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High Holy Days Music 2020

Warm greetings to all members of the Temple Har Shalom community!  I hope you are all staying safe and healthy during the High Holy Days.
 
This is Chuck Marantz.  Rabbi Levinsky and our Board President, Bill Becker, asked me to compile an annotated list, for your listening and watching enjoyment, of links to online Jewish liturgical choral and cantorial music.  My sole qualification to do so is having had a father who, for 30 years, was the cantor at what today would be considered a “conservadox” synagogue in Chicago:  growing up, I heard a lot of Jewish liturgical music.
 
Kol Nidrei
 
I was astounded at the number of “hits” I got when I typed “Kol Nidrei” into the search feature of YouTube, way more than I could listen to.  I suspect recordings of Kol Nidrei may be among the Jewish music performances having the largest presence on the Internet.
 
Two of my favorites among the hits I sampled were sung by Jewish Metropolitan Opera stars.  My father always said that most cantors are frustrated opera singers; maybe there’s a little bit of the reverse, as well.  My father certainly was a frustrated opera singer, although he did manage to sing with the New York City Opera in the years before I was born.
 
Jan Peerce gives a great rendition in a traditional arrangement in this recording:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfVgYBTpjBg

Richard Tucker recorded a modified version, composed and conducted by Sholom Secunda, a prolific arranger and composer of Jewish music, including the Yiddish favorite Bei mir bist du schön:
 
A more deliberately paced, and very traditional arrangement, can be heard delivered by one of the great 20th century cantors, Moshe Koussevitsky:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-_wP52N6Rc&list=RDy-_wP52N6Rc&start_radio=1

There are also wonderful, purely instrumental versions available.  Here is the cellist Jacqueline du Pre with the Israel Philharmonic conducted by her husband, Daniel Barenboim, in a version composed by Max Bruch, a German Romantic composer, who was not Jewish despite his Jewish-sounding name:
 
There are also oddities. Johnny Mathis, a pop singing star in the 1950s:
 
Perry Como, another 1950s pop star:
 
And, to “loosen up” your mind, a rock ‘n roll version(!!) by The Electric Prunes, a 1960s psychedelic rock band:
 
Other HHD Music
Moshe Koussevitsky’s brother, David, was another great 20th century cantor.  When I was 16, my father took me along with him to the cantors’ convention at The Concord Hotel in the Catskills - you can’t imagine the competitive singing in the men’s locker room!  I had the pleasure of hearing David Koussevitsky live in concert.  His voice made such a great impression on me that I still remember it.  Listen to his vocal acrobatics in this recording of the Rosh Hashanah prayer L’dor Va-dor:
 
HaZamir is an international Jewish teen choir. You can find out more about them at https://www.hazamir.org/. Here is the choir singing Avinu Malkenu at a 2016 gala concert:
 
The Gevatron is an Israeli Kibbutz folk singers group. Here they are performing Unetaneh Tokef:
 
Chanah Senesh was a Hungarian-born poet who emigrated to Mandate Palestine before WWII.  She was parachuted by the British into Yugoslavia to assist anti-Nazi forces in the rescue of Hungarian Jews about to be deported, but was captured and executed by the Nazis. One of her poems, Yesh Kochavim (There Are Stars) (We Remember), brings to mind the loved ones we have lost and remember during the Yizkor service. It was set to music by a cantor and a rabbi and is performed here by them along with the Zamir Chorale of Boston:

 

Other Jewish Music:
Board President Bill Becker put me in contact with Josh Jacobson, the founder and director of the Zamir Chorale of Boston. Josh was very helpful in giving me suggestions for inclusion on this list. He is also a wonderful teacher as evidenced in Zamir’s “Divine Majesty” series of three video concerts and lectures. The subject of the series is liturgical choral music sung in the great 19th century synagogues of Europe. I find the music beautiful; some melodies may be familiar to you, others not so much. The lectures are fascinating. Following are links to each concert, with start times you can fast forward to, for the parts I find the most compelling:
 
Divine Majesty:
 
4:00 - a beautiful performance of Ma Tovu followed by an interesting lecture
 
15:40 - three musical settings of the Torah service, from three different 19th century composers, starting with Louis Lewandowski (1821-1894) of Berlin
 
28:10 - the setting by Cantor Salomon Sulzer (1804-1890) of Vienna
 
43:20 - the setting by Cantor Samuel Naumbourg  (1815-1880) of Paris.
 
59:56 - an excerpt, from the Hallel collection of psalms, composed by the French opera composer Jacques HaLevy (1799-1862)
 
The Majesty of Hallel:
 
11:15 - Halleluyah Psalm
 
15:05 - lecture on Psalms and 19th century European synagogues
 
23:45 - Psalms 114, 116, 117 and 118 with music composed by Lewandowski
 
40:25 - lecture on Sulzer
 
43:35 - Sulzer’s setting of Psalm 118
 
47:35 - lecture on Naumbourg and HaLevy
 
49:22 - Excerpts from Psalms 117 and 118 with music composed by Naumbourg and HaLevy
 
59:55 - lecture on German composer Julius Mombach (1813-1880)
 
1:03:50 - setting of Psalm 24 by Mombach
 
1:08:44 - lecture on French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)
 
1:10:20 - setting of Psalm 150 by Alkan
 
1:14:38 - setting of Psalm 122 by HaLevy
 
1:19:00 - setting of Psalm 111 by Sulzer  with beautiful harp accompaniment
 
Masterworks of Majesty:
 
This concert repeats some of the music from the previous two.  I have just shown the start times for the new material.
 
26:00 - Lewandowski’s setting of Lecha Dodi
 
31:54 - Sulzer’s settings of  Vayhi Binsoa and Yehallelu
 
35:03 - Mombach’s setting of Ahavat Olom
 
39:00 - Sulzer’s setting of Venislach
 
42:00 - Naumbourg’s setting of Vidduy
 
49:20 - Naumbourg’s setting of Psalm 24
 
52:53 - Lewandowski’s setting of Psalm 150
 
55:50 - lecture about Russian Cantor and composer David Nowakowski (1848-1921)
 
58:10 - setting of Adonai Zechoronu by Nowakowski
 
1:05:02 - setting of Psalm 118 by Mombach
 
1:10:05 - lecture about Russian Cantor and composer Eliezer Gerowitsch (1844-1913)
 
1:13:02 - setting of Adon Olom by Gerowitsch - still used today
 
1:15:50 - lecture about German composer Julius Freudenthal (1805-1874)
 
1:16:50 - setting of Ein Keloheinu by Freudenthal - still used today
 
If you type Zamir Chorale of Boston into the YouTube search feature, you will find a number of short performances that you might enjoy. Zamir’s main website (https://zamir.org/) lists many resources you can use to learn more about Jewish liturgical music, as well as a link to make donations to Zamir, should your enjoyment of their performances make you so inclined.
 
The Jewish Choral Music website (https://www.jewishchoralmusic.com/websites) has many more links to performances of Jewish music. They also have a webpage entitled Mini-concerts in a Time of Corona (https://www.jewishchoralmusic.com/podcasts-in-a-time-of-corona) with podcasts from the Zamir Chorale.
 
Finally, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc8FJ_f59uo you will find the Georgia Children’s Chorus singing Hava Nashira: it’s wonderful to hear the young voices singing this lovely hymn.
 
I hope you have enjoyed some of the performances I have referenced. L’shana tova to you and yours, and, to paraphrase the ending of the Passover seder, NEXT YEAR IN THE SANCTUARY!
 
Stay safe and healthy everyone,
 
Chuck Marantz
Mon, September 28 2020 10 Tishrei 5781