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Frequently Asked Questions

Throughout our years as a group we have been asked many questions about how we work, how we found each other, and more! If you have further questions, you can email us at: email:

What is the history of Voice of the Turtle?
Beginning in 1978, the original four members of Voice of the Turtle, Derek Burrows, Lisle Kulbach, Jay Rosenberg and Artistic Director Judith Wachs, focused their creative energies on Judeo-Spanish (Sephardic) music–-the compelling musical repertoire of the Spanish Jews--the Sephardim.

Concerts of Judeo-Spanish music were a rare occurrence 30 years ago, but by now, literally hundreds of thousands of people-- children and adults--have been introduced to this music by Voice of the Turtle, and by many groups whom we have inspired. We have appeared on many Public Radio broadcasts, and in national and international concerts and Festivals, including appearances in Jerusalem, Madrid, Hong Kong, and Great Britain. We have produced twelve recordings.

Following the death of Wachs in 2008, the group went on temporary hiatus, Derek living in Mexico, Lisle and Jay continuing to reside in Boston. The three members reconvened occasionally to perform, but the geographical distance between the three was prohibitive. Beginning in 2010, Lisle and Jay were joined by Sephardic singer and composer, Ian Pomerantz, and Voice of the Turtle returned to perform for all audiences. The most recent performance was by Lisle and Jay at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Where does the name Voice of the Turtle come from?

"The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard throughout the land." ~ Song of Songs

The humorous use of the word  "turtle" in the King James Bible inspired the founding generation of performers of our group. The  "turtle " is actually a turtledove--the symbol of exile, and the harbinger of spring and of peace in Jewish tradition. The Hebrew word is tor -טור .  Whether mistranslated  or simply the poetic form of the word, the "turtle" is able to encompass a vast array of images.  Our logo--a lyre with a tortoise shell as its resonating box--is decorated by the Star of David and the Islamic crescent, both symbols significant in Sephardic history.

How do you find your music?

When the group was founded in 1978, access to sources of Sephardic songs were limited beyond the Sephardic community itself. Using the few published sources then available, the group began to collect recordings of songs from community leaders.  Judith Wachs obtained many songs from community members during her frequent trips to Israel, where the majority of Sephardim now reside. This huge collection informed the Paths of Exile recording series. With the addition of Ian Pomerantz, Voice of the Turtle draws directly on oral tradition, and looks forward to engagement with the Sephardic community. New Sephardic repertoire includes original compositions and transcriptions by Mr. Pomerantz.

Are you all Sephardic/Jewish?

All of the members of Voice of the Turtle are of Jewish ancestry, with two of the three having Sephardic roots.

Where have you performed?

We have presented concerts in almost every one of the contiguous states, and have heard from fans in Alaska and Hawaii from public radio broadcasts. We have also played at festivals in Holland, Israel, England, Canada, Scotland, Spain and Hong Kong.

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