Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Our goal: To help our synagogue become a singing community (part 2)

Part 1 is here.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch-house (or the apartment), my husband was also becoming restive.  After a spring, summer, and early fall of attending musical Kabbalat Shabbat services, Jewish-music concerts, a musical Selichot service, and a kumzits/sing-along or two, he surprised me on Erev (the Eve of) Shemini Atzeret when even he began complaining about our cantor (and he's not generally the complaining type).  The next thing you know, I was taking Joey Weisenberg's Building Singing Communities off the bookshelf and starting to re-read it--and the minute I put it down, my husband grabbed it.

First, my husband, who's the Ritual Director and, for lack of funds, the Acting Rabbi of our synagogue, took advantage of the fact that we were having trouble with the lighting on the bimah to insist that the cantor come on down and davven among the Jews in the (no) pews.  Then, with my encouragement, he moved the shtender (lectern) further back in the center aisle. ("It has to be at least next to the second row, so that whoever's leading can sing straight into ___'s hearing aids.").  That's about the right location--our sanctuary is small-ish, with only about 8 rows of chairs along the center aisle and a heavy concentration of congregants in rows two, three, and four.  [That idea didn't work out so well.]

Then he decided that we should add to our new Adon Olam repertoire (which we "borrowed" from a couple of L'cha Dodi tunes and have been leading as a team)--now, we're also leading Oseh Shalom at the end of Kaddish Shalem after the Musaf Amidah prayer. (We lead this song complete with clapping, which is quite a change for a congregation that used to be heavily German-Jewish and concerned with decorum).  Reactions have been interesting.  I got a specific request for Alon Olam melodies that are lively (hence the choice of tunes, thus far) and some complaints that the songs don't sound Jewish, and my husband got a request to sing the Lewandowski "Tzadik KaTamar" (melody only) when he leads the Shir Shel Yom (Psalm of the Day) on Shabbat (Sabbath).

Next, my husband got seriously ambitious, and began talking with other congregants about starting a monthly Musical Kabbalat Shabbat service.  Much enthusiasm ensued.

But it's quite a responsibility for a group of non-musicians to try to choose a song for each of the Kabbalat Shabbat psalms and get everyone singing.  I'm not sure that any of us knows where to begin.

Which is why my husband and I will be attending the Rising Song Intensive this year for the first time.

It's a bit unnerving for a pair of alte geezers with almost no formal training in music and plenty of vocal problems (due to age, allergies, and/or acid reflux) to be singing in such talented company, but we certainly hope to learn some good ideas about how to help build a singing community.  Wish us luck.

The reason why I'm still writing at this ridiculous hour is that the deadline for registration is this Sunday, December 1, 2019.  We hope that some of you will join us at the Intensive.


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