The Yiddish Philharmonic Chorus is a New York City-based audition chorus dedicated to preserving and fostering a love of Yiddish music. In their unique mission, the Chorus performs strictly in Yiddish, rediscovering and reinterpreting traditional works from the Eastern European shtetl, as well as new songs with a contemporary sound. Interestingly, most of the Chorus at this point does not understand Yiddish. The texts on the sheet music are all written with English letters, the singers are all provided with word-for-word translations, and mp3s are provided to help with the pronunciation (as well as the music, for those who aren’t as fluid at reading music). When the Chorus performs, English translations are always provided. At this point, much of the Chorus’s audience is younger; and the combination of the translations given, with the Chorus’s manner of performing leaves the Yiddish-challenged in the audience feeling like they understood everything.
Founded in 1922 as the “Freiheit Gezang Farein,” and then known from 1948 through 2021 as the Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus / JPPC, the Chorus began as a musical expression of the Jewish labor movement. It has evolved into an intergenerational chorus with a solid reputation as an interpreter of a wide range of choral material. One of the longest regularly performing Yiddish choruses in North America, the Chorus currently has around 40 members, as well as a smaller chamber ensemble for special events. For an overview of the Chorus’s historical milestones, click here.
Performing for diverse audiences in the greater New York area has enabled the Chorus to carry Yiddish music to people of all ages, in many different kinds of locales. Recent venues have included Lincoln Center, Shea Stadium, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (NYC), the World Trade Center site after 9/11, the Museum of the City of New York, the North American Jewish Choral Festival, Queens College, Riverside Church (NYC), Symphony Space, and West Point Military Academy.
Zingt! A Celebration of Yiddish Choral Music, the Chorus’s first CD, was released in 2006. Committed to bringing Yiddish music into the 21st Century, this CD continues a long tradition of recordings that began in 1948. Generous donations to the Chorus by individuals and foundations provided the impetus for this project. The CD includes “Reb Dovidl,” “Shoyshanas Yaakoyv,” “Vaserl,” and much more. In addition, a live-in-concert DVD has been released of a 2007 concert the Chorus gave focusing on the works of the two great Yiddish songwriters, Warshawsky and Gebirtig, including songs like “Afn pripetshik,” “Akhtsik er un zibetsik zi,” “Es brent” & “Di mizinke oysgegebn.”
Binyumen Schaechter has conducted the Chorus since 1995. If you would like to be placed on their mailing list, audition for the chorus, or to send a tax-deductible contribution, you can contact them for more information via their email address info@YiddishChorus.org.
For their 2012 gala concert entitled Bridging Two Worlds: A Yiddish Musical Journey, the Chorus revived an old tradition - preparing a special keepsake Journal that was given to all who attended the concert, which had photos and bios of all the singers, the full program of the concert, articles about the Chorus and its history, and ads taken out by individuals, businesses and organizations, to honor a current Chorus member, to remember one who has passed, and/or to promote a business or an organization. We have continued the tradition each year since then. If you would like to take out one or more ads in a future Journal or write an article for it, please contact Paulette at info@YiddishChorus.org.
Binyumen Schaechter is an award-winning composer of musicals, revue songs and cabaret songs. Off-Broadway shows that have featured his music include Naked Boys Singing (the fourth-longest-running show in off-Broadway history), Pets! (Dramatic Publishing), That’s Life! (nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award), Too Jewish? (nominated: Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Awards) and Double Identity. His music has been performed by Tovah Feldshuh and Andrea Marcovicci and has been recorded on ten CDs, including It Helps to Sing About It: Songs of Ben Schaechter and Dan Kael.
He has been touring with both of his daughters, the Shekhter-tekhter performing the revue, Our Zeydas and Bubbas As Children in Australia, Brazil, Europe, Israel and North America. A documentary film was released in 2012, When Our Bubbas and Zeydas Were Young: The Schaechter Sisters on Stage, in which Binyumen also plays a central role. He had previously performed across North America with his elder daughter, Reyna, in From Kinehora to Coney Island, his musical revue about the Jewish experience in America. On his own, he has toured with The Yiddish Top Chai - A Sing-Along Countdown of the 18 Yiddish Songs People Most Love to Sing, and his one-man show, The Shtetl Comes to Life.
As an actor, he was featured with Anna Deveare Smith in her one-woman show in Carnegie Hall. He was also musical director of the Pripetshik Singers, the one-of-a-kind ensemble of native-Yiddish-speaking children, which has been documented in the film, Pripetshik Sings Yiddish! He provided the translations for the first-ever DVD with Yiddish subtitles, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.
He and his sisters all speak only Yiddish with their children, giving his parents 16 fluent-Yiddish-speaking grandchildren.