April 16, 2024
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P’niNote Women’s Choir Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Teaneck—Who can forget the exhilaration of our elementary school cantatas, high school productions, camp color war competitions and seminary songfests? How we would relish re-visiting these soaring moments of song! For the members of the P’niNote Women’s Choir, this occurs weekly on Monday evenings as the group assembles to sing and harmonize Jewish melodies taken from our sacred texts and liturgy. “Our Monday nights are our special treat for the soul,” says Lorraine Vogel, a long-standing choir member.

Batya Harris, the creator and director of the P’niNote Women’s Choir, is a native of Teaneck. She attended Yavneh, Bruriah, Stern College and Michlalah in Israel. The inspiration for creating a women’s choir came in 2005 when a cadre of local women from Congregation Beth Aaron were united by a love of singing. The name for the choir was suggested by Rita Rivka Lewy to memorialize her mother Peninah. Hence the name, which is a play on the words “peninah” (pearl) and “note.” Harris selects the compositions, prepares melodic harmonies and accompanies the music on her guitar. The repertoire of the choir includes Hebrew classics, early Israeli songs, Chasidic works, modern melodies, acapella arrangements and English inspirational works.

One of the original members of the choir was Aliza Pikar, who made aliyah to the Negev where she teaches Hebrew language online to fourth graders at Moriah. Whenever visiting the States, she attends the P’niNotes sessions. Another early member was a considerably younger young lady, Sarah, who traveled from Brooklyn to participate. She sang throughout her pregnancy, and even afterwards brought her newborn to practices, as she loved the camaraderie and sound of the group. Currently, there are twelve members in the choir, representing bubbies and savtas, grandmas and great-grandmas, teachers and retired teachers, social workers, jewelry designers and other assorted professionals. What binds the group together is “our love of singing, our joy in expressing our love for Yahadut through verses taken from Torah and tefillah, our feelings of accomplishment when we create new harmonies, and the ‘fun’ we have doing it together with the group,” said member Cathy Schuss.

Over the course of ten years, the P’niNote have performed for audiences at senior citizen residences including Care One, Jewish Family and Home at Rockleigh, and the Stein Assisted Living in Somerset where one of the choir members had a 100-year-old grandmother in residence. To celebrate her centennial birthday, the choir traveled to the center to bring her and her co-residents entertainment and joy. They have also performed for the Teaneck community at local programs such as a Seudah Shlishit, Shabbat Kallah and fundraisers.

On the morning of January 3, the P’niNote gathered at the Jewish Home Assisted Living in River Vale to sing for the residents, specifically one very special woman who was approaching her 98th birthday. Mrs. Regina Starr was the founding principal of the Bais Yaakov of Baltimore.

Coincidentally, two members of the choir currently have grandaughters enrolled at the Bais Yaakov, which has expanded into a large and successful institution. The audience was delighted to be entertained by the women of P’niNote, who presented six songs from davening which extol our love for Judaism and Jerusalem.

If this article piqued your interest and love of music, please contact [email protected]. The choir is currently recruiting new members.

By Pearl Markovitz

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