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Wednesday, June 29, 2022
NEWS  |  CAMPUS

ShabbaTones returns with first in-person rehearsal since the start of the pandemic

With nationwide COVID-19 shutdowns in March 2020, the Jewish choir had to put rehearsals on pause and reschedule its first concert.

Willard Kesling (second from left), a UF choral professor and music director and conductor for the ShabbaTones Jewish choir, leads the baritone section of the ShabbaTones in a choir practice on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. "I will not let art, not let culture die," Kesling said, before the group began their first in-person choir practice since the COVID-19 pandemic halted performances in early 2020.
Willard Kesling (second from left), a UF choral professor and music director and conductor for the ShabbaTones Jewish choir, leads the baritone section of the ShabbaTones in a choir practice on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. "I will not let art, not let culture die," Kesling said, before the group began their first in-person choir practice since the COVID-19 pandemic halted performances in early 2020.

Members of ShabbaTones sang in unison as their voices echoed in the hall at UF Hillel, signaling the beginning of the choir’s first in-person practice session this year.

ShabbaTones, a nonprofit Jewish chorus in Gainesville, had its first live, in-person rehearsal at UF Hillel on Wednesday after a 16-month long intermission due to the pandemic.

“It’s always exciting when a choir first gets together and we kind of discover our blend,” Elaine Jacobson, treasurer and soprano singer of ShabbaTones, said before the rehearsal.

However, in March 2020, as the choir prepared for its first concert, nationwide COVID-19 shutdowns began and the ShabbaTones never got to perform.

“We rehearsed maybe seven or eight times and then had to put that aside,” Jacobson said.

The choral group transitioned to Zoom practice sessions and meetings to stay in touch, and in December they organized a virtual Chanukah choir for the holiday season that was viewed by hundreds of people, Sadove wrote in an email.

The Jewish choir was founded in 2019 by president Jesse Lipnick, vice president Richard Sadove and Jacobson, with UF choral professor Willard Kesling as the group’s music director and conductor.

Shabbatones was established to give people the opportunity to join together to sing secular and sacred songs inspired by Jewish history and culture across various genres, decades, continents and languages.

As a yearlong member, ShabbaTones bass-baritone singer Adam Weizman said he enjoys learning about the different genres and cultures of Jewish music through the choir.

“It’s kind of like going through a time machine almost with how you’re able to sing so many different kinds of music, and being able to sing the same things that people hundreds of years ago probably sang as well,” the 22-year old UF music and computer science senior said.

About 10 singers, old and new, gathered at Wednesday’s rehearsal, but some of the members were hesitant to leave their homes due to the Delta variant and surge in Florida COVID cases.

“Let not the small number at the outset discourage us,” Kesling said as he welcomed everyone to the rehearsal. “I’m not discouraged. I’ve started many choirs over 50 years and it’s always the way it starts, it starts little.”

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Each member introduced themselves before warming up, determining their sections and practicing songs for the first concert rescheduled in November.

As ShabbaTones works to get back to what it was prior to the pandemic, they welcome any interested singers to reach out and contact them for more information on how to join at shabbatonesfl@gmail.com or through their Facebook page.

UF students who join ShabbaTones will be able to receive one credit hour per semester in choral singing, Sadove wrote in an email.

“We have an excited group of people and we just really want to sing,” Jacobson said.

ShabbaTones will have its first concert, “Jewish Music Across Continents and Down Centuries” on November 14 with a performance by UF composition and theory professor Paul Richards. More details on the venue location will be provided at a later date.


Contact Camila Pereira at cpereira@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @CamilaSaPereira.

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Camila Pereira

Camila is a third-year journalism student and the administration reporter on the university desk. When she is not reporting for The Alligator, Camila is always listening to music and probably drinking honey milk tea.


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