Welcome to the

SIMCHA Jewish Youth Theater website!

The 'SIMCHA' ('Joy' in Hebrew) Theater was started by Elizaveta Khaskina in 1991 with the purpose of reviving and developing the Jewish musical culture in a new independent state, the Republic of Belarus. Over the years of its existence, the group has gained popularity both in Belarus and abroad. According to music critics, it is considered to be one of the best youth groups in Belarus. Geraldine Auerbach, director of the Jewish Music Institute of Great Britain and David Stone, the Institutes consultant, who attended the theaters concert in Brussels, are of the opinion that 'Simcha' is worthy of international exposure for the quality of their music making, range, presentation and unique arrangements.

"Simcha" bears the title of the Model Theater which was conferred upon the group by the Ministry of culture of Belarus due to its program and highly professional standard of performing. The "Simcha" theater is the first prize winner of the International Song and Dance Festival (Moscow, 1992), International Festivals of Jewish Music (Moscow, 2000 and 2003) as well as of the most prestigious festivals in Belarus over the years of its existence. The group also took part in the Tenth World Festival of Jewish Music in London (July, 2000), whereupon it was unanimously acknowledged as one of the most professional performing groups. In November 2003 Simcha became the 3rd prize winner at the 1st International Festival "Golden Hanukkiya" arranged by the European Bureau of the World Congress of Russian Jewry.

The Russian, Finnish, Swedish and Belarusian TV and radio have prepared a number of programs based on the theaters performances. SIMCHA gives many concerts before Holocaust survivors as well as people suffering from the aftermath effects of the Chernobyl disaster.

There are 24 participants aged 12-25 in the theater, of which fourteen are the choir singers (all of whom study at school with advanced learning of music or at various universities) and ten are a fully professional instrumental group. The latter called MINSKER KAPELYE (under the leadership of Dmitri Slepovitch) is a klezmer band in the Yiddish part of the 'Simcha' performance.

The orchestra comprises the following instruments: 2 flutes, clarinet, percussion (xylophone, bongos, drum, etc.), piano, cymbalom (tsimbl), 2 violins, viola, cello and contrabass. All the instrument players are students and post-graduate students of the Belarusian State Academy of Music and Moscow State Conservatoire. The orchestra is led by Dmitri Slepovitch, Ph.D. (ethnomusicology), ensemble's clarinetist and composer.

The Simchas repertoire includes about 100 songs and musical pieces of Jewish sacred and secular music in Yiddish and Hebrew. The ensemble also performs classical music by L. Bernstein, A. Krein, S. Rakhmaninov, M. Bruch and others. Every piece is sung by the choir and soloists in four to eight parts accompanied by the instrumental group and a capella. As for the Yiddish traditional music, it is performed with elements of gentle choreography and dramatization. In addition the group performs Russian, Belarusian, German, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish and English folk songs.

The "Simcha" musical theater released its first CD in 1997 in Sweden. It was followed by another one in 1998. The third one, "The Songs of Sorrow and Joy", was recorded and issued in June 2001. This CD consists of various piyutim (hymns), Yiddish and Hebrew songs, as well as several klezmer pieces. In 2003 the group released its 4th CD "Shine Brightly, Little Star" comprising Russian and Belarusian songs.

Performances of Jewish music by "Simcha" have enthralled, moved and excited audiences in their home country and across Europe (Finland, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Belgium, Holland and Great Britain). Their beautiful costumes and unique arrangements made by Dmitri Slepovitch and Elizaveta Khaskina have impressed the most sophisticated of listeners.

Quotes from their tours of Sweden and the UK:

'The concert was full of feeling and power, joy and artistic mastery. From the professional viewpoint, the Simcha ensemble presented singing, music and dancing at the highest possible standard'.
Vasterbottens-Kuriren, Sweden, August 7, 1999)

'The young performers have made the audience feel the soul of the Jewish musical culture, the klezmer band adding a lot to the complete picture of the music performed. The concert was not just a choral performance. The lively dancing prepared by a professional choreographer combined with perfect singing has made it a real musical treat. The flavor of the Jewish culture that the audience tasted has indeed been absolutely unique and unforgettable'.
(Norra Vasterbotten, Sweden, August 10, 1999)

'Anyone who missed the performance by the Simcha ensemble from Minsk at Chatham's School of Music last week lost out on the experience of a life. This talented group, conducted by Elizaveta Khaskina, which incorporates dance and orchestral items in its unique programme, charmed a capacity audience'
(Jewish Telegraph, Manchester, Friday, July 21, 2000)

'When it comes to waving the flag for Jewish culture in the former Soviet Union, there is no more active set of campaigners than the Simcha Jewish Youth Music Ensemble of Minsk in Belarus.'
(London Jewish News, April 7, 2000)

The "Simcha" Photo Gallery
Simcha Jewish Youth Music Theater on YouTube: Subscribe to our VIDEO channel
See us on other Internet sites
See the press release about "Simcha"
Visit the site of Dmitri Slepovitch, the "Simcha" orchestra director
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