A Song of Ascents: Three years of activity of the Mekor Haim Choir

A Song of Ascents: Three years of activity of the Mekor Haim Choir

The Mekor Haim Choir marked three years of activity on November 27, 2023. The choir began on the initiative of two founding members, Luciano Moura and Yonah Yaphe and its conductor Leonardo Mendonça, in Porto in 2020. It grew to include 13 members in the city and beyond, with the support of the Porto Jewish Community and the Mekor Haim Synagogue. Members meet regularly in the synagogue on Friday afternoons at 2:30 for in-person rehearsals and on-line on Monday evenings at 7:30. This allows members living as far away as Lisbon and Montreal to participate.

The repertoire of the choir includes music from the Sabbath services and holiday songs, as well as settings of Psalms and other liturgical pieces. The first performance of the choir was at the opening of the Holocaust Museum of Porto in 2021. It included an arrangement of Ani Ma’amin for 6 voices and Hatikvah.

The choir has performed regularly at the Holocaust Museum on the last Friday afternoon of every month. Visitors at the museum are invited to attend the concerts free of charge. Special attention is given to the young visitors to the museum from high schools all over Portugal. The choir has given concerts in the synagogue for the European Day of Jewish Culture and for the World Youth Days ceremonies held in Porto. Concerts have also been given in the Jewish Museum of Porto for Hanukkah and for other special events. In the wider community, the choir has performed for teachers at the School of Music and Performing Arts (ESMAE) in Porto.

The choir is currently engaged in learning many of the works of Salomone Rossi, including Psalm 128, Shir Hama’alot, ‘A Song of Ascents’. Rossi was a Jewish composer who was active in Italy in the Baroque period in the 17th Century. A concert dedicated to his music is planned. Other plans include learning more songs in Ladino, in addition to those already in the repertoire, to celebrate the rich culture that spread across Europe and the rest of the world after the expulsion of the Jews from Iberia in the 15th Century. Songs in Yiddish will also be added to the repertoire to commemorate the life of Jews in Eastern Europe.

Those who are interested in joining the choir may contact yonahyaphe@hotmail.com for further information. We look forward to another year of activity and to fulfilling our purpose of “teaching, learning, and performing Jewish music for members of the congregation and the community at large.”