Songs of experience

Songs of experience

TEANECK – As a national debate on the future of immigration reform rages, the Teaneck Community Chorus will come together later this month to focus on the music of the immigration experience.

The chorus will perform a selection of songs representative of its members’ different backgrounds, from South America to Ireland to Africa. The program will also include some Yiddish songs and poetry.

"When we planned this two years ago, we were thinking it’d be nice to tell the stories of the members of the chorus because we come from so many backgrounds," said Margaret White, the concert’s coordinator. "It has become more timely than we expected."

Despite the debate in Washington and around the country, the concert does not have a political message, said Ron Levy, the chorus president.

"It doesn’t really have that spin. If anything, it has a nostalgic feel to it," he said. "I’m sure people looking for a topical message can glean it from there but it’s not the spin of it."

Rather than a reinforced opinion on the immigration debate, Levy hopes people will walk away from the concert with just "a smile and maybe a tear."

In preparation for the concert, chorus members were asked to select songs from their own backgrounds that suggested something about their family histories. Laura Mausner, the chorus’ publicity director, said that the group will perform the Yiddish song "Oyfn Pripitchick," which is about family life "in front of a hearth." Mausner, who feels connected to that song because she heard it often when she was growing up, said that she hopes the audience will just focus on the music, rather than the brouhaha in Washington.

"We hope they’ll find it musically rewarding and an appreciation that there’s beauty in everybody’s culture," she said.

The chorus received approximately $’,000 in grant money from the Bergen County Department of Parks Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs. The money was used for a half-day workshop designed to familiarize members of the chorus with the mix of Irish, Italian, Jewish and other songs that will be performed, as well as other production costs.

The chorus will perform "Songs of the Immigration Experience" at Thomas Jefferson High School at 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call (’01) 836-9459 or visit

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