Shalom & Welcome to my music page. I have been composing music, and specifically, Jewish music since I began my cantorial studies in 1992. I draw inspiration mostly from our Liturgical prayers and teachings from Kabbalah, Chasidut, and Musar. Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav has been a source of creativity as I find his teachings beautiful and insightful. Check out my albums below.
Kol Nidrei Reflections
A string quartet inspired by the Aramaic Chant and recorded in Ukraine. Good Yontif, Kol Nidrei: a haunting melody that is heard all over the world in every Jewish community, tonight. Every version of Kol Nidrei is slightly different but each one, at least in the Ashkenazic world, has the same motives and, as I call them, mini-melodies. The opening notes and harmonies are so familiar that Beethoven somehow wrote them into a String Quartet. I often fool people with this sound byte. I play the first few chords of the Quartet in C#m and everyone is convinced that it is Kol Nidre when it is actually Ludwig Van. Did Beethovem hear Kol Nidrei? Did he have Cantor friends? Certainly, there were Jewish composers, in the late 18th to mid 19th century, writing music for Synagogue worship that sounded remarkably like what the common person was hearing in concert halls. Afterall, it is a Jewish practice for Jewish Composers, Cantors, and prayer leaders, to borrow the musical sounds of whatever community they are living in, and using those sounds in the synagogue. Jews from India have music that sounds like the music found in Hindu Temples; even with the same instruments. Jewish music in Germany sounded like Mozart & Shubert and music heard in the synagogues of Iran, or Iraq sounds like Arabic music with strange and foreign intonations and scales. So, where did the sound of Kol Nidrei come from? Contrary to the belief that the High Holiday melodies, including Kol Nidrei, were taught to Moses by God on Mount Sinai…the sounds that we are accostumed to hearing at this time of year were most likely the sounds that were heard in the streets, bars, brothels, and musical performances in the place and at the time when the words of Kol Nidrei were written. Or, over hundreds of years the music of Kol Nidrei could have evolved and changed as Jews were forced in and out of various cities and towns. Jewish musical tradition, originating anywhere, can become viral and spread across the Jewish world. In today’s modern synagogue one can hear melodies that originated in Spain, Yemen, Uganda, Ukraine, and other exotic places…like Connecticut. The melody most of us associate with the Shema came out of the sounds of the Viennese waltz, composed by a Cantor from Vienna in the mid 19th century. There is speculation that the melodies of Kol Nidrei originated in cities and towns along the Rhine river in Germanic nations. But they could have easily come from East Europe. In fact, the song that I call the most famous song of the Jewish people, Hava Nagila, so famous that Harry Belefonte claimed that he taught more Jews the tune than any Bar Mitzvah reception, the melody of Hava Nagila came out of a Chasidic wordless melody that originated as a non Jewish Ukranian folk song. Regardless of the universality of Hava Nagila and the melody of Kol Nidrei, there are other musical expressions that come from non-Ashkenazic origins. This includes Jews from Spain and Sarajevo, North Africa, and many Arabic speaking countries. Usually we lump all of them together under the blanket term, Sephardic but there are many varieties of Jewish music that do not come from East Europe. Each year, every Yom Kippur, cantors take a step back to contemplate how they want this most revered Aramaic legalistic text, which we call Kol Nidrei, to be expressed. The text was traditionally, in ancient times, recited three times by a man wearing his tallit in the Beit Din, as this was the custom of the Jewish court of law. We honor that tradition today. Some of us choose to wear a tallit and many congregations like to have three different expressions of Kol Nidrei paralleling the three recitations of the Aramaic legal text. These could be instrumental versions, A Capella versions, vesions that have accompanment, or even exotic Sephardic melodies. At Congregation Or Ami our community has been accustomed to hearing Kol Nidrei instrumentally, sung with our choir and accompanist, and recited in English. Some years we add a fourth expression…just to be sure it works. Tonight we will hear a new composition of mine entitled “Kol Nidrei Reflections” that was inspired by the Kol Nidrei service. It was written for this evening. As the piece is a string quartet it would have been incredibly difficult to have it performed by one instrumentalist, so I found four musicians, in Ukraine, who were able and available to record the music. We will hear their performance tonight. And, in addition to the version of Kol Nidrei that will be sung with our choir, I will sing a traditional melody that originated from the Jewish community of Morocco. G’mar Chatima Tova!!