Century students ‘wowed’ by Jewish diaspora music

The power of music to tell stories and express feelings was brought home to Park Rapids second- and third-graders on March 31.

Nanilo, the musical duo of Sarina Partridge and Sarah Larsson, performs Jewish diaspora music for, and with, third graders March 31, 2023, at Century School in Park Rapids.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Nanilo, a musical duo specializing in the music of Jewish cultures, sang with second and third graders Friday at Century School in Park Rapids.

Sponsored by YourClassical MPR, Sarina Partridge and Sarah Larsson, both of Minneapolis, brought a distinctive vocal sound and soon had students clapping and singing along.

The children also experienced lyrics in four languages – Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew and Ladino, a language related to Spanish.

Songs included a traveling song with lyrics looking forward to the end of the journey; another in which a boy proposes marriage and the girl says ‘thanks, but no’; one with lyrics about universal brotherhood; a breathtaking duet that asks how a tiny fiddle can hold such huge sadness; and a ditty that says, “If it’s a holiday, you have to be happy.”

During the first section of Nanilo’s concert, the third graders were deeply attentive during the songs and full of questions and comments after each one. Partridge and Larsson complimented them as being among the best listeners they’ve encountered.


At the end of the duet about the feelings a violin can express, one third grader could be heard whispering, “Wow,” before the applause hit. Asked how the song made them feel, students expressed feeling sad, calm, relaxed and happy – which Larsson used as an example of how the same song can make people feel very different things.

The kids also joined in on nonsense-word refrains like “oy, oy, oy” and “aman, aman, aman,” responded to directions about when to clap loudly or softly, learned a few phrases of Hebrew and were able to sing them in tune against Partridge’s soaring descant.

Between segments, music teacher Louise Bass said the second graders had done even more preparation, watching a video of Nanilo (pronounced NAH-nee-low) and learning some of the songs ahead of time.

As they left the choir room at the end of the concert, students exchanged double high-fives with Partridge and Larsson.

“We are very excited to have Nanilo with us today,” said Bass. “We thank MPR for sponsoring them today, to come to Park Rapids. It’s really fun to sing in Hebrew and Yiddish and other languages.”

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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