08 August 2008

UK: Jewish music anthology

This announcement should be of interest to musical genealogists in the UK. It is a way of preserving your family's melodies along with family history and photographs. It should also be of interest to former Brits who now live around the world in many countries and have taken their family music with them.

So read on ....

The Reflections project is creating an anthology of the huge range of different melodies sung in Jewish homes around Britain at Seder, Chanukah and Shabbat and recording them for posterity.

Do you or your family know any unusual or interesting Seder or Shabbat songs? If so we’d love to hear from you – even if you don’t have the voice of an opera singer! The anthology will include Zmirot (table songs), Seder (Passover) melodies and other melodies of particular interest from individuals and families in the Jewish community in Britain.

It will examine the origin and journey of these songs through the generations, building a social history and geography of the Jewish community through its music.

During the next three years, collected materials will appear on the Reflections website and will eventually be published as an archive of CDs, sheet music and text.
There is a wealth of Jewish musical material, much of it tied up with personal histories, which has been passed down through families. Many songs have changed from their original versions and most of these changes have never been documented.

There is a growing interest in aspects of Judaism, for example Kabbalah, and also in all kinds of authentic ‘ethnic’ music, for example Klezmer. There is also clearly a general popular interest in the lives and stories of other people.

This project will be of benefit to students of music, of Judaism, of social history and geography and will also be an essential tool for those planning to convert to Judaism.

In addition it will enhance the lives of people in the Jewish community by enabling them to access a musical tradition of singing at home which goes back thousands of years. It may also be of therapeutic benefit to some of the interviewees, especially older immigrants and Holocaust survivors.
The objective is to trace the song origins, develop a collection of Jewish musical journeys, "a social history of the British Jewish community through its music," reflecting the diversity of family origins. According to the project, it already has eight different versions of Chad Gadya from Belarus, Hungary, Lithuania, Rhodes, Russia, Turkey and the UK.

At the site , vistors can listen to the recorded music, view notated song sheets, read family histories and see photographs of contributors. It’s not too late to see your family’s musical heritage added to the anthology. To get your family involved in this project, see details at the link above.

While this is an admirable project, there is a touch of re-inventing the wheel. Much of this musical diversity has already been recorded in the very extensive Feher Music Archives at Bet Hatefutsoth in Tel Aviv.  However, I certainly like the idea of accessible annotated song sheets, and the linking of genealogy and photographs with the music.

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