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Friday, December 07, 2007

Seasonal Music (it isn't all about Xmas!)

Most Jewish families have their own musical traditions.  You know, like songs that are sung at the Passover seder just so... and everyone else's versions sound, well, wrong.  Other holidays have their own musical traditions too, but Hanukkah seems to have gotten short shrift in the music department. 

Maybe it's just the natural comparison to the wealth of other music  - secular/seasonal as well as religious - we hear during the ramp-up to Xmas.   But with the exception of old stand-bys like Yevanim, most of the Hanukkah songs that come to mind seem to be kiddie tunes ('I have a little dreidle', 'Sivivon sov sov sov', etc.) that we quickly outgrow.  This leaves us stranded in adulthood with nothing much to do while the Hanukkah candles burn.

Oh sure, most of the people I know sing Maoz Tzur and  'HaNerot HaLalu' after lighting each night's candles.  The former uses the very warm 'Rock of Ages' tune (you can listen to a midi file here) which is all fine and good... but the latter uses a completely forgettable tune (listen to midi file here). 

When I was still single I heard another version of Hanerot Halalu that really caught my attention and seemed much closer in spirit to the traditional Maoz Tzur.  I later met and worked for many years with the talented musician who wrote and performed the new Hanerot Halalu; Gershon Veroba.  *

Unfortunately, the album which contained the version I liked so much (Called Man to Man) was a very small release (on vinyl only) and never got the kind of exposure it deserved.  Never-the-less, this was the version that Zahava and I adopted as our family tradition when we got married and celebrated out first Hanukkah together.

Here it is. (the hisses are due to the fact that I had to rip the track from the vinyl record)

I'd like to wish everyone a great weekend... a restful Shabbat... and a very happy Hanukkah.

* Gershon Veroba has a new album out called 'Reach Out' that has remakes of many of his older hits... including Hanerot Halalu.  It has great production values and is all around a 'better' album.  But I wish he'd re-released 'Man to Man' on CD.  It was a much more innocent album, in large part because of the less sophisticated studio work.

Posted by David Bogner on December 7, 2007 | Permalink

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Thanks for sharing; the recording is beautiful!

hanukkah sameach :)

Posted by: rebecca | Dec 7, 2007 4:11:11 PM

I love that version and have covered it myself. Thanks for reminding me! I think I'll play it tomorrow night.

(not so subtle hint regarding the man to man album)

Posted by: psychotoddler | Dec 7, 2007 6:00:48 PM

Very pretty song. Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by: SaraK | Dec 7, 2007 7:04:46 PM

The old and new versions (I have the CD) are both very nice, indeed. I confess to being curious, though, as to why the original recording is sung using Sefardi pronunciation and the current version is sung using Ashkenazi pronunciation.

Posted by: Shira Salamone | Dec 7, 2007 9:48:39 PM

Shira, I kn0ow the answer to your question, and if I have time, I will address it after Shabbat. (Gershon explained it to me)

Posted by: jordan Hirsch | Dec 7, 2007 11:01:25 PM

Nice music, but couldn't hear them all.
Chanukah Sameach
ps I ought to learn how to do the those things...

Posted by: Batya | Dec 9, 2007 12:26:58 PM

rebecca... Don't thank me... I'm a giver. :-)

psychotoddler... I will send it along shortly. :-)

SaraK... I thought so too.

Shira Salamone... Although Jordan may indeed have a different explanation, I assume he sold out. Back when he made the earlier version he was being true to his modern ortho background /pronunciation. IN the remake he was trying to make it more marketable to the Haredi crowd. This was (IMHO) sill since the mix of music on the album is pretty far from what the shiny shoe crowd usually goes for.

Jordan... Nu?

Batya... Give me a hint what happened and maybe I can help.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 10, 2007 3:25:00 PM

I just posted my own theory, but yours is actually somewhat along the same lines: Sometimes a musician has to worry about who’s doing the hiring.

I wish Jordan Hirsch would do as good a job blowing his own horn as a blogger as he does as a trumpeter. Do you think you could talk him into joining the J-blogosphere?

Posted by: Shira Salamone | Dec 10, 2007 6:56:34 PM

Shira Salamone... My friend and former bandmate Jordan dipped his toe into the blogpool ever so briefly. His site had two or three posts on it when it went dormant.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 10, 2007 10:10:21 PM

I always liked Gershon's Haneiros Hallalu.
For another cool Chanukah tune, check out Shmuel Skaist's funky version of Maoz Tzur from his album, "B'yameinu". (Full disclosure: Shmuel's my cousin, and I play on the album. It's still a great song.)

Posted by: psachya | Dec 11, 2007 11:04:33 AM

Thanks for the kind comments. I am considering starting up again, but we will see. As for the story, it's really rather simple.
Gershon was working in those days with a very fine blues guitar player, Steve Simanowitz. (Who last I saw him is running a farm somewhere in Vermont or New Hampshire). Steve convinced Gershon, who grew up singing and davening in Havarat Ashekenazit, or Ashkenazis, if you will, that Sephardic pronunciation would supplant Ashkenazic and Gershon should get ahead of the curve. As anyone who listens to Yaakov Schwekey and Avraham Fried will tell you, um...not so much. Anyhoo, I guess when Gershon re recorded the song, which is sung in my house as well, he did it in his natural style.
Anyway, that's how Gershon explained it to me.

Posted by: jordan Hirsch | Dec 11, 2007 7:17:19 PM

This comment might be a bit late in coming, but in my family, we use a completely different tune than either of the tunes you posted about...I daresay it's even better than the tune you and your wife chose.

I loved the tune you used for shir hama'alot when you hosted me for a Shabbat last year. I still think of it sometimes when I say shir hama'alot :)

Posted by: tnspr569 | Dec 19, 2007 6:36:21 AM

P'sachya - I honestly don't recall telling Gershon to do that (but in all fairness it does sound like a cheshbon I would have made - another one of my great ideas was to have one of the groupds I worked with - Kol B'Seder - a reform rabbi and cantor - say "Hashem" instead of "Ado--" I figured what the heck - this way they could appeal to the frum crowd (which ironically didn't discover them until Lev Tahor covered "Lo Alecha") without alienting the Reform. Was I wrong! They started getting hate mail calling them sellouts, etc.)
But who knew?
Thanks for the shout out

Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz (formerly the artist known as Steve (still a fine blues player!)

Posted by: Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz | Dec 21, 2007 3:28:49 AM

That was me, Reb. Shmuel, not Psachya.


Posted by: jordan Hirsch | Jan 21, 2008 11:23:45 PM

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