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Introducing... the music circle

By Lauretta Dives

On a cold Saturday afternoon in January, about 11 people who had earlier expressed particular interest in music and singing met at Rabbi Laura’s house. I may not have been the only one who expected to roll up and just sing or hum along to all the greatest Shabbat and High Holy Day hits. But no, this was not the plan at all: as we soon discovered, there was work to be done before we could even sing a note!

We were invited to explore what we all wanted music in the Shul to bring us, what we longed for music to provide: was it inspiration, meditation, the chance to harmonise or enhance our spiritual experiences?

We discussed the ways in which music might be used to engage everyone, bring the most meaning to a service, and how overall we might elevate the musical quality of our services and meetings of all kinds.

We were all agreed that having a formal ‘Choir’ was not the plan at this point as it could be something that might prevent everyone feeling they were welcome to join in at any time with the songs and melodies, whether or they sing like birds - or frogs!

So the key ideas is for this Music Circle to become a creative community resource, to help build all our musical confidence, learn and introduce new songs, support the Rabbis and service leaders and bring more beautiful music to our services.

Rabbi Laura introduced us to an inspiring concept she called ‘the four M’s of Music’ with regard to the role that music plays within the liturgical realm:

Music of Meeting – melodies that are perfect to welcome the community and remind everyone they are among friends and loved ones again. These can often be songs with no words (also known as ‘Niggunim’, as I discovered).

Music of Memory – melodies that remind us of our histories, tunes that we remember from our own youths or our grandparents, and that feel as though they are part of ourselves.

Music of Majesty – music that highlights especially important passages during any services and brings an element of impressive grandeur and uplifting sensations to the proceedings (and might also wake us up!).

Music of the Moment – songs of celebration and chants sung at specific events that mark important events in our lives, the life of the synagogue, and the wider world.

We explored how the way one sings one particular song in terms of timing, pace and volume can dramatically affect what role that song might play. I was also interested to realise that one can adapt a single melody to work with many different lyrics.

Oh, and we did get to sing of course! We agreed that every half hour we would enjoy the wonderful feeling of lifting our voices and our hearts to celebrate … a great afternoon of fun, exploring ideas and being together with good friends.

We would all like to thank Rabbi Laura for her wonderfully easygoing hospitality and for sharing her extensive knowledge and beautiful voice with us.

For anyone who is interested in learning more, the next session for The Music Circle is on Saturday 21st March at 3.30pm (location provided if you RSVP). You can register to attend here.

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