11 June 2010

Music for the New Moon

There have been a great variety of musical styles at CBE since its founding in 1861.  A German speaking group of founders; those who moved the synagogue to Park Slope in 1909 and installed a massive organ (which no longer works); and the American twentieth century, where popular musical styles and forms seemed to change every 10 years surely had an impact on the spiritual aspirations of those sitting in the pews year after year. 

From formal cantorial pieces to folk-inflected Yiddish melodies; from Mizrachi and Ladino settings to the Jewish summer camps of the 70s, 80s and 90s--what Jews listen to and what Jews want to listen to when it comes to Jewish music in a Jewish context has rarely remained the same. 

So last night many of gathered in our newly configured Chapel (reviews on new seating arrangement:  excellent) to hear from the many different individuals who will be helping to lead our music in the coming year as we embark upon some new musical directions in search of a cantor and new musical leadership. 

Performers included Cantor Samantha Natov, singing classical cantorial hazzanus and Gershwin's Summertime; Deborah Strauss and Jeff Warschauer, singing straight klezmer and Jewish folk-rooted liturgical music which required dancing, hand-holding, hand-clapping and a fairly raucous re-dedication of our new seating arrangement; Toby Singer, a local composer, who two melodies he wrote for piano and voice--a Disco Shma and a meditative Eliyahu Ha'Navi; our Revson rabbinic intern Marc Katz sang two of his own songs, one composed for a college open-mic and another for Jewish kids at camp (along with Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle"); Galeet Dardashti, who will be leading the Main Service for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, sat with her drum and talked about her Persian grandfather, whose voice in Iran would draw Muslim neighbors to hear his singing, shared his melody for Psalm 23 as well as El Norah Alila, a closing hymn from the Neilah service on Yom Kippur; and finally, our Music Director Rose Moskowitz led the CBE Singers, a volunteer choir, in a setting of Steinberg's Oseh Shalom as well as Ale Brider. 

When the night I ended, we took note of the fact that Saturday night ushers in a new moon--Rosh Hodesh Tamuz--and that we really ought to use the occasion on a monthly basis of highlighting and celebrating the enormous talent we have in our synagogue and in our neighborhood for traditional, non-traditional and original contemporary work.

The enthusiasm in the Chapel and over drinks and food after was truly infectious and I look forward to planning next month's musical celebration.

A special thanks to all our musicians and singers for a great night!

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