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Massad ChoirSome of the members of the Massad Alumni Choir: Standing: left to right: Adeena Lungen, Joel Braemer, D’Arcy Bruning Haid, Rob Waldman, Pam Appel, Debra Fleishman, Paula MacPherson, Miriam Baron. Seated on couch: left to right: Sharla Chochinov, Cindy Bass, Tracy Goltsman. Seated on floor, left to right: Laura Diamond, Shelley Werner, Janet Froelich.

By MYRON LOVE Miriam Baron and the Camp Massad Choir have chosen to lower the curtain for the last time on the popular choir that has been a regular feature of Winnipeg bar and bat mitzvahs for the past 25 years.


“It seemed to be the right time,” says choir director Baron of the decision to bring an era to an end. “It has been lots of fun but we are getting older. Many of us are in our 60s now. Although we only sing at a handful of bar and bat mitzvahs a year, we have to be able to commit months in advance and we are no longer certain that we can make those commitments.”
Baron’s decision to retire, she notes, also coincides with Leah Braemer’s decision to step back from leading bar and bat mitzvah services (although, Baron adds, Pam Appel will continue to teach tropes, haftorah and maftir to children preparing for their bar/bat mitzvahs).
“It is sort of a package deal,” Baron says of Braemer and the choir going out together.
It was actually Leah and Joel Braemer’s daughter, Ryla, who was the reason for the formation of the Camp Massad Choir in the first place. The year was 1993 and the Braemer Family – lifelong Massadniks - decided that they wanted to organize Ryla’s Bat mitzvah along the lines of a traditional Massad Shabbat service.
“They put together a choir for the occasion,” Baron says. “It was to be a one-time thing. But over the years, other Massad families planning bar and bat mitzvahs would call on the choir to participate.
“We have always been all volunteers,” she adds. “And rather than being paid for our services, we would encourage families to make donations to the camp. It turned out to be quite a nice source of funds for Massad.”
Unlike most other Massadniks, Miriam Baron is not a Massad “lifer”. Her association with Camp Massad began not as a camper but as a councillor.
“I had friends who attended Massad and I was always interested in the camp,” she says. “But I was never a camper. I served as a councillor from 1974 to 1980. I was also the camp director for one year.”
Both of Baron’s daughters were campers and, during that time in the 1990s, she became a board member (including a term as board president).
For the past 15 years or so, Baron has been a family therapist. Previous to that, she had been involved in music. One of her degrees was in music and she had sung in both the Rosh Pina Junior and senior choirs under the direction of Sara Udow and, later, Miriam Breitman. Her background made her the ideal person to lead the Massad choir.
“AT Camp Massad, we carried on Cantor Brownstone’s renditions in our Shabbat services and we incorporated those renditions in our choir,” Baron says. “As a choir, we were able to give back to our community and take a little bit of Massad and Cantor Brownstone’s melodies to other places in the community.”
While the composition of the choir did change from time to time over the years, Baron notes that a core group of 13 (as seen in the picture) – including Adeena Lungen, Joel Braemer, D’Arcy Bruning Haid, Rob Waldman, Pam Appel, Debra Fleishman, Paula MacPherson, Sharla Chochinov, Cindy Bass, Tracy Goltsman, Laura Diamond, Shelley Werner and Janet Frohlich – remained constant. Two Massadniks, Gilad Carroll and Josh Winestock, were frequently called upon to provide guitar accompaniment.
“As a choir, we represented everything that Camp Massad stands for. It’s about coming together and celebrating Judaism, Israel and community in meaningful ways.”
Is the choir completely done? Well not necessarily.
“You never say never,” Baron says about the possibility of a future appearance from time to time.”