Report by Rachael Block and Sue Bard
3 July 2019
Taking place 24 hours before the Day of Celebration, the Liberal Judaism Music Day 2019 started with a warm welcome from volunteers helping to orientate attendees. Of course there were also refreshments – and the little pastries were especially welcomed by those who had travelled some distance to Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue and for whom breakfast was becoming a distant memory.
Viv Keiles set the tone for the morning by leading a vocal warm up which united delegates and prepared us for an active role in the shacharit (morning) service. Viv has a particular interest in the arts and health and leads singing groups focused upon wellbeing. She certainly left us in good spirits at the end of her session.
There were three options for us to prepare to sing during the service:
- Formal Choir
- Guitar Led
- A Cappella Group
I (Rachael) chose the Formal Choir, since I had enjoyed this session so much two years ago at the last Music Day. I also thought it might improve the quality of my vocal contribution at Shabbat services generally!
As a very experienced music teacher and choir director, Ruth Colin was the perfect choice to take us on a musical journey covering 21 pieces in 30 minutes. The real joy occurred when the three groups were singing harmoniously together during the service.
The Big Sing followed a generous buffet lunch and was led by Mich Sampson, director of music at Finchley Reform Synagogue. Anyone who thought that they couldn’t sing, or might be able to sneak in a postprandial snooze, was quickly disillusioned as we were coaxed into singing together within moments of arriving. More refreshing than a siesta!
During the afternoon there were three further sessions, with a choice of three activities for each time slot; difficult choices as they were all appealing.
A little about my (Rachael’s) afternoon choices:
- Haftorah Trope – A fascinating insight into the symbols that show how certain texts should be chanted with Rabbi Mark Solomon. For the first time I understood something of how this system works and contributes to the unique readings in our services and had an opportunity to try this for myself.
- Nusach – Cantor Tamara Wolfson demonstrated how different musical modes typify Jewish liturgical music and how they reflect particular services and festivals.
- Service Accompaniment – A lively discussion with a panel of musicians exploring the tension between preserving tradition and fostering creativity to allow for the evolution of new musical genres to be included in services. Much of the discussion centred on how different congregations react to new musical versions of ancient prayers. This was a good opportunity for experiences and ideas to be shared across different congregations.
Shabbat was brought to a close by celebrating Havdalah in the sunshine, led by a group of young musicians – more joy!
And finally, we enjoyed a relaxed evening with open mic performances and, yes, more delicious food.
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