Rosh Ha-SHanah at the Synagogue
Synagogue music has changed radically in the last half-century. Longtime members, especially of traditional synagogues, will remember High Holiday services marked by a highly performative esthetic. The job of the Cantor was to generate a fountain of sound- florid, ornamental, emotive, operatic. The job of the congregation was mostly to listen to this performance; it was rarely invited to participate on an equal footing.
No longer. The traditional style had both its fans and advantages. A great cantorial performance can be thrilling and expansive, but like everything else, our esthetic has changed. We are still attracted to the tradtions of the liturgy, but we want them accessible, closer to the ground. A service may not rise to the level of opera, but most people want to experience opera at the opera. What the want from their prayer lives is something else.
This album from the Synagogue reflects these newer preferences. It is democratic in spirit and includes music that is within reach of many of our congregants. The guiding principle here is communal singing. If a piece of music can't be sung by the whole of the congregation, it probably has very little place at B'nai Emunah.
We're very lucky to have a High Holiday cantor, Rafi Dworsky, who believes truly in this idea. And so do the rest of us who sing along with him. On our Yom Kippur companion album, you will hear Norm Levin. Never has the Priestly Blessing be sung with more verve.
Rabbi Marc Fitzerman | September 2016