Sunday, September 19, 2010

Yom Kippur 5771

Yesterday was one of the most exhausting but satisfying days of the year. For the 8th time, I played Yom Kippur services at Toronto's Temple Sinai in the second sanctuary with Cantor Katie Oringel (and joined by violinist Joseph Peleg playing Kol Nidrei on Friday evening). The services require a lot of playing from score, playing from chord symbols, as well as transposing, and I've become quite adept at the difficult task of following the flow of the service, music, cue sheets, and Machzor simultaneously.

Some of the most moving moments of the entire Yom Kippur cycle are in the Yizkor service, which happens in the afternoon before the concluding Ne'ilah. One of the settings that I find particularly memorable is the Gerald Cohen's Psalm 23, performed in the video below by Rowna Sutin at Pittsburgh's Rodef Shalom Congregation in 2008:

Tomorrow it's back to rehearsals at Tapestry for Opera Briefs 10, which opens this Thursday. Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. I also accompany High Holidays. I have been doing it for 18 years. The rehearsals get shorter and shorter and the happy hour after gets longer and longer, lol. We did not play this version of Psalm 23 but did so a few years ago with a quartet and cantor.
    I think the hardest part of playing is the afternoon service on Yom Kippur. My cantor gets very tired and starts to make up music as she prays. Needless to say, I have to be on my toes and make a decision. Do I "correct" her by playing her line? do I let her go and transpose along with her wandering voice? or do I simply create with her? the last choice was what I decided this year. she seemed to calm down when I stopped trying to get her back to the written score.

    We had a harpist play the introduction to kol Nidre. she was 14 years old and her teacher expected her to play the entire piece. she let us know that we were not to play with her! LOL!!!!
    I asked the harpist what key her arrangement was in and she said e flat minor. I looked at her score and it was in f minor. I asked her again and she pointed directly at the key signature and insisted that was e flat minor. I demurred and transposed to f minor. Then I realized her score was in 4/4 time while mine was in 3/4 time. This often happens in various arrangements of this piece. I decided to let her play a small introduction and then I took over and continued with the cantor. We then let her play Kol Nidre during Fund Raising activity the following morning. But I felt kind of bad about her shortened performance so we decided to let her play some relaxing arpeggios during prayer. I suggested she play a d minor arpeggio with some A7 arpeggios for variety. she got all bent out of shape - had never improvised before so she would go up.... and down.... and up.... and down. When I suggested she change to the A7 she played an a minor 7 chord, which turned out rather unexpected but since she didn't seemed bothered by it, who was I to say anything?

    I would say the coordination of cues, cuts and accompanying Hebrew prayer is challenging. Over the years the most rewarding part of playing is becoming part of creating a spiritual environment for prayer for many hours. I am blessed to have such a great cantor,
    Cantor Debbie Stein, 28th year as cantor and Rabbi Zimmerman, past president of Hebrew Union college in New York. We make quite a team.