Tuesday, September 18, 2007

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The High Holidays - Dinner and a Show???

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

I don't normally write grip posts, but...

I used to love Yom Tov davening. In particular, chassidic davening with niggunim (wordless soulful tunes), where the chazan leads the kehilah in these traditional group soul stirring melodies and prayers. Of course, being Chabad oriented, it's the traditional Chabad tunes that work for me.

In the last 3 or 4 years, it seems the trend has been going the opposite direction. The chazzonim have returned to chazzonus, showing off their voices like budding Pavarotti's. Tefilos are extended to the very limits of the human voice, with single words being drawn out for multiple minutes. Traditional tunes are slowed to demonstrate voice breath and range. But, IMHO even worse, traditional tunes are replaced with the latest Jewish pop hits.

Suddenly, we're davening Avinu Malkaynu to the latest Shwecky tune (no offense to Shwecky), only really really slow and deep, Kedusah to Father Don't Cry (Avraham Fried), Melech Elyon to Yeshiva Boys. Now don't get me wrong, these Jewish artists make some nice music that I'm satisfied to drop my $20 to own. But as I'm approaching the Kisay HaKovod, it's not a Mordechai Ben David tune that pops into my head.

For a moment, I thought I was just getting old and stodgey, and as one of my daughters is happy to remind me, grey has crept into my beard and (compared to her I guess) I'm an old man (not really of course, by any reasonable measure, just a generation out of touch to her measure). But my children cry in agony during these tunes as well (though it's less clear if it's from the selection or just the poor job compared to the original pace and artist.)

Though I strongly dislike this trend, finding it incredibly unpleasant and grating and a travesty of Yom Tov davening, trying to draw more of a crowd to be comfortable at Yom Tov davening is a nice thought. But ... but ... I've heard now for some years the chazzonim speaking after Yom Tov davening. They are inordinately proud, PROUD, of their chazzonistic representations of the Jewish pop artists, feeling themselves equal in voice ability to those artists, or better. And in being so, become disdainful of the kehila raising their voices as well (as it could drown out their voice).

And that is NOT a path that will open the gates of heaven to the prayers of the congregation. Quite the opposite.

(This is not, G-d forbid, targeted at any particular chazzan, rather a trend I've observed over recent years of various chazzonim during various Yom Tovim.)

BTW, given the price of high holiday seats, frankly expecting dinner and a show would seem completely reasonable.

Update:: Hirhurim's in the same place.

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