The opening words of today’s Sidra ‘Lech Lecha’ – meaning ‘Go forth’ signal our forefather Avram’s journey and the beginnings of Jewish history.
Malovany sings at the Central
Had you asked me a few years back whether a meeting of cantors to listen to someone talk in detail about Nusach would be of interest, I think I would have said ‘No thank you!’
But such is the magnetism of Cantor Joseph Malovany that this ‘giant’ of a man enthralled me last Tuesday. (Maybe this also reflects a maturing in my thinking as well!) And it was not only me; nearly two dozen cantors and Jewish educators descended on Central Synagogue for a meeting organised by the new European Cantors Association. We gathered round the great man to hear him speak, play the piano and sing on the topic of synagogue music for Pesach.
For those of you not familiar with the cantorial lingo, Nusach is basically the modes (sort of scales) and tunes used in the leading of a synagogue service. Nusach dates back over a thousand years. Each service has its own tunes and modes. Your grandparents understood this – and their grandparents. This effectively meant that if anytime in the last 1000 years I was dropped into a synagogue and didn’t know what service or date it was, I would be able straight away to tell – ie Pesach or Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat or midweek, just by hearing the tunes sung. Isn’t that amazing? But recently, knowledge of this has sadly started to disappear. I wonder if we would be happy to lose this!
Contrary to popular belief ‘Just one Cornetto’ is not actually the nusach for Adon Olam (for which, I must admit, I am guilty myself from time to time). But enough about nusach and more about the lecture!
Cantor Yossi Malovany is the Warren Buffett of the Jewish liturgical world. He is the ‘wise old man of our profession’. He resonates with maturity, good sense, humility and knowledge. He started his talk by going through the basic nusach for the festival and then went into slightly more abstract tunes for the more knowledgeable cantors amongst us.
He spoke and demonstrated – and sometimes we hummed along – for an hour and a half and I can honestly say that I could have listened all night. Luckily we were allowed to tape these songs and he provided sheet music for those of us who can read this. There should even be a YouTube video of this lecture coming soon to a computer near you! This was all followed by tea, coffee and pastries, courtesy of our Central Synagogue.
I am proud to be the London leader of this great new Cantors Association and look forward to a lot more events in this series – and especially the Convention coming 17 – 20 June followed by a Choral Shabbaton, with guest Chazanim Yehezkel Klang and Sol Zim, at our Synagogue. Now if I just had the time to learn this music before Pesach everything would be just dandy, but I am called away to help prepare the enormous task of changing over all our cutlery and crockery in preparation for the upcoming festival.
What we only do for food!