Ever since the introduction of Yuval, the ancient ancestor of “all who play the Lyre and the Pipe” in the fourth chapter of Genesis, music has been an integral part of our Jewish cultural heritage. Moses and Miriam, full of ecstasy and joy, find expression of these feelings in the song of the sea. Deborah the great Judge sings a passionate song to celebrate her nation’s victory over Sissera. Each day, King David, author of the Book of Psalms, exhorts us to “Sing unto the Lord A New Song.”
During the time of the great Temple in Jerusalem, musical instruments such as harp, lyre, trumpet and cymbals accompanied a majestic chorus of the Levites as part of the ancient ritual. After the destruction of the second Temple in 586 C.E. the Rabbis banned the playing of instrumental music on Shabbat as a way of mourning the profound loss of the Holy Sanctuary. Similarly, all forms of musical entertainment outside of the celebration of festive occasions such as a wedding or the joyous festival of Purim were frowned upon by the Rabbis. Thus a culture of music arose that mostly revolved around the aforementioned festive occasions arose.
Soon, a wonderful wave of folk and informal liturgical music such as Shabbat Table Songs and songs for Purim etc. flowed over the Jewish world in a myriad of languages and styles. These songs reflected the realities and nuances of their respective cultures. At the same time, in the synagogue, a rich tradition of liturgical vocal music arose. In every culture, from Ashkenazi (eastern European) to Sephardic (Spain, Portugal, Greece and some Baltic areas) to Mizrachi (Middle Eastern) great Hazzanim and composers enriched and elevated the experience of worship with their brilliant creations.
Although in some countries the Jews were readily accepted, many Jewish communities, such as those in Eastern Europe, faced oppression and hardship. Jewish Folk and Art music helped the members of these communities deal with their arduous and oppressive lives by providing an avenue for expression of deep emotions such as fear, frustration and despair. Frequently, the only respite from the harsh reality of the real world was to be found in the synagogue. Worshippers delighted in Shabbat and festival services that took on concert proportions; often lasting for several hours. Accomplished, passionate Cantors accompanied by choirs and a chorus of worshippers, poured out their most profound and heartfelt prayers. Even in America, synagogues would post advertisements touting the great Cantor that would be appearing for the Holydays as people flocked to purchase tickets in order to experience their magnificent services. These Hazzanim began to release recordings and perform in concerts all over the globe; heightening their popularity and increasing the scope of their music. Yiddish theatre also developed a huge following in the early part of the twentieth century, engendering an entirely new form of musical expression.
In fact, in every generation and in every culture, contemporary artists seek to embellish our great Jewish musical heritage by giving expression to our prayers and passions in their own particular idiom. From Middle Eastern to Rock to Reggae to Jazz to Rap, Jewish Music has a rainbow of variations each of which gives it own unique color and expression to our rich and vivid heritage. For the past 15 years, it has been our mission at Temple Sinai to present a Festival of Jewish Music that explores one or several of these styles and provides a venue for the Jewish community to share in this age-old tradition.
As this year marks the fifteenth year of our Sinai Sings: Festival of Jewish Music, I feel a brief history of our event would be in order. The concert series began as the annual Cantorial Concert – the idea of my predecessor, Rabbi Hazzan Burt Kieffer. For the five years that Burt produced these events at Temple Sinai, he presented an exciting array of artists including the great Alberto Mizrahi. Here is a recording of Hazzan Mizrahi Singing a selection of the Selichot, or prayers for forgiveness of the High Holidays, El Melech Yoshev
In my first year at Temple Sinai, our concert was dubbed the Sinai Sings: Festival of Jewish Music and featured my good friend Hazzan Aaron Ben Soussan whose Moroccan heritage is evident in his dynamic and engaging style. Of his many wonderful compositions, his version of L’Cha Dodi is one of Ben Soussan’s best known. One of the highlights of or concert History was a show by the great Hazzan, teacher and composer Sol Zim, one of America’s best-known Jewish musicians. This is a You Tube Video of Zim performing his magnificent setting of the Prayer for the State of Israel, Avinu Shebashomaim.
Perhaps my most memorable Sinai Sings: Festival of Jewish Music events occurred a few years ago when I was able to fulfill my life time dream of singing with my “Cantorial idol” the internationally acclaimed Hazzan Louis Danto; the Cantor in whose choir I sang in my youth. Ezkera Elohim, (“I remember, O God and I shall moan…”) a stirring setting of a Yom Kippur lamentation, is an example of Danto’s magnificent artistry.
This year on Sunday, March 1, 2009, in celebration of my ten years of service to Temple Sinai, we will present Sinai Sings: Our Fifteenth Annual Festival of Jewish Music: Something special for everyone!
The event will begin with a delicious pancake brunch followed by a concert, which will feature friends who are fellow Cantors. These artists, members of the Cantors Assembly, the world’s largest professional organization of Cantors, will be performing individually as well as in groups. Our talented Cantors will present a variety of flavors from the vast pallet of Jewish music – from Yiddish, English and Hebrew folk music to Cantorial classics. Both the Adult Choir and Youth Chorale of Temple Sinai will participate as well. We will also have some awesome musical activities for some of the younger members of our community. Not only will they have the chance to play various musical games but they will also be creating their own musical instruments, which they will have the opportunity to play on stage towards the end of the concert.
I hope that all who will be in the Hollywood are will be able to join me for this wonderful festival. This is going to be a truly unique experience in that this event promises to draw together all the diverse members of our community and remind them that we really are all one big giant Mishpocha.
Details are listed below.
Sinai Sings: Our Fifteenth Annual Festival of Jewish Music:
Something special for everyone!
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Brunch: 12:00 p.m. Concert: 1:30 p.m.
Tickets are available in advance or at the door from Temple Sinai of Hollywood:
Chaver (Special Friend): $180.00 (Premium reserved seating)
Patrons: $100.00 (Incl. 2 Reserved Tickets)
General admission: $18.00 ($20.00 at the door) under 13 free
Specific Sponsorships are also available.
For Information contact:
Hazzan Michael Krausman at the Synagogue: (954) 987-0026 firstname.lastname@example.org
Temple Sinai of Hollywood,
1400 North 46TH AVE Hollywood FL 33021 www.sinaihollywood.org