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Ensemble Announces New Leadership, Looks forward to Continued Evolution for One of Winnipeg’s Oldest Cultural Performing Groups

press release May 18, 2022

 May 18, 2022:

Winnipeg, MB — The Chai Folk Ensemble is thrilled to announce the appointment of Sarah Sommer, distinguished vocalist, music educator and granddaughter of the group’s original founder, together with renowned Winnipeg musician Jesse Popeski, as Co-Artistic Directors. In this joint role, Sarah and Jesse will oversee all creative direction and artistic decision-making related to performing, dance, music and song.

Sarah and Jesse will take over from current Artistic Director David Vamos, retiring after 20 years of exceptional service, immediately following Chai’s long-awaited return to the live concert stage in Winnipeg on June 16. “We are very excited to have this powerhouse duo taking the lead on our artistic team,” says Tracy Kasner, president of Chai’s board of directors. “Not only are they incredibly talented, but they also share a deep understanding of Chai and what it means to our community. They have learned from the brilliant work of David Vamos. They respect the group’s rich history, and they have the vision to see us evolve for the future.”

Having grown up surrounded by the spirit of Chai, Sarah served as the group’s Vocal Director from 2011-2017. She completed her Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Education at the University of Manitoba and currently teaches music at Brock Corydon School, Harrow School and in her own private studio. She has performed as a choir member and soloist with many local ensembles, including Canzona, Camerata Nova, the Winnipeg Singers and the Shaarey Zedek Quartet. Sarah’s other choral directing credits include Kolot Community Voices, the Winnipeg School Division Honour Choir and the High Holy Day choir at Congregation Etz Chayim.

With guitar in hand, Jesse joined the Chai orchestra in 2015 and currently serves as the ensemble’s Music Director. A recent graduate from the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Music, Jesse’s talent and creativity have made him a regular face on the Manitoba music scene. About the Chai Folk Ensemble The Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble is one of Winnipeg’s oldest and most renowned cultural performing groups. Founded with eight dancers in 1964 by the late Sarah Sommer, Chai (the Hebrew word for “life”) has grown in stature and artistic accomplishment. Today more than 30 talented singers, dancers and musicians continue to thrill audiences at home and abroad with a unique blend of Jewish music, song and dance from Israel and around the world.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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