephardic Culture and tradition in songs, but it also provides an opportunity to showcase
the diversity and talents of our group of singers and ensemble.
During the past year, Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble took time off from performances and concentrated its rehearsals on the recording of our first CD of" Ladino songs. This is when Kol Sephardic Choir also became known as the "ROSE", the acronym for Raphael Ortasse Sephardic Ensemble. This new symbol of the
Choir is a product of the creativity of Penina Solomon, a member of our choir. She is also the designer of the beautiful CD cover.
From the outset, the goal of Kol Sephardic Choir was to disseminate the culture of the Sephardic Jews that originated in Spain prior to the expulsion in 1492 and which was then carried by them to the countries they migrated or welcomed to by the rulers. In the Balkan countries, notably Greece, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria, their culture and tradition were not only kept alive but also flourished. Other countries that welcomed the Sephardic Jews that were expelled from Spain are Turkey, Italy, North Africa, and Palestine, now Israel.
Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble is once again ready to perform and we look forward to presenting the Choir to the Los Angeles and Orange communities. We further hope to spread the Sephardic culture and message of inspiration throughout the US and abroad.
Kol Sephardic Choir became known as the "ROSE", the acronym for Raphael Ortasse Sephardic Ensemble,
Dedication. Expertise. Passion.
OUR 1st CD - Available for sale now: We can not wait to share our songs with you!
Songs on CD:
Avre Tu Puerta Cerrada
We chose this as the first song of this CD because it reflects our desire and hopes that you will open your heart and soul to the music that was carried along by the Sephardic Jews to the countries they migrated to after the expulsion from Spain in 1492. In this song, a young man is pursuing the “love of his life,” Rosa. Serenading her, he asks that she open her locked door and turn on the light in her balcony. He pleads with Rosa to come away with him for he is a deserving and faithful lover who only asks for her beauty that is so pure.
This is a Ladino love song of longing and nostalgia. Trees cry for rain and mountains for winds, and so my eyes cry for you, my beloved. I keep thinking about what will become of me. In foreign lands, I shall die. It is said that when the Sephardic Jews were deported to the concentration camps in distant lands, they adopted this song they were being led to the trains. We hope that the opening chords of our arrangement, reminiscent of a train slowing down to a full halt - convey this message. This song as sung by the Choir expresses the mood of utter despair felt by the people on these trains as they have, in their heavy hearts, grave doubts about ever returning to their homes and the lives that they were leaving behind.
Ir Me Quero Madre
Jerusalem has been in the hearts of Jews the world over since they were exiled by the Romans after the destruction of the Holy Temple. In this song, the longing for Jerusalem is expressed by the supplicant to her mother.
Quando El Rey Nimrod
A favorite song among the Sephardim - is about the birth of Abraham. Upon becoming pregnant, his mother was well aware of the “treasure” she was carrying. The King, Nimrod, had also seen the Holy Light in the skies above the “Juderia” (The Jewish quarter) that signaled the birth of Abraham, our father, the light of Israel.
A Ladino love song of passion and embittered love. It is a farewell to an unfaithful lover who does not possess a heart that can love another. Giuseppe Verdi, whose patron was a Sephardic Jew, heard the song sung by this family and fell in love with the melody. He adapted it into his Opera La Traviata, also as a farewell song.
A song of love and flirtation - They call me the “dark one”, but I was born fair. I became this way from the summer sun. The pretty maiden dreams of being called away by the sailors, or maybe even the son of the King, should they become charmed with her beauty and dark eyes.
The mermaid - A love song about a girl who lives in a tower in the middle of the sea and who loves sailors. In turn, one of the sailors desires to climb up to her nest and be her lover.
Scalerica De Oro
Is a wedding song about a bride who will ascend to the TEVA (Pulpit) up a little stairway of gold and ivory to take her marriage vows. The wedding guests have all come to see her and wish her joy, happiness, and prosperity. The bride may have no money and no dowry, but everyone hopes that the couple may have good luck.
This love song from the Romanceros repertoire is very popular among the Sephardim. The nightingales sing with sighs of love in an enchanted garden where the roses bloom in the month of May, echoing the sufferings of a lover under the spell of his beloved.
Yo M'enamori Dun Aire
A man tells of his falling in love with a charming woman who is like the wind, a very lovely woman, the beauty of his heart. However, he has become enamored with her at night and is deceived by the moonlight. If he falls in love again, it would be by day when the sun shines.
A mother sings a lullaby to her son, her little angel, who knows no pain, and she hopes that he will never know the world’s pain that she herself so deeply feels.
La Vida Do Por El Raki
A favorite song, particularly among those that love to drink the Raki. They like to drink until they lose their senses, but it helps them go through life with laughter and tears as alcohol gives one the feeling of being grandiose and superior, or better yet, of being a millionaire.
Mama Yo No Tengo Visto
This is another song of unrequited love where the lover is likened to a beautiful blue-eyed bird with cinnamon-colored hair and skin as fair as jasmine. However, this bird after trying to win the heart of the lover has forsaken her/him for another. The broken-hearted lover hearing the news is bitter and full of tears saying, “You should have at least sent me some candies.”