A Great Light

by Josh Kerr | May 04, 2022

Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble coming back with a bang

Event cancellations and postponements became the unfortunate norm for much of the early 2020s, with some annual events cancelling two and three iterations. Such was the case for the planned 2020 summer concert from the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble (Chai) to debut their new album. A Great Light, Chai's sixth recorded album and first in close to 10 years, wrapped up recording the day before the province shut down.

This summer, two years after its originally scheduled date, Chai will showcase the album's music, musicians, and singers through a concert at the Manitoba Theatre Centre on June 16, 2022. Chai will also honour the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba at the event as a gesture of gratitude for their granting support over the years.

"We wanted to honour the Foundation, not just for what they've done for Chai, but the entire community," says Reeva Nepon, Chai's Administrative Director, now in her 21st year of involvement. "The impact became even more apparent as the Foundation stepped up for the community during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Chai was one of more than 30 community organizations to receive support from the JFM's COVID-19 Relief Funding. 

"Without the Foundation, Chai would not have survived the past two years," says David Vamos, Chai's Artistic Director. "Grants from the Foundation are what allowed us to keep going." 

Vamos, whose involvement with Chai spans 20 years, explains that even though it meant delaying the release of their album for more than two years, it was important that the album be released in a live environment and not solely on streaming platforms. He describes it as a kinetic and immersive album, best experienced in its entirety with song and dance. 

Rehearsals for the show began in the spring, with many performers ramping up for their first show as part of Chai.

Over the years, the JFM has provided support for Chai through many grants, with one of the most notable providing funding for a performance tour, for which Chai teamed up with the Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Rusalka. The two embarked on a three-week tour of Ukraine and Israel, sharing one another's cultures and traditions through the performances. The tour concluded with performances at Folklorama and sold-out shows at home in Winnipeg.

For more information on A Great Light, click here.

To support the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble organizational endowment fund, click here.