The Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a pair of concerts.

Alex Sommer is the husband of the founder of the ensemble, Sarah Sommer who passed away in 1969. 

"Dancing was something that came very natural to her," he explained. "It just grew and grew and grew. Her presence was infectious with anyone she bumped into. It didn't take much for them to be magnetized by her presence."

Alex and Sarah Sommer

Alex Sommer and granddaughter Sarah Sommer. (Nepon Photography)

Granddaughter Sarah Sommer is named after her. She is involved with every aspect of Chai, including directing. 

"Growing up, I was always surrounded by the group. It was something I really wanted to do," she said. "I was passionate about dancing and singing in the Israeli culture so it was natural for me to join."

Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble

The original eight dancers of the Chai Folk Ensemble. (Courtesy the artist)

"I think what makes Chai so special is the joint effort of all the elements," she continued. "We're one of the only groups in North America that has Israeli dancing with live music when most of the other groups perform with recorded music."

'Chai' means 'alive' in Hebrew. The folk ensemble has travelled all around the world and this summer they will go to Israel for the second time.

Sarah Sommer

Sarah Sommer in Ottawa, 1967 - being interviewed after performing for Queen (Courtesy the artist)

Alex thinks that his wife Sarah would be delighted to know that something so important to her has developed beyond anything she could possibly have imagined is alive and well and going on to a wonderful future. 

"I don't think she could ever have dreamt that what she started and what was going on would reach this stage," he stated. "I hope she's watching and getting as much satisfaction that I have, that young Sarah has, and that everyone else involved has experienced."

Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble 2013 from Lank Beach Productions on Vimeo.

Chai celebrates its 50th anniversary with two events - an Alumni Reunion Concert on June 8 at Club Regent and the big 50th Anniversary Gala on Tuesday June 10 at the Concert Hall at 8:00 p.m. Before then hear Alex and Sarah Sommer on Information Radio with host Marcy Markusa on Friday June 6.