Entering into a Shabbesdik Mood with Melodies
by Cantor Alane Katzew
There are so many ways to transition in life. We have our daily rituals that accompany us from waking to work and back again to our home life. Once we bid Shabbat goodbye at Havdalah by extinguishing the braided candle in wine at the moment of separation between holy and mundane, we often step back onto the treadmill of life until Shabbat comes once again on Friday evening. The shift from our work-a-day world back to the world of the sacred can prove a bit more challenging. We can bring a sudden halt to the break neck speed by setting aside our iphones and Blackberrys or we can ease into Shabbat with mood music. Below is an eclectic list of CDs, all released since the turn of the century, (with a short sound clip to entice your musical taste buds) to whet your Shabbat appetite and help you ease into the mood for Shabbat m’nuchah (Sabbath rest).
1. Six13 – Jewish a cappella – Yeish Chadash, Volume III, Copr. 2008. (www.six13.net)If you were an a cappella groupie in high school or college, or you enjoy the TV show “The Sing Off” then this all male, Jewish a cappella group is a perfect way to set the Shabbat mood. Despite the illusion of instruments supporting the singers, all of the music is created by the human voice and body. Listen to this excerpt from L’dor Vador by Josh Nelson.
From the Land of Israel
2. Shlomo Gronich – Masa al Ham’korot (Journey Toward the Sources) Copr. 2008 (Hatav Hashmini, www.vasiliska.com).Secular songwriter, Shlomo Gronich, has been central to the Israeli musical scene for decades. Now in his autumn years he makes a turn toward religious source texts with great depth and emotion. Listen to this except from his Ilu Finu (Words Can’t Suffice), a text from the Shabbat morning liturgy.
3. Yonatan Razel – When watching an Israeli TV show last year (S’rugim) I heard a beautiful melody to the Sabbath hymn, D’ror Yikrah. The show credits revealed that the composer was Yonatan Rayzel and on my next visit to Israel I purchased the CD, Sach Hakol, (All in All), Copr. 2007 (Hatav Hashmini, www.vasiliska.com) containing this and many other beautiful mood making melodies. Listen to this excerpt from D’ror Yikrah.
For Pre-School and Elementary Age
4. Peter and Ellen Allard
Clever original lyrics and catchy tunes bring Shabbat to life with the engaging CD, Bring the Sabbath Home Copr. 2003 (80-Z Music, Inc. www.peterandellen.com) Listen to this excerpt from Standing at the Sea and celebrate with energy and excitement with the youngin’s.
5. Shira Kline – Shir La La Shabbat! – Sing Shabbat with Shira Kline Copr. 2003 (www.shirlala.com) includes some tried and true melodies for Shabbat like Bim Bam and some creative new sounds as well. Exuberant kids voices on the recording encourage all to sing along. Listen to this excerpt from Hal’l'l’l'luyah.
Jazz and New Age
6. Jon Simon – In the mood for mellow? Tune into the dulcet tones of The Jon Simon Ensemble on the CD, Shabbatjazz. Copr. 2000 (www.jonsimonmusic.com, 951137) Simon twinkles the ivories and shares his “jazzified” versions of familiar Shabbat melodies. Here is an excerpt from an Israeli melody composed by Ehud Zweig, Y’did Nefesh (Heart’s Delight), to the 11th Century liturgical poetry of R. Solomon Ibn Gabirol.
7. Yofiyah – Here we are introduced to the call and response repetition of words and phrases containing sacred text and the name of the Holy One derived from a meditation practice called Kirtan. In this CD entitled, Kabbalah Kirtan, Copr. 2006 (soundstrue.com), Yofiyah (Susan Deikman) seeks to bring focus on the vibrational quality of chant together with rhythmic breathing toward achieving a distinctive God consciousness. Listen to this excerpt from Dodi Li and the text from Song of Songs, the allegory that represents the love between the people Israel and God.
8. Leonard Bernstein – The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music released a set of 50 CDs to cultivate, inspire, and nourish musicians and music enthusiasts with the depth and breadth of American Jewish music. Leonard Bernstein is perhaps the quintessential American Jewish composer, whose music traverses the synagogue, the Church and the concert hall. Listen to this excerpt from Reenah from the CD, Leonard Bernstein: A Jewish Legacy , Copr. 2003 Milken Family Foundation (www.milkenarchive.com)
9. Zamir Chorale of Boston – The exquisite vocal ensemble sound of the Zamir Chorale of Boston, conducted by Dr. Joshua Jacobson reflects careful attention to historic detail in the CD recording, Salamone Rossi Hebreo: Music of the Italian Renaissance Copr. 1997 Zamir Chorale of Boston, (www.zamir.org) . Salamone Rossi composed magnificent polyphonic choral settings as a 17th Century court musician in Mantua, Italy. Here we can listen to an antiphonal setting (SATB/SATB) of the Shabbat hymn, Adon Olam.
Contemporary Sounds (Last but not least)
10. Debbie Friedman – The tragic passing of contemporary Jewish singer/songwriter, Debbie Friedman in January of 2011 left so many of us stunned and bereft. Her contributions to the field of contemporary Jewish music are immeasurable, as she pioneered a new way to weave her love of Judaism with a deep understanding of melody and text. Although intended to bespeak the prophet Miriam, I believe that “All the people followed her, just as she had planned.” Here is an excerpt from her last CD, As You Go On Your Way: Shacharit – The Morning Prayers Copr. 2009 (www.debbiefriedman.com), entitled Mourning Into Dancing.
Cantor Alane Simons Katzew is the Worship and Music Specialist in the Congregational Consulting Group for the Union for Reform Judaism.
Originally posted in Ten Minutes of Torah