Saturday, December 15, 2012
Music, That Which Binds Souls....
I've always celebrated Chanukah, even while my home has been MY home and not my parents'. My children and I celebrated only Chanukah, no Christmas in our home until the Splendid Husband had been with us for some time. He said, one year, that he might like a Christmas tree. I said I would ask my Jewish children what they thought. Think about this; ask anyone (ANYone!) if they'd like a fresh, fragrant fir tree in the living room all glittering with colored lights and perhaps sparkly ornaments. Of COURSE they'd like a tree! So ours became a blended holiday family, and with perfectly satisfactory results. (You might have read this before; I'm old enough that I may be repeating stories. It's a privilege of Advanced Age; smile and nod as though it was all new to you. Thank you.)
So. Music. Specifically holiday music. Now, even as a little child I learned Christmas carols in school, and I always sang them with great enthusiasm, they're beautiful! Might I add that I also sang them somewhere between tunelessly and off-key. My father was said to have a fine voice. My mother got odd looks singing hymns and I inherited her voice. Never slowed either of us down.
Christmas carols are melodic, romantic and beautiful. I'm not particularly wild about the modern Christmas songs. I apologize, Bing. I can appreciate the appeal of "White Christmas", I just don't appreciate the song as much as, say, "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella". The Oldies station I listen to occasionally plays "All Christmas Music All the Time" from Thanksgiving on. Bring me back my Chad and Jeremy for petessakes.
I've discovered that there are NO stations which play "All Chanukah Music All the Time" from Rosh Hashanah on. But it's the 21st century, and I have a computer. (Insert big grin here.) Which means, of course, that I have Pandora . Now. they have a wide variety of stations which play a wide variety of Christmas music - AND one that plays Chanukah music!
The problem is, there aren't a great many Chanukah songs. But they've managed to find enough of an assortment to play for hours. Truth to tell, it's more a case of different artists playing or singing the same melodies, but that's fine with me. And here's something of Huge Magnitude: in three days of listening to my Chanukah station, I've only heard it once. Sorry to do this to you, my friends. I believe the term is "ear worm". "Dreidl, dreidl, dreidl, I made it out of clay, and when it's dry and ready, then dreidl I will play." (A few rounds of "B-I-N-G-O and Bingo was his name-o" should wipe it out.)
But here's what happened. There have been a few melodies placed in between that are in fact old Russian klezmer songs. "Klezmer", for those unfamiliar, is Jewish music, Yiddish music, firmly attached to the shtetls of Europe. There's been a revival; a klezmer band often has clarinet, accordian, fiddles,saxophones - all sort of peasant-y loud instruments. I've liked klezmer music for always, and we have a particularly fine klezmer band right here in town: Yid Vicious !
Well, as I said above, it's the 21st century and I have a computer. That means I also have access to You Tube (c'mon, I don't have to put the link for THAT.) So I started by going there and putting in "klezmer". What a wealth!! Hours and hours of wonderful klezmer music - and then I found it. On the list to the right, a mention of klezmer as "Chasidic Wedding Music". So I looked THAT up.
And suddenly I was listening to waltzes, to hymns, to dance music that were heard in the lands of my ancestors - Lithuania, Latvia, Roumania - at various times various parts of Russian. It awakens in me the Jewish part, the part that has blood connections to the pogroms, to the Holocaust, to Israel -- emotional connections, not necessarily political ones. As an ethnic Jew, I'm not surprised that the music fills me as it does.
The Chasids - Chasidim - are mystics and ecstatics. I don't know much about them, although I probably know more than non-Jews. There is a fair-sized Chasidic community here, and they look so austere with their almost Amish-appearing clothing. But it's they who brought dancing and wine and merriment, and it's nowhere better illustrated than the music.
When the music of the holidays stirs you, brings to mind making rosettes in the kitchen with your Norwegian grandma or when the carols remind you of making the meringue mushrooms for the buche de noel, flex those roots, revel in the winter celebration of your ancestry - and check it out on You Tube!
If you've an interest, a curiosity, to taste something new - check on You Tube for 200 Years Old Chassidic Melodies from Russia . It's a little taste, a nosh.
And a Merry Christmas to you!
(PS: Just stayed up until 6:00 AM watching "Fiddler on the Roof" - I always cry at the end. My great-grandfather, whom I never met, was called Bear Dov. He came from an Anatevka somewhere.