Days Of Awe Arrive Early
by Allan Appel | Sep 2, 2010 11:01 am
Posted to: Arts & Entertainment, Religion, Westville
With Rosh Hashanah a week away, the holiday’s ancient melodies have resurfaced with wild new riffs.
In anticipation of the Jewish Days Of Awe (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), the homegrown band has put together a new collection of jazzed-up arrangements of traditional cantorial versions ofthe prayers. A new CD is forthcoming.
The band unveiled the new work—and recorded the CD—before 150 people Sunday night at a “Daze of Awesome” concert at Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) at Whalley and Harrison in Westville. (Click on the play arrow above to watch a sample.)
“I don’t want people to look at this as relic music but as relevant music,” band founder and bassist David Chevan told the crowd. He handed out egg-shaped noisemakers for the audience to shake during the performance.
Traditional Jewish prayers often receive new melodies and twists and turns for their deployment during Days of Awe services. Still, crying out to God for forgiveness of sins using maracas, a sweet and pulsating Latin beat, and a finish via a wall of trumpetry was innovative. to say the least.
Click on the play arrow to the video at the top of the story to hear the three cantors, Jacob Ben-Zion Mendelson, his son Daniel, and Lisa Shapanka Arbisser (latter two pictured here), bring the sanctuary down. They are calling out in Hebrew “nosay avon va’feshah,” or “forgive my sin and trespass,” from the traditional “Adonai, Adonai” as never quite heard before.
Chevan said that this concert built on his previous Days of Awe CD, an entirely instrumental take on the holiday liturgy. This time, working with one of his trumpeters, Frank London, he researched great cantorial soloists including Yossele Rosenblatt.
Andhe found real live cantors who brought to life and sound what he created.
Chevan said he found that cantorial improvisation, known as “hazzonos,” had a lot in common with jazz in improvisations. Result: “Each one [of the numbers presented] feels like a big discovery to me.”
In the “Ashrei” prayer, which regularly repeats during the holy days liturgy, Chevan arranged for cantor Jacob Mendelson to belt its beginning out in the traditional and recognizable bravura manner.
However, where it then traveled – up onto the high keyboarding of Warren Byrd and up against the big band ending by trumpeter Saskia Laroo (pictured), the horn’s response to the initial human pipes – no cantor has ever trod before.
In the program notes, Chevan wrote, “At the time of the temple, music and dance was an integral part of Jewish worship, and the more I read about the joyousness of ancient worship, the more I feel its absence.”
Sitting near the front row with his family, BEKI’s Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen was pleased. Of the role of music in the services, he said: “Music is evocative in itself. People don’t leave [a Days of Awe service] remembering a rabbi’s words, but tunes.”
As the numbers proceeded and the players such as Byrd (pictured) took their inventive solo turns, applause grew.
Other performers not mentioned include Will Bartlett on reeds; Alvin Benjamin Carter, Jr. on percussion; and Baba David Coleman on drums.
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