Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Music for Your Break Fast

As Yom Kippur comes to a close, and we prepare to break the fast, here is some music to help ease the transition, and hold onto the uplifting spirituality of the Day of Repentance for just a little while longer. First, let's hear from the incomparable Barbara Streisand as she sings the signature hymn of the High Holy Days, Avinu Malkeinu (depending on where you watch this from, due to new restrictions, you may have to click on the link to open a new window and watch it over on YouTube):

And now for a moment that made motion picture history, the climactic scene from the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, the first talkie (although it was a something of a hybrid, as some portions were in the older, silent film format).  The story was an autobiographical portait of Al Jolson, who plays himself in the film, and was, in his time, the most popular performer on the planet, the equivalent of folks like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and who would it be today, Lady Gaga?  

This scene portrays the High Holy Day theme of Teshuvah, repentance as a turning back to God, a returning. Jolson turned his back on the family tradition of serving as Cantor to the Jewish community in order to become a jazz singer. But with his father on his deathbed and unable to perform the Kol Nidrei prayer, Jolson returns to take his father's place in the synagogue, performing the prayer in proper jazz singer style.  

The German composer Max Bruch is well known for his Kol Nidrei composition, based on the melody of the prayer sung on the eve of Yom Kippur It is one of the few classical works to feature the cello. Bruch himself was not Jewish, and just as performers like Perry Como and Johnny Mathis have recorded versions of the prayer as a popular song, following Jolson's lead, so too have many great musicians from every conceivable background performed the instrumental version. What follows is a recording featuring Pablo Casals from 1936, with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Landon Ronald.

So, let the music and the spirit linger a little longer, as we say, one more time, Shana Tova!

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