Trio Sefardi Performs Virtual Concert, Honoring Singer Flory Jagoda

(via the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

(via the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Ryan Gorneault, Entertainment Editor

The musical ensemble Trio Sefardi performed a concert to a virtual crowd of nearly 150 people on March 9th, 2021, honoring Flory Altarac Jagoda’s life, a Sephardic singer who recently died on January 29th, 2021, at 97 years old. Co-hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, the event highlighted the history of the Sephardic culture and the efforts to keep their traditions alive nearly five centuries after their initial forced exile from Spain.

Trio Sefardi, a Virginia-based trio made up of world-renowned musicians Howard Bass (guitar), Tina Chancey (bowed strings), and Susan Gaeta (lead vocals), performed songs by Jagoda, all of which were sung in the Judaeo-Spanish language Ladino. Each of the three musicians had previously performed extensively with Jagoda as her accompanist. However, when her singing career began to dwindle, the three decided to come together to honor their musical partner and mentor as her “musical avatars.”

Throughout the concert’s hour-long runtime, the trio performed many of Jagoda’s most influential songs, which were often about her childhood, her family, her experiences escaping persecution throughout Europe, and the traditions of the Sephardic people, which have continually been lost over time due to banishment and killing of their people by many groups. In between each song, archival interview footage of Jagoda played, with the singer explaining how the Sephardic people were first forcefully exiled during the Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400s.

Jagoda was born in Sarajevo, formerly a part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (now a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina). When the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia towards the beginning of World War II, Jagoda, under a new alias, was able to escape to Split, Croatia, where she was then sent to an island off the coast of the country to wait for her parents, who were not initially able to come along with her. Eventually, the family made their way to Italy, where Jagoda met her future husband, Harry. By the time the war was over, the family had moved to the United States. Most of the Sephardic community of Sarajevo had been killed.

Jagoda’s parents were too heartbroken following the events Holocaust to partake in the Sephardic traditions or even speak the Ladino language, so it was up to her to keep the Sephardic traditions going. She began traveling around the United States, singing songs about her life in hopes that she would tell people about her culture. She even became known as the “Keeper Of The Flame” thanks to her dedication to helping the world rediscover her culture. She wrote the popular Hanukkah song “Ocho Kandelikas” and even won the National Heritage Award.

Trio Sefardi has promised to visit and perform in Hartford once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. However, for those who do not want to wait that long, the full performance will be uploaded to the official YouTube Channel for the Greenberg Center reasonably soon.


Greenberg Center YouTube Channel: 

Howard Bass: 

Tina Chancey: 

Susan Gaeta: