Shir Ami

Shir Ami is devoted to recovering and rejuvenating the rich musical heritage created by the Jewish people during the tumultuous 20th century.

We give voice to the people of the Jewish diaspora whose art has been silenced, suppressed, or neglected as a result of their Jewish heritage.


The Ensemble

Jason Calloway

Artistic Director

Rachel Calloway

Executive Director

About Us

Shir Ami was inspired initially by the story of a great musician whose artistry saved him from certain death.

As a child, I read in the Philadelphia Inquirer the story of David Arben, then associate concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who had, on the occasion of his last tour before retiring, visited his native Poland for the first time since the war. Arben’s childhood struggle included separation from his parents, life in the ghetto and finally deportation to the concentration camp in Flossenberg, Germany. The Jewish commandant appointed to manage Arben’s company saw that the young musician had a violin with him, and Arben was then employed to entertain at Nazi officers’ functions.

One night he was awakened, along with his entire barracks, and ordered into the woods to dig a ditch and prepare to be executed. As the man to his side fell dead into that ditch, the commandant realized that Arben, the Jewish fiddler, was next in line, and saved his life.

When the war ended, young David Arben was left alone, with no family, and after finding his way to study in Munich, eventually played for Efrem Zimbalist in a masterclass at the Salzburg Mozarteum, which led to Arben’s invitation to attend the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and ultimately to a long and distinguished musical career. When Arben returned to Poland on that orchestra tour, he gave a recital at the synagogue he had attended as a child, which was miraculously still standing.

This dramatic story has remained with me always and Mr. Arben has been a mentor to me since we later collaborated in Puerto Rico on a performance of the Schubert Cello Quintet.
Around the same time, my dear friend, Nancy Rubenstein, shared with me her love and knowledge of this repertoire, which finally coalesced into the present ensemble; we gave our first performance on Yom Hashoah, 2007, at the temple my family and I attend in Newtown, PA, Shir Ami Bucks County Jewish Congregation.

After the excitement and interest generated by that debut concert, our fledgling ensemble realized we needed a name and were delighted when my own clergy, Rabbi Eliot Strom and Cantor Mark Elson, graciously agreed to grant us the name of our congregation: Shir Ami – Song of Our People.

Jason Calloway
Artistic Director

The Repertoire

Joseph Achron

  • Four Improvisations, op. 63
  • Quartet, op. 26
  • Sinfonietta, op. 71
  • Elegy to memory of J. Engel, op. 62

Paul Ben-Haim

  • Sonatina
  • Variations on a Hebrew Melody, op. 22

Irving Berlin

  • Songs

Mario Castelnouvo-Tedesco

  • Cello Music
    Piano Trio

Hanns Eisler

  • Cabaret Songs
    Chamber Music

Joel Engel

  • Suites from “The Dybbuk,” op. 35

Hans Gal

  • Piano Quartet

Mikhail Gnessin

  • Requiem for Our Lost Children, op. 63

Berthold Goldschmidt

  • Piano Music

Pavel Haas

  • Suite, op. 13

Friedrich Hollaender

  • Cabaret Songs

Gideon Klein

  • Duo
  • String Trio

Erich Wolfgang Korngold

  • Suite from Much Ado About Nothing, op. 11
  • Suite, op. 23

Hans Krasa

  • Tanz

Alexander Krein

  • Jewish Sketches, op. 13

Szymon Laks

  • Passacaille

Mikhail Lewin

  • Elegie, op. 4

Darius Milhaud

  • Various Works

Solomon Rosowsky

  • Fantastic Dance

Arnold Schoenberg

  • Cabaret Songs

Franz Schreker

  • Songs

Erwin Schulhoff

  • Cello Sonata
  • Duo
  • Piano Music
  • Songs

Wladyszlaw Szpilman

  • The Life of the Machines

Dmitri Shostakovich

  • Romances on Poems by Aleksandr Blok, op. 127

Alexandre Tansman

  • Various Works

Viktor Ullmann

  • Piano Works
  • Songs

Sandor Vandor

  • Aria

Franz Waxman

  • Carmen Fantasy

Kurt Weill

  • Cabaret Songs
  • Cello Sonata

Miecyszlaw Weinberg

  • Piano Quintet
  • Piano Trio, op. 24
  • Songs

Egon Wellesz

  • Cello Sonata
  • Songs

Eric Zeisl

  •  Cello Sonata

Leo Zeitlin

  • Eli Zion
  • Yiddish Songs
  • Der kadish fun reb Leyvi-Yitskhok
  • Eyli, Eyli
  • Patsh, patsh kikhelekh
  • Shoyn nito der nekhtn
  • Iber di hoyfn

Alexander von Zemlinsky

  • Chamber Music

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