“…the best thing about the festival was the chance to interact with a diverse group of people while celebrating the rescue of 49,000 Bulgarian Jews from the Holocost. Seeing Israel with a group that included people who could give greater insight into the traditions and history involved greatly enhanced the experience.”

Lanny McManus
Singer and Choral Director, SC, USA

“I truly was blessed to be apart of something so honoring. It was an experience that I will never forget and I pray that the Lord keeps it close to my heart as time goes past us. The trip and all that I participated in was spectacular. I say that because it truly touched a part of my heart for your people and what they have endured for so long. I found everything about the trip to be positive.”

Donna Armstrong
Auditor, SC, USA

“The highlights of the festival for me were mainly to meet Sharon and Kalin, Kalin’s incredible father the conductor and hearing the Varna choir with their precision, disciplined accuracy and respect for the other choir members …

Singing with such a big choir was not the first time for me. But the magnitude of the music and the power of the orchestra, the precision of the conductor Dian was for me a great experience. I learned a lot form watching Dian Tchobanov and Marin Chonev and was enriched by their professionalism.”

Cantor Beny Maissner
Soloist, Ontario, Canada

I was excited about this trip first for the prospect of performing the magnificent Sacred Service of Ernest Bloch, second for the opportunity to visit a place I never thought I’d visit — Bulgaria — and a place I try to visit often — Israel.

When I learned about the history of the Jews of Bulgaria, I was excited to have this opportunity to make a connection to that history.

What moved me most was the privilege of performing with the Varna Choir, making a musical connection today to repay a historical connection dating to the 1940s.

The performances were first rate. I was proud of people from my community choir, KOLEINU, who rose to the challenge of learning the challenging Sacred Service. And I hope that some day we will be able to perform the work in its entirety here in Columbus, Ohio.

Kudos to Sharon and Kalin for having the vision to bring people together in this way in Bulgaria and in Israel”

Cantor Jack Chomsky
Conductor of “Koleinu” Columbus Jewish Community Chorus
Columbus, OH, USA

“Bulgarians know their history, and are proud of having saved their Jews, the churches were the heroes. It’s a powerful story. The reaction from the audience was very warm. It was moving and dignified and profound.”

“While I had sung “Sacred Service” as one of seven cantors during a conference in San Francisco earlier this year, the experience with Songs of Life was in a different realm. That stemmed partly from working with other singers and musicians in three different languages, partly from performing with exemplary orchestras — but underlying it all was the significance of the event.”

“To execute such a great vocal work whose main focus is Jewish liturgy is so powerful since, as a cantor, I am so close with the liturgy, the Hebrew and the meaning of the text that it just adds to the performance experience. But to have brought that to the people of Bulgaria and to connect the Jewish prayer service with an implied blessing to the Bulgarian people for their courageous standing against the Nazis — it is only now, in reflection, that I am fully appreciating the experience I had for those 10 days which felt as if they passed in a second.”

“In an unstable world with a faltering economy and ongoing war, it was so life-affirming to be a part of something celebratory.”

Cantor Erik Contzius
Soloist, NY, USA

“As an auditor I observed the intense efforts of the musicians as they practiced and performed in a concert larger than the sum of its parts. I felt the tension from various forces give way to the power of social and sacred songs. I found common ground with people who, before, were just characters in geography and/or history books. I walked on streets in Bulgaria and Israel that hold a special place in my heart because of my friendships and faith. I watched the faces of audiences at the concerts as well as those of men and women who received flowers in Bulgaria. I saw life light up those faces. I choose to believe that some of that “life light” has been left on our faces as well. Those would be the highlights.”

Sherrie Morrison
Auditor, SC, USA

“It was a privilege for me to participate and sing in the Sacred Service Songs of Life Festival held in Bulgaria and Israel in November 2008. Learning and singing the Sacred Service was just the beginning of this fabulous event. The choirs and musicians coming together from Bulgaria, Canada, Israel and the United States of America to sing this piece of music in dedication for the remembrance of the rescues of the 49,000 Jews that were saved from Concentration Camps during Word War II was a lifelong memorable experience that I will carry with me forever. Thank you again to Sharon and Kalin!”

Susie Blank
Singer, “Koleinu” Choir, Columbus, Ohio, USA


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