Monday, December 17, 2007

Conservative and Orthodox Songleaders (or, why my safe little definition of songleader is shot)

I mentioned back in July how I had been surprised by my ignorance of the Jewish song leader community. By contrast, I was quite aware of my ignorance of the Orthodox and Chassid communities. While I don't claim that I've developed any expertise over the traditional communities music, I think I've got my head around some of the major themes and musicians. I haven't made similar progress with the song leader community. For example, back in the July post I made the mistake of implying that the song leader is community is exclusively a Reform Jewish phenomena. It isn't. And I'm finally starting to get a bit smarter about why I was wrong.

What happened is that I finally got myself signed up for the Hava Nashira mailing list. Hava Nashira is a "resource for Jewish songleaders, songwriters, performers, music educators and all those involved in the transmission of Jewish heritage, religion and culture through music." I've only been signed up for a couple of days and it's already making a big difference in my understanding of the community. Part of that difference came from an email conversation I had with Adrian Durlester, the Hava Nashira website organizer.

Example of Jack getting educated:
Jack: "I've used the terms Song Leader community, 'contemporary Jewish music community,' and Reform community as synonyms. That's probably incorrect, but I don't yet know why it's incorrect."

Adrian: "Why Reform/songleader/conmtemporary Jewish liturgical music isn't an automatic association:

1. Sam Glaser, the Baal Shem Tones, Shlomo Carlebach (z"l), Neshoma Carlebach (orthodox)
2. Craig Taubman, Mark Bloom, The Brothers Zim, Safam, Cindy Paley, Kenny Ellis, Rahel (Conservative)
Now, I could make both those lists substantially longer, but no time at the moment..."
Adrian's list is a bit mind-blowing for me. Here's why. I had understood songleaders to be have developed from Reform community participatory service. So what about Conservative song leaders? Ok. I forgot about Camp Ramah, the Conservative movement summer camp (which I sadly didn't attend.) I could see songleaders playing a role there. But Craig Taubman's wonderful "Friday Night Live"? That's the better part of a whole Friday night service. And he's coming from and leading Conservative services? And Orthodox song leaders. The Orthodox community (I thought) was very strict about nusach (traditional modes of chanting). I'm familiar with Shlomo and Neshoma Carlebach, but how does they play into this?

So my safe little definition is shot. And I don't have a better one yet. But I'm working on it and will report on my progress. I'm hoping the folks from Hava Nashira will get a chuckle over my befuddlement and set me straight.

Related posts: Guitar in Synagogue?; Music, Setting, and Grass Clippings, Hava Nashira & Hot Shabbat - Reform / 'Contemporary Jewish Music' resources

No comments: