The Sung and the Unsung

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 12:10pm -- Cantor Phil Baron

The Sung and the Unsung
Parashat B’shalach
11 Shevat, 5778
Cantor Phil Baron

Shabbat Shira commemorates both the song sung by Moses and the Israelites, and the singing and dancing of Miriam and the Israelite women after crossing the sea to freedom. This was a moment of pure joy and celebration unlike any other in the Torah.

Although the words of this remarkable song can be found in our Torah, we can only guess what the melody must have been like. Just imagine its soaring phrases and exuberant chorus spreading among the hundreds of thousands of people on that far shore!

And who wrote that historic melody? Moses is credited with the lyrics, but did he have an Irving Berlin, Bob Dylan, or Debbie Friedman setting his powerful words to music. Alas, we’ll never know.  If only the Israelites had had smart-phone recorders!

Fortunately, the music that gets created today has a life beyond the sea. Thanks to modern recording techniques and music publishing, composers’ works can live well beyond their lifetimes. But while it’s great to listen to a Mozart symphony or a classic Ella Fitzgerald album, there’s nothing like hearing a live performance – especially if it’s a premier. You will have an opportunity to do just that this Friday night, January 26, right here at VBS. With no Pharaohs to flee or waters to wade across, come and enjoy a new service created by our Music Director Chris Hardin, entirely in the jazz idiom. 

We have been blessed these past twenty years to have Chris, one of America’s finest jazz interpreters, as part of our music staff. Many of you who attend services regularly know of his remarkable talent and creativity.  His significant contributions to the prayer life of VBS are too often taken for granted by us, but I can tell you that Cantor Fox and I are the envy of every cantor we know because Chris Hardin is here to support us.

As a composer, Chris has contributed countless original compositions to Rimonim, Shabbat morning, and all of our High Holidays services. His process is at times unorthodox (I personally watched as he created music for our S’lichot service while sitting in a row boat on Lake Cachuma!), but the results are always masterful. Please don’t miss the premier of this exciting new service, featuring Chris’s jazz ensemble and the VBS Choir, joined by the Hi-Ho’s, the wonderful singers from our Malkin-Burdorff High Holiday services.

And there is one more musical opportunity this Shabbat Shira. You may know that a few years ago singer-songwriter Craig Taubman opened a wonderful concert and worship venue, The Pico-Union Project in a building that once housed the original Sinai Temple congregation. This Saturday night, January 27, VBS is co-sponsoring an important concert featuring Jewish composer Michael Ochs. We perform Michael’s “Oseh Shalom” (the terrific funky-bluesy one) all the time. Unlike songwriters in the world of popular music, Michael and other talented people who write for the synagogue receive no compensation when we perform their music. Synagogue composers do what they do because they are passionate about Judaism and the Jewish community and want to inspire and educated with their art.    

Please show your support for one of our important artists by joining me this Saturday night. In addition to Michael’s music, you’ll meet his musical partner Alaa Alshaham, a Palestinian Arab who tours with Michael, and learn about their project “The Pursuit of Harmony.” The link is below.

I hope to see you at one of these wonderful musical programs.

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