Sunday, March 15, 2020

Many thanks to Jewish musicians for strengthening us with song

We'd barely gotten through our synagogue's Megillah readings when the bad news reports began to pile up--Coronavirus, or COVID-19, was not only not going away anytime soon, it had become a worldwide pandemic.

My evening-after-Purim class at the Jewish Theological Seminary took place online.

I was comforted by Eliana Light's online Shacharit on Thursday morning.  Thank you so much for making my day!

My Thursday afternoon class at Hadar turned out to be the last in-person class for this semester--all other Hadar classes and events will be online.  But the bottom really fell out on Friday, when our synagogue was officially closed for all services and just about everything else.  :(

I spent a good chunk of Friday afternoon listening to the videos that Chava Mirel (with Josh Niehaus) posted on Facebook with a side order of Nava Tehila.  They were a great comfort.

With so many of our usual Friday-night-services favorite synagogues closed, my husband and I decided to cheat a bit on our usual practice of turning off all "screens" before Shabbat--we decided to catch a livestreamed Friday service.  We started with Central Synagogue's livestream on television, and I found, as I expected, that the "almost-a-performance" nature of their service that made me a bit uncomfortable in person worked quite well onscreen.  In fact, having sung alto in my former synagogue's choir for well over a decade, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Rabbi (/Cantor) Buchdahl and Cantor Cadrain weaving harmonies around one another.  Since Shabbat had not yet officially begun, we kept one eye and ear on the screen while running around making our final Shabbat preparations, then lit candles and sat down to watch and enjoy for a while.

At just about 7 PM, we changed "screens," moving from the TV to my computer to watch the "Quarantine Shabbat" service with Noah Aronson, Josh Nelson, Chava Mirel, Rabbi Josh Weinberg and Rabbi Leora Kaye.  I must confess that I always get a kick out of watching musicians playing "switcheroo"--first, Noah Aronson played guitar, then he kicked Josh Nelson off the keyboard and took over.  Josh took it in stride, disappearing off-camera for only a few seconds--and returning with a double-bass.  :)  Later, Noah brought a bongo into the mix.  As for Elana, she'd brought everything but the kitchen sink, and spent the entire service going from guitar to mandolin to violin and back.  At one point, with Josh and Noah both playing guitar and Elana playing mandolin, Rabbi Weinberg swiped Elana's guitar and joined the fun. Did I mention that the singing and the harmonies were wonderful?  Because they certainly were.  Noah, Elana, and Josh sang both music that they had written and other songwriters' music.  What an oneg (delight)!  I did decide at the last minute, though, during Kabbalat Shabbat when we were singing along without siddurim/prayerbooks, that I really shouldn't post any comments because I was already violating Shabbat enough by watching a livestream.  A bit later, during Maariv/Arvit/Evening Service, when my husband and I, in full "prayer mode" with siddurim in hand, were praying along, we appreciated the fact that the service was a smidge more traditional than those at Central--they actually recited the first two b'rachot/blessings of the Maariv/Evening service in their entirety.  The divrei Torah ("sermons," if you will) by Rabbis Kaye and Weinberg were meaningful.  I'll leave you with the amusing image of a former Central Synagogue musician showing up to co-lead a Shabbat service barefoot.  :)

Tonight, we watched Rabbi David Ingber, of the Romemu congregation, lead havdalah from his home with his family.  Then we had the pleasure of "attending" a Malaveh Malka led by Joey Weisenberg, Yosef Goldman, and Deborah Sacks Mintz, of Hadar's Rising Song Institute.  What beautiful music!  It was fun listening to them switching harmonies and even, at one point, completely switching parts, with Deborah and Joey taking turns singing lead.  My husband, having returned to his own computer, even spotted a little "after-party" video of Joey playing clarinet, which neither of us even knew that he could play--Joey is just full of pleasant surprises. 

Keep your eyes on your computers to see how we can support Jewish musicians as they support us.

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