Shir Tikvah, Portland Oregon
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Zemirot – Music and Song

Welcoming a New Shalom Aleikhem!

In the next few weeks, Rabbi Ariel and I will be introducing a new and intriguing version of “Shalom Aleikhem” to our regular Erev Shabbat services.  You can find it on Avishai Cohen’s Sensitive Hours CD (link). Avishai Cohen is a brilliant, 40-year-old jazz composer and singer from Israel, best known for gathering musical bits and pieces from around the world and mixing them into eclectic, catchy, and often pulsating modern jazz settings.  The best way to get a feel for his new version of our beloved old Shabbat song – while marveling at some powerful visual symbolism about our acknowledgment and welcoming of the “angels” all around us – is by closely watching its video on YouTube (link).

As you will quickly discover, especially in the captivating video for the song, Cohen’s version of “Shalom Aleikhem” adds a cultural complexity and emotional urgency unusual in this otherwise traditional Jewish song of welcoming the angels of Shabbat.  Cohen infuses his version with elements of hip-hop, trance, Arab-Andalusian music, and – most compelling of all – the traditional wailing of the Muezzin’s call to Muslim prayer, one of the more haunting and signature sounds heard across much of Israel (and the rest of the Middle East) five times every day.

When imagining how we will add this adaptation of the song to our services at Shir Tikvah, try not to be put off by how complicated it sounds.  As with other exotic versions of songs we have brought with great success and joy into our minhag – remember the African-inflected version of “L’Cha Dodi” from two years ago? – Rabbi Ariel and I will be keeping the music very simple and singable.  We won’t be replicating any of the “big production elements” of this arrangement; rather, we will be focusing on its melodic essence, and on the niggun – or the “duh duh-duh dai dai dai dai dai” part of the song – that makes this an especially original and compelling version of an already spiritually rich song.

Have fun learning this wonderful new version; we’re looking forward to welcoming this wonderful new way of welcoming the angels to our community on Erev Shabbat!

B’shalom!!!

J.D. Kleinke

Everyone who attended last year’s Tu B’Shvat celebration probably remembers how we built this wonderful and unusual seder around a lot of really fun music.  As the traditional Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat acknowledges and celebrates the annual renewal of trees – and by extension all of nature – the central idea behind the Tu B’Shvat seder is a celebration of the cycle of the earth’s seasons.

The participatory program we have created at Shir Tikvah for our seder brings this idea to musical life, drawing from various traditional Jewish and non-Jewish music sources.  Click here (link) for a PDF of the songsheet for the seder, which is based on the same one we used last year, but with a cleaner layout and nicer graphics!  (Don’t worry about printing it out; Bev and I will bring color copies to the seder.)

We start the seder with the traditional “Tzaddik Katamar,” a tree-friendly Jewish song if ever there was one.  While “Tzaddik Katamar” has been standard in the Shabbat liturgy for generations, it also happens to work perfectly for Tu B’Shvat – so we’re “borrowing” it for our seder.  The specific version we will sing for our Tu B’Shvat seder will be the livelier one we do at Shir Tikvah during our lively Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service, rather than the quieter one we do during our lovely Saturday morning Torah service.

After “Tzaddik Katamar,” we begin the seder in earnest, and move into the seasonal cycle (page 2 of the songsheet).

In celebration of the winter season, with its soft and nurturing rains, we sing “Send Rain,” a song I have set for this occasion to music based on two passages from the heart-breakingly beautiful writings of Chief Joseph, who led the proud and peaceful Nez Perce tribe of Eastern Oregon to their tragic end in Northern Idaho.  For information on Chief Joseph, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Joseph  I hope that by next year, we will have a recording of this song available.

Next, we move to spring.  In celebration of this season, with its bursting forth of everything green, we sing “God Bless the Grass,” written by Malvina Reynolds and set to music and popularized by legendary folk singer Pete Seeger.  Rabbi Ariel suggested this song to me when the idea of a Tu B’Shvat seder first came up, but it is such a lovely testament to the power of nature that it works just about anywhere, anytime.  For a recording, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWFEIpIuJ14

In celebration of the summer season, with Oregon’s incredible trees full and rich and green all around us, we then sing “Branching Out,” a great kid-friendly folk song by singer-songwriter John Gorka that we have been singing around the Tu B’shavt holiday for several years now.  For a recording, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCvJ90hs5a0

Finally, in celebration of autumn, with its bountiful harvest and the quieting of the earth that follows, we sing “Vine and Fig Tree,” a traditional Jewish folk song drawn from the simple, powerful messages in the Book of Micah.  As with so many other Jewish rituals and services, this song allows us to end our seder with words of prayer for peace.  For a recording, go to http://www.songsforteaching.com/s/miche/TheVineandFigTree.mp3

Enjoy the music, and get ready for a fun seder.  Bev and I are very much looking forward to celebrating this most Portland friendly of Jewish holidays with all of you!  – J.D. Kleinke

On the Shabbat nearest the secular new years’ holiday, we have been ending Erev Shabbat services with the song “Overjoyed” by Christine Kane. The lyrics are posted below. Rabbi Ariel and I usually sing and play this in the key of F. (I actually play it with a capo on the third fret, so it looks like we are doing it in the key of D.) The chorus is easy – and meant to be sung out long, wistful, and sweet.

J.D. Kleinke

OVERJOYED
By Christine Kane

The midnight sky all stars and black
Like darkened glass and glitter
Suggests that I go back inside
And wait for warmer weather
So here it’s new year’s eve again
And everything keeps changing
I raise my glass and toast the gods
In charge of rearranging

All of the world is designed to remind you
All of the light you could find is inside
Under all of the noise
What’s it like to be overjoyed

In spite of day-time planners higher standards
Dreams defended
There’s not a single thing that’s turned out
Quite like I intended
And so you learn that holding on
Is nothing less than panic
When big things fall apart
Then hearts get that much more gigantic

All of the world is designed to remind you
All of the light you could find is inside
Under all of the noise
Are you scared to be overjoyed

It used to be a race to see
Just who’d get there the fastest
But this frozen night it’s only right
To consecrate the madness

All of the world is designed to remind you
All of the light you could find is inside
Under all of the noise
Here’s your chance to be overjoyed

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