A Celebration and Fundraiser in One!!

Ok, so my family TOTALLY got me.

I thought I was going to a meeting to talk with other parents about purchasing sound equipment for my daughter’s singing group. But, no!  It was a surprise party for my upcoming 50th birthday.

I didn’t break down in tears when I first figured out it was a surprise party. I kept it together, greeted folks, and walked around in a daze. So many people I knew and loved so much. And then I saw that they had a donation box for everyone to contribute to “A Shabbat Sweet” instead of getting me presents (and they raised over $1,000!!!).

I didn’t break down in tears when members of my family, and my daughter’s singing group put on a show performing some of MY songs and some of their own.

I DID break down when they asked me to sing an original children’s song “This is my house.” It was the lyrics that got to me: “This is my house. This is where live. My family’s got a whole lot of love to give.” It was when I started singing, “my family’s got…” that I snorted, broke into tears and uncontrollable laughter at the same time.

Yup, I truly felt loved!!!

Beggar’s Niggun – A New Recording

I wrote in a recent blog about a new piece of music I composed called a niggun, or wordless melody, and some of you asked to hear it. So… “Beggar’s Niggun,” as I call it, is posted above.

This niggun is meant to usher in Shabbat. Singing along is a way to “get ready” to enter into the peace of shabbat, it is a spiritual call to rise above the mundane, everyday world.  And EVERYONE knows the words… ‘cos there ain’t any!

I hope as you catch on to the melody you’ll add your voice and sing along. You can’t go wrong. You don’t need to sing strong. (obviously there is something wrong with me if I have to rhyme every time!)

As you can tell, I recorded it with a few friends. Or to be more accurate, I recorded it with Me, Myself and I.  And “we” can’t thank my father enough for helping me turn my basement into a recording studio periodically.

I’m dedicating this recording to the memory of my aunt on her birthday and in honor of my friend, LM, for a fast and speedy recovery.  May the ruach, or spirit, of this niggun heal wounds of the heart, body and mind, and create a space in your life that allows the peace of Shabbat to rest in your soul.

A lovely, amazing evening

Ok, I KNOW I need to get over it… that chill that runs up my spine, the butterfly-thrill the churns in my stomach when people sing along with the Shabbat music I wrote. But, come on, ya’ll, this is GOOD stuff.

So… about twenty of us gathered at a dear family’s home for dinner and to share in my Friday night Sabbath service, “A Shabbat Sweet.” The host family bid on the service as part of last year’s silent auction to raise money for the synagogue’s early childhood program.

As folks came into the home, I could see that we were a delightful mix of ages and family stages: families with young children, families whose children have left childhood behind for independent life, and families whose children are in college, that land between childhood and independence.

And then we finally were called to gather around the table in anticipation of bringing in Shabbat by lighting candles, saying blessing over wine and, literally, breaking bread by pulling apart the challah after blessing it.

After some words of introduction, I taught the group a very simple, highly repetitive niggun, a wordless melody. We split up into two “choirs,” each group singing just a slightly different phrase that harmonized with the other. And THAT’S when the chills really started: the energy, the power of twenty voices rising and joining together! And I thought: “This is it!  This is how the joy of being Jewish enters the soul and leaves its mark of delight.” And I wondered if this was a moment, perhaps THE moment, for some of these kids, when they first experienced the intimate intensity of Jewish prayer, like I experienced when I went to Jewish summer camp.

I can’t thank the hosts enough for the opportunity to experience “A Shabbat Sweet” in such a lovely, intimate setting.

Getting Ready, and Getting A Bonus

Tomorrow night, while the fall is creating lovely long shadows, I’ll be sharing “A Shabbat Sweet” in a family’s home. They’ll be having about 20 people over for dinner and the service.  And let me tell you, I am VERY excited about sharing the service with such a lovely family in such an intimate setting.

While I was practicing the service to sharpen up, I got two “bonuses”: first, the niggun (wordless melody) I’ve been working on, which I’m calling Beggar’s Niggun, took new shape: I found new and more interesting chords for the melody, and taking the suggestion from a dear friend, well, from Tracy Friend, I found a way to change the melody at the end in a way that holds the integrity of the niggun format while creating musical interest.

Second, as I was playing through V’Shamru, instead of just playing through the third stanza with my usual dissatisfied feeling, I let go and found new chords and a new melody for that stanza, kind of like a “bridge” in pop music.  I think the change really helps improve the song by adding new energy to the end of the piece.

Two New Videos for Your Viewing Pleasure!!

Here are two videos from a private performance on September 23, 2012 for the residents of the Barclay Condominium by me and Tracy Friend, who, because her mom and my dad are an “item,” make us brother and sister!!!  And let me tell you, the energy between us at this performance really solidified that sibling relationship!!!!


To view the other video, please click HERE.

Listening Again

I just listened to my recording of “Dodi Li” from “A Shabbat Sweet,” my original collection of melodies for Shabbat, the Friday night prayer service.

It’s been a while since I’ve listened… I guess I’d been busy with life – summer, family, vacations, work — and I’ve written two new pieces of music including a niggun, or wordless melody, for the start of the “Shabbat Sweet” service.

Anyhoo… I really enjoyed giving “Dodi Li” a listen after not having heard if for weeks. And I have to admit I was still pleased with the recording. Actually, I thought, “Hey! I want to record more of this'”

If you haven’t yet heard “Dodi Li,” please give it a listen. And if you like it, please share it with your friends and family. The more people hear it, the more possible it will be that I’ll complete the record.

A Shabbat Sweet in Your Home

I made arrangements, recently, to share “A Shabbat Sweet” with a family in their home in a private service.

I am very excited about this idea of sharing the service on such an intimate basis.  I think we’ll really be able to connect and build a great sense of community.

And… I love the idea that families like this one can gather in homes with loved ones and friends, start Shabbat by bringing soulful music into their their lives AND help me to raise funds to record the service.

If you would like the service in your home, I would love to talk with you about it.  Please e-mail me: billy@hcbh.com.

A Wonderful “Beach” Service Last Night

Well, it wasn’t exactly on the beach, since it was over 100 in shade outside.

Instead, we brought “A Shabbat Sweet” inside the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation. First, we sat together and had “picnic” dinners while listening to the Beach Boys (just to keep that beach-y feel).  It was lovely to meet new people and reconnect with old friends.  And sharing food is just always yummy!  I really enjoyed another family’s fruit salad, and lots of kids enjoyed our pizza!  (And their parents were glad they ate something.)

Then, Cantor Howard Friedland, myself, Hannah Kaplan, Rena Newman and Dave Newman shared “A Shabbat Sweet” with members of the congregation and a wonderful family who was also there to name their sweet new baby.  It was so moving to hear her parents describe how her name connected to loved ones from their family.

For me, getting to to bring the service from my basement to the sanctuary of such a thriving, welcoming community would have been enough.  But to also experience the congregation singing along was just incredibly powerful.  As I’ve said before: wow!!!

Original Melodies of Traditional Jewish Prayers

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