Thursday, September 25, 2003

Shul-house Rock!

This week's edition of Jewsweek has an interesting article on "Shul house rock."

The article describes the phenomenon of live rock music in Conservative synagogue's on Shabbat.

Rabbi Mark Bloom, who directs the band at the Family Rock and Roll Shabbat at Oakland's Temple Beth Abraham says:
"Halachically, it's not that you can't play musical instruments," Bloom says. "It's that you can't carry them or fix them." Such restrictions were "gray anyway," he says, noting that many Conservative synagogues already have microphones and sound systems."
Apparently, he's never heard of hashma'as kol!

The best line in the article has to be this quote from self-described jazz fanatic Rabbi Alan Lew of San Francisco's Congregation Beth Sholom.
"Shabbat is supposed to be about not having rock and roll."
Although it is not halachically allowed, there are some great music resources for those who do permit music in shul on Shabbat.

The recording "With Every Breath: The Music of Shabbat at BJ"
has interesting musical arrangements of some of the songs they play and sing at their Friday night service in Manhattan which draws 1,500-2,00 people. It includes Sephardic melodies, Shlomo Carlebach tunes, Hasidic nigunim, and more. The lead vocals are by Rabbi Marcelo Bronstien, Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon, and Hazzan Aryeh Priven, with backup vocals by Lizzie Leiman Kraiem and Basya Schechter.

Craig Taubman's original "Friday Night Live" service, --the recording features Craig and Caren Glasser on vocals-- held monthly in California, attracts about 1600 people. Both services are being duplicated elsewhere, like in Lancaster, PA where the "Chopped Liver River Band" performs their adaptation of the "Friday Night Live" service.

Mark Bloom's "Jazz Shabbat" is also quite interesting. The recording features Mark and some female vocalists performing his jazz Shabbat service.

I'm opposed the turning of "davening" into entertainment as often occurs in "frum" shuls when they have "Carlebach davenings", but I do think that these original prayer services can have a tremendous impact on those who otherwise wouldn't attend synagogue.

With regard to the "Carlebach-style" davenings, I think that they can also be quite moving, but I've found that in many cases, the atmosphere in "frum" shuls featuring these is one of entertainment rather than worship. In general, I find that they tend to work better when they are spontaneous rather than when they are scheduled.

Music should be used to enhance the "tefilos" and not as a distraction from them.