Sunday, December 29, 2019

More Rising Song Intensive video links

Here's Deborah Sacks Mintz leading a beautiful niggun.

Here's Rabbi Josh Warshawsky leading a livelier niggun.  He was so high-energy when he was leading this niggun in his morning class that he was hopping up and down as if he'd had four cups of coffee with breakfast! 😀 What fun!

February 3, 2020 update:
Deborah told us that the beautiful niggun linked above is Hanerot Halalu, by Margie Rosenthal and Ilene Safyan.  See Giving credit where it's due.  [Feb. 2021 update:  I've since learned that this is considered a traditional tune--no one seems to know who wrote it.]

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Rising Song Intensive: Galeet Dardashti teaches respectful integration of Sephardi/Mizrachi music

Post #1 about the Rising Song Intensive is here.

"Integrating Sephardi/Mizrachi Vocal Repertoire Artfully and Respectfully" was the official name of the course that I took with Galeet Dardashti for three hours each day on Tuesday, December 24 and Wednesday, December 25, 2019 at Hadar's Rising Song Intensive.  We spent as much time in discussion as we did learning Mizrachi music, because we had no choice--we couldn't ignore the "elephant in the room," which was cultural appropriation.  How could a room of mostly-Ashkenazi students be teachers and/or singers of Sephardi/Mizrachi music when that music wasn't "ours" by birth?  The standing-on-one-foot version of Galeet's advice was (1) to learn the music very well and (2) to be sure to give credit to the songwriter/paitan (writer of religious poetry).  She assured us that we shouldn't worry about the likelihood that we wouldn't be able to match the Hebrew pronunciation of the original version, or the distinct possibility that we wouldn't be able to sing quarter-tone notes.

I learned from Galeet that most Mizrachi music is sung without harmony, but with more call-and-response singing than is typical of Ashkenazi music.  (Galeet assured us that she, herself, uses harmony frequently.)  I also learned that many piyyutim (religious poems, usually written to be sung) were composed for the precise purpose of being sung to popular melodies, most of which are no longer known, since most piyyutim are literally centuries old.  In addition, I learned that there are no niggunim (wordless songs) in Sephardi/Mizrachi music.

Galeet seemed to me to have a different singing style than (most of?) the other singers at the Rising Song Intensive.  After hearing her sing both in class and after the communal lighting of the Chanukah candles, I joked with her that, when she sang, she just belted it out like a Mizrachi Ethel Merman.  She cracked up laughing. 

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Friday, December 27, 2019

Rising Song Intensive: Harmony heaven

If memory serves me correctly, there were 630 people (my husband says 250) registered for the Rising Song Intensive, and of those, I'm guessing that at least 100 of us were singing harmony.  I don't think I've ever in my life been anywhere with that many harmony singers in one place at one time.  Even in the chapel, when maybe 30 people were davvening (praying), when we got to the end of Aleinu, we broke into four-part harmony.  I told my husband that this was one of the best vacations I've ever had.

I just spent an hour in a chat with Google trying to figure out how to get the few videos that I shot--I was too busy singing!--from my new-ish phone onto my computer--I'll try to post them when I'm awake.  I'll also try to write some more about Hadar's Rising Song Intensive, which was an amazing experience!

In the meantime, I hope this link to last night's concert with Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble, four of whose regular members and one guest led, or taught at, the Intensive, will work.

Friday, Dec. 27, 2019 update:
I can see, when I go to the "write/edit" screen, that my video has been uploaded, but it simply refuses to appear in the published/visible post.  It occurs to me that I've had this problem in the past--back in the good old days when I still remembered my YouTube password, I used to upload my videos to YouTube and link to them in my posts.  For lack of a current alternative, I'm linking to the Facebook post where I uploaded this video last night--if you click here, you can listen to Basya Schechter leading her Maoz Tzur.  Enjoy!

See my next post, which is also about the Rising Song Intensive.

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Kabbalat Shabbat experiment: Mindfulness Service at BJ

B'nai Jeshurun's Mindfulness Kabbalat Shabbat Service  was . . . interesting.

There was plenty of mindfulness.

But there wasn't much service.

A line from this psalm and that psalm, a few verses of L'cha Dodi, Bar'chu, the first line of Sh'ma, Mi Chamocha . . . you get the picture.

But the piece de resistance was the Amidah.

As in, what Amidah?

They started with HaShem S'fatai Tiftach, left us standing in silence for several minutes with no text in our hands--apparently not assuming that some of us might actually want to pray using the actual traditional words--and finished with Oseh Shalom.  I told my husband that this was analogous to warming up for a race and cooling down from a race without actually running the race.  What's the point of having bookends if one doesn't intend to put books between them?

Clearly, this service is not for people who prefer to pray the traditional prayers, and I doubt that my husband or I will return for this particular type of service.

That said, I applaud BJ for offering a Mindfulness Service.  A Jew who finds mindfulness, contemplation, meditation, or the like meaningful or crucial to their spiritual life should not have to go to a silent retreat at a monastery, or to an ashram, to find it.

Also, kudos to BJ's Center for Prayer and Spirituality for co-hosting Hadar's Rising Song Intensive.  We'll be there, as well as at an occasional Bo-i Kallah service.


Three problems with using musical instruments during Shabbat services

These are solely my own opinions regarding the challenges presented by the presence of musical instruments in synagogue during Shabbat (Sabbath) and Shalosh Regalim (Festival) services:

~ Competing harmonies.  As I've posted previously, blending my harmonies with those of other harmony singers is one thing, but trying to avoid clashing with the chords of a guitar or other instrument, which is an inanimate object, can be a challenge that I don't always appreciate.  I've been davvening a cappella (praying without instrumental accompaniment) almost my entire life, so I'm used to choosing my own harmonies.  I'm not used to this, and I'm not sure whether or not I like it.

~ Competing musicians, so to speak.  My husband and I have found that the instruments frequently drown out the singers, making it difficult to hear the words of the prayers being sung.

~ "Basso continuo," so to speak.  The current trend of using musical instruments, such as the harmonium or the cello, to accompany announcements of who's sick or to signal the coming end of the Silent Amidah, for example, is one that I don't appreciate.  I also wonder whether this custom was borrowed from the church.  We Jews have been davvening (praying) silently for some 2,000 years.  What's wrong with good old-fashioned silence?

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Maccabeats - Pan Fry (Bad Guy and Old Town Road parody) - Hanukkah 2019

Six13 - A Star Wars Chanukah

I strongly recommend that you watch this fun video in full-screen view.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Finally, I'll be free to set my own schedule

Interpreting Jewish Prayer: A Collaborative Workshop (Rav Elie Kaunfer)
Thursdays 3:30-5:00 pm January 23 - March 26
. . .

I've been interested in taking one of Rabbi Kaunfer's classes on Jewish prayer for years, but they're always scheduled for the afternoon, presumably because they're intended primarily for the Fellows of Yeshivat Hadar, who are day students.  So this was my reaction when I received notice of this class in my inbox:  Now I know why I'm retiring!

I've already registered.


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Deborah Sacks Mintz leads her "Nigun Gevurah/Barchi Nafshi" at USCJ Convention

Video here.

I spent several minutes trying to figure how I could be singing along when I couldn't figure where in the siddur (prayer book) the words were from.  Naturally, my husband listened for about 10 seconds and pegged the words as coming from right before Shochen Ad.  That makes sense, since he almost always leads P'sukei D'Zimra, and these words are, except on a Yom Tov/holiday, the last ones that he leads.


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Sunday, December 08, 2019

Links to new music videos from Rabbi Josh Warshawsky & Rabbi Yosef Goldman

Here's Josh's "HaPoteach" (from the Shabbat/Sabbath Morning Service).

And here's Yosef's "Open My Heart," from his just-released album of the same name.

Music link-fest:

"Ein Od, " "Eliyahu HaNavi," and "Gam Ki Elech" (two versions)

~ "Ya'aleh Koleinu"

~ "Shir HaMa'alot"

~ And my previous music link-fest



Feedback--and pushback--on trying to help our synagogue become a singing community

Start here.

It's our own fault. We forgot that, when the cantor leads from the center of the sanctuary on the High Holidays, the sanctuary is set up in a completely different configuration, with long rows of chairs facing a wide center area, rather than short rows facing the Aron Kodesh and separated by an aisle that's only about a yard (just under a meter) wide.  Unfortunately, due to the necessity of renting our sanctuary when we're not praying, we can't leave the sanctuary in the High Holiday configuration.  One congregant who sits on the center aisle complained that, when cantor sings from there, s/he is singing almost directly into that congregant's ear!  Perhaps we shouldn't have been so surprised when the majority of congregants supported the cantor's request to return to the bimah (prayer platform).  Perhaps I should also not have been surprised that, even when the cantor was singing from the center aisle, s/he still didn't notice that s/he was sometimes singing too quickly for some of our congregants, who were singing quite audibly slower than the cantor.  Why the cantor didn't notice, I don't understand--I've noticed that problem for years.  :(

As for the new music that we've introduced, some congregants have complained that they miss the tunes that they're used to, others have complained that the new songs don't sound Jewish, and yet others love the new songs and are delighted that we're trying to liven up the service.  My husband has concluded that, if we want to start a monthly Musical Kabbalat Service, we should probably try to hold it earlier in the evening (6:30 PM?) and maintain our the usual 8 PM service as a separate service, less we tick off the traditionalists.

We hope that attending the Rising Song Intensive will help us get a sense of how best to proceed in encouraging congregational participation and interest in singing more contemporary Jewish music.  But I, for one, am not sure which Intensive track would work best for me.  In theory, the Tefillah Leadership Track seems the best track to address our goals.  In practice, however, we rarely lead tefillah (prayer) other than P'sukei D'Zimra, which my husband leads almost every Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (holiday) for the grand total of roughly four-six people who are usually present at (or near) the beginning of the service.  Neither of us 70-somethings feels that we could sing much more than part of a service.  And our cantor is also a 70-something--their voice isn't holding up so well either.  I think that what we really need to do is to figure out how to encourage some of the 30-somethings who are now attending services to pick up the torch.  (Three of them sing well, and two can chant a haftarah.)  Any suggestions would certainly be appreciated.
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