News and Views on Jews and Music

Paul Wieder photo 2013

Paul Wieder is putting Jewish music on your playlist! Plus updates on Jewish music festivals, reviews of Jewish music websites and blogs, and insights from Jewish music producers and promoters. Let’s make Jewish music part of your well-balanced musical diet!

News and Views on Jews and Music

10 famous Jewish women who inspired songs

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The original Muses were Greek goddesses, but some recent muses have been Jewish women. Here are 10 famous and semi-famous Jewish women, presented alphabetically, and the songs they have inspired. (Is this "Jewish music"? Well, it's music about Jews, anyway…).

1. Rosanna Arquette: "Rosanna," by Toto/"In Your Eyes," by Peter Gabriel

The first of these songs was written by David Paich on behalf of fellow Toto member Steve Porcaro, who was the one dating her. But Gabriel did write the other one for her while he himself was dating her. Appropriately, the song is perhaps most famous for serenading-in the movie Say Anything…- another Jewish actress, Ione Skye.

2. Carrie Fisher:"Hearts and Bones" by Paul Simon 

Simon, in fact, wrote many songs about the former Princess Leia during and after their brief marriage. This song is off an album also called Hearts and Bones; it's the one just before Graceland, and both albums are pretty much all about their marriage and divorce. In the opening line, "One and one-half wandering Jews," he means himself… and Fisher, whose dad, singer Eddie Fisher, was Jewish.

3. Alyson Hannigan:"Alyson Hannigan" by Juvenile Wreck/"This One Time" by The Malcolm Effect.

The first one is obviously about her. The second is based on a line her American Pie character memorably says… but still.

4. Carole King:"Oh! Carol" by Neil Sedaka

Neil Sedaka (whose name is a form of the word "tzedakah") was a big deal back the day, but Carole's songs have proven even more indelible. Sedaka and King did date in high school, and he later wrote this for her. She responded with "Oh, Neil," even though by that time she was married to her songwriting partner Gerry Goffin. Neil, ever the gent, gave that song to his bosses at the Brill Building… who liked it so much they hired Goffin and King as songwriters, and the rest is major musical history.

5. Zoe Kravitz:"Flowers for Zoe" by Lenny Kravitz

In this case, they have the same last name because Lenny is her dad. This is a lullaby he wrote to her when she was a baby. He's a huge Hendrix fan, so it's no accident this sounds a lot like "Little Wing."

6. Linda McCartney:"Maybe I'm Amazed" and "My Love" by Paul McCartney 

Also "We Got Married" and "Golden Earth Girl." When she was just six, though, her dad's client (her dad was an entertainment attorney) named Jack Lawrence wrote "Linda" for her. It was recorded by Buddy Clark, by Jan & Dean and by Perry Como.

7. Marilyn Monroe:"Candle in the Wind" by Bernie Taupin and Elton John

Hey, she counts- she converted when she married Arthur Miller! The song came out in 1973, but it wasn't a huge hit until this live version, done in 1986. And it was a hit again in 1997, reworded for use at Princess Di's funeral. (Elton was dressed like Beethoven in the video because for this concert, he was backed by a full orchestra… so what else should he wear?)

8. Sally Oren:"Sally, Sally" and "Young Girl Sunday Blues,"by Jefferson Airplane

Jeffrey Goldberg reports in The Atlantic that Sally Oren- the wife of Michael Oren, an Israeli ambassador to the US- had a free-range adolescence that led her to meeting and even befriending: Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, promoter Bill Graham, Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and the members of Jefferson Airplane. Groovy!

9. Gwyneth Paltrow:"Moses," by Coldplay 

Coldplay's frontman, Chris Martin, is her husband; he wrote to her: "Like Moses has power over the sea/ So you've got power over me." Aww! Also, they named their son Moses. Passover seders at their house must be very musical!

10. Natalie Portman:"I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman" by K-Os ("chaos").

Speaking of Star Wars princesses… You might also count the rap Adam Samberg wrote for her for an SNL sketch (warning: there is a TON of cursing and other… stuff here). And the Aussie Jewish-punk bank YIDcore routinely drops her name into songs, since their lead singer has a huge crush on her.

Also, these women became famous because of their songs…

11. Sharona Alperin:"My Sharona" by The Knack

She was the Sharona, and the "my" was Knack frontman Doug Fieger. She was 16 at the time. Oy. The song is still raising eyebrows. When it was discovered on President George W. Bush's iPod that, no less than The New York Times noted: " "My Sharona," [is] the 1979 song by the Knack that Joe Levy, a deputy managing editor at Rolling Stone in charge of music coverage, cheerfully branded 'suggestive if not outright filthy.'"

12. Sara Dylan:"Sara," by Bob Dylan

While Yoko Ono and Edie Brickell (Paul Simon's current wife) were famous in their own rights, can anyone name Bob Dylan's wives? Yeah, so she goes here. Shockingly, not all of Dylan's songs are on YouTube, so this is a cover by a tribute band... from Spain.

Clearly, there is just something about Jewish women that inspires some of the best songwriters, all the way back to the writer of Song of SongsKing Solomon. OK, so that song's from Proverbs. But all of Song of Songs is inspired by a woman known only as "The Shumalite," perhaps the earliest example of a Jewish woman as a musician's muse.

Chicago a cappella’s musical “migrations”

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When we think of "Jewish a cappella," we think of campus groups like The Maccabeats. Or perhaps synagogue choirs on the High Holidays.

Chicago a cappella is both, and more. Their new concert series, "Melodic Migrations: Global Jewish Music," shines a spotlight on lesser-known, often ancient, Jewish a cappella music from around the world- from Europe to South America, from Yemen to Uganda, Iran to-of course-Israel (dates and locations below). There will even be a Yiddish tango, and other surprises.

Founder and Artistic Director Jonathan Miller prepared this compelling and fascinating look at Jewish global fusion. But Jewish music has been part of his life since he was a child, and Yossele Rosenblatt's "Kaddish" was on the program of his ensemble's very first concert.

For two decades now, this Lakeview-based ensemble has performed everything from spirituals and sacred works by classical composers… to folk songs and madrigals. Plus pop songs from before jukeboxes to after iTunes.  "No one was doing that mix of music," explained Miller, as to what inspired his formation of the ensemble initially.

The ensemble performs a surprising amount of Jewish material, including some entirely Jewish concerts. One of their first to feature Jewish material, in 1996, was titled: "Christians and Jews in the Renaissance." In 2012, it was "Genius in the Synagogue: A Musical Portrait of Max Janowski." It was Janowski, in fact, who gave Miller his professional debut.

Last October, Chicago a cappella celebrated its 20th anniversary with a concert pulling from all of its influences- including the Jewish song "Lo Yisa Goy" by Chicago composer Stacy Garrop, but also everything from Rufus Wainwright songs to a medley from the musical Spring Awakening.

The majestic music of the High Holidays was presented twice, once in 2007 and again in 2011. Called "Days of Awe and Rejoicing: Radiant Gems of Jewish Music," it was released on CD.

Miller is quick to praise his versatile singers, who come from many diverse musical backgrounds: choral music, opera, gospel, and Early Music. Most also sing in the CSO Chorus, and in their auditions for him, they must prove their abilities to both solo and harmonize. "They are just the finest," Miller said, "I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with such a dedicated team." The ensemble even coaches a youth-chorus workshop.

Whether your taste runs toward Straight No Chaser, the King's Singers, or the Western Wind Ensemble, Chicago a cappella sings your favorite flavor of a cappella.

Melodic Migrations: Global Jewish Music

Saturday, 2/15, 8:00 p.m., Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston
Sunday, 1/16, 4:00 p.m., K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Congregation, Chicago
Saturday, 2/22, 8:00 p.m., Congregation Beth Shalom, Naperville
Sunday, 2/23, 4:00 p.m., West Suburban Temple Har Zion, River Forest.

A glossary of Jewish music terms

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Jewish music, like all fields, has its jargon, and perhaps the start of a new year is a good time to go over some key terms. Also, I will miss the Song Leader Boot Camp this year, held on Jan. 19-20 at Temple Jeremiah in Northfield, but perhaps attendees will find this helpful:

Ba'al toke'ah: Hebrew for "master of the sound." A shofar blower.

Badchan: At a Jewish wedding, the jester/emcee who "gets the party started."

Bentch: Yiddish, "bless." Especially, to say Birkat HaMazon/Grace After Meals.
Bentch licht: light Shabbat candles.

Bulgar: A klezmer melody influenced by Bulgarian music.

Camp song: A simple, short song, taught and sung at summer camp, with a guitar.

Cantillation: The sing-song melody used when reading the Torah or other scriptures.

Cantor: Leader of the prayer service. Some cantors are ordained.

Chazan/Hazzan: Hebrew for "cantor."

Daven: Yiddish for "pray."

Duchan: To bless the entire congregation. Only Kohanim are permitted to do so.

Freylach: Yiddish for "festive." Also, a fast klezmer piece.

Geshrai: Yiddish for "shout."

HaTikvah: Hebrew for "The Hope," this is the title of Israel's national anthem.

Kavanah: Intention, intensity. When you mean it, you "have kavanah."

Kley Zemer: Hebrew for "vessel of song." A musical instrument.

Klezmer: From "kley zemer," the music of the Ashkenazic, Yiddish culture. The main instruments are the violin and clarinet.

Kumzitz: Yiddish for "come, sit!" Informal gathering, often including a sing-along.

Kvitsch: Yiddish for "sharp yelp." Can be made by a person or, say, a clarinet.

Ladino: The Hebrew-Spanish blend-language of the Sephardic Jews. It is to Sephardim what Yiddish is to Ashkenazic Jews. 

Leibedik(eh): Yiddish for "heart-like." Full of emotion.

Liturgical: Related to, or based in, prayers.

Machzor: Prayer book for Jewish holidays.
Madrich(a):  (Fe)male camp counselor.

Melamed: non-ordained Jewish-studies teacher, including bar/bat mitzvah tutor.

Melevah Malkah: Hebrew for "escorting the queen," a meal held after Shabbat, to bid farewell to the Shabbat Queen.

Mizrachi: Hebrew for "Eastern." Of Middle-Eastern origin.

Niggun: Wordless, melodic, ecstatic chant sung repeatedly for meditative effect.

Nusach: Version of a prayer service, usually Ashkenazic or Sephardic.

Od ha-pa'am!:  Hebrew for "Further, an instance." In English: "One more time!" The Yiddish version is "Noch a'mol!"

Oneg Shabbat: Hebrew for "Shabbat delight." A party on Shabbat afternoon.

Ot azoy!: Yiddish for "Just like that!" In English, "You got it! Keep going!"

Piyut: Hebrew for "hymn." The composer of one is a "piyetan."

Psalm 150: The final Pslam, notable for listing instruments used in the Holy Temple

Rabbotai!: Yiddish for "Ladies and Gentlemen!" In English, "Hey, listen up!"

Ru'ach: Hebrew for "wind" and also "spirit." Enthusiasm.

Schpiel: A play, long story, or sales pitch. Purimschpiel: satirical Purim play.

Shaliach Tzibur: Hebrew for "messenger of the congregation." Cantor, often a non-ordained one or volunteer. Abbrebiated in Hebrew as "schatz."

Sheket!: Hebrew for "quiet." Used to demand attention before an announcement.

Sher: Yiddish for "shears." A klezmer dance involving scissor-kicks.

Shir: Hebrew for "song." Used to denote a modern song, as opposed to a zemer.

Shiron: Songbook or set of songsheets.

Siddur: From the Hebrew for "order" (same as "Seder"). Jewish prayerbook.

Tehilim: Psalms. King David wrote most of them, for prayers in the Holy Temple.

Trop: Note-sets used for Torah reading that give it its sing-song sound.

Zemer: Hebrew for song. Used to denote a traditional or ancient song.

Zmirot: Songs, especially those sung at the table after Shabbat meals.

Under-known Jewish songwriters: Dan Bern

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His full last name is "Bernstein," and that's also what he calls his band.

Dan Bern is one of the most bluntly honest of all songwriters, using the right words to mean what he has to say. If he were a movie, he would absolutely be "Rated R." (He does have a kids' album, though, plus a new Rated G Hannukah Songs EP for download.)

Yes, Bern is honest about relationships and sex: "Don't test my love/ Maybe I don't love you all that much." He is honest about social issues and politics: "I would never be so dumb/ To say they stole the election/ They bought the damn thing, fair and square."

And he is honest about religion, including his own Jewish one. The very first song on his debut EP, Dog Boy Van, is "Jerusalem," and it's about Jerusalem Syndrome: "Time to reveal myself/ I am the messiah… Now that I've told you/ I feel a great weight has been lifted/ Dr. Nussbaum was right."

"God Said No," (it starts at the 1:30 mark) on New American Language, is about a conversation with God: "Send me back in time/ Let me find/ The one they call Hitler/ I will bring him down… Obliterate his memory/ God said, 'No.'" Interestingly, God doesn't give His reason as changing the course of history, but that Bern would not follow through: "You would get caught up/ In theory and discussion/ You would let your fears/ Delay and distract you/ You would make friends/ You would take a lover." Finally, God explains, "Time belongs to me/ Time's my secret weapon/ My final advantage." Bern realizes: "Now was all I had."

Then comes the song "Toledo," which deals with American hypocrisy, portending to be so very religious and spiritual while really being commercialized and xenophobic: "Sitting in the Church/ Of the Holy McDonald's… I make my sacred offering/ And I dip my hands in Pepsi/ Sailed off to Virginia/ And expelled all the Jews." This may be a reference to General Order 11, in which then-General Ulysses S. Grant tried to do exactly that, during the Civil War. "And I'm closer to God than I've ever been before," Bern continues, "Painting Karl Marx on every door/ Groucho Marx on every door."

On The Swastika EP, Bern tries to reclaim that sullied symbol: "The Chinese had it for 20,000 years/ The Nazis took it and made it spell tears/ Now I'm decorating my house with it/ My little swastika/ I'm taking it back/ It's not yours anymore/ It's mine now… (it) Stands for Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo, & Chico."

Another song here, that is entirely Jewish, is "Lithuania," about his family's Holocaust story:

"I got one foot in the black-and-white two-dimensional ghosts of Lithuania/ And the other foot in sunny California…  8,000 miles from Lithuania. And if I could escape/ By driving further then I would, but it doesn't get me anyplace new."

He copes with his anger by reveling in Jewish America's contributions to the world: "Sometimes I want to dance on Hitler's grave/ And shout out: 'Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce, Leonard Cohen, Philip Roth, Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Leonard Bernstein, Harry Houdini, Sandy Koufax!'" He continues,  "I say Kristallnacht is over!/ The only broken glass tonight/ Will be from wedding glasses shattered under heels."

Then it gets more personal: "I saw my dad tell jokes, and teach me how to laugh/ Thirty years after his parents, brothers, and sister were all shot/ And know I must go on/ It would be cowardly to stop/ It would be an aberration to do anything else."

On My Country II, we have the song "Sammy's Bat," a reference to Sammy Sosa: "There's a time for playing by the rules and a time to cork your bat." The song is about a dream, in which: "Abraham and Jesus and Mohammed all came down/ Heard there was a meeting down in Bat Sheba town/ Abraham was detained, his passport not in order/ (They) said, 'You got no papers to get across the border."'

On Breathe, the song "Past Belief" is a prayer during a bout of insomnia: "Lord/ Show me a sign… And I'm willing to go on faith/ But I'm past belief."

His most recent release is the family-friendly Hannukah Songs. He starts off with songs about the familiar elements of the holiday, then takes a typical Dan Bern turn with "Waffle House Hannukah," about a Jewish trucker who celebrates Hannukah on the road by varying his hash browns eight ways.  

There are many, many more Dan Bern songs. The Dan Bern Archive has nearly 500, and it is updated through his current album, Drifter. The unpublished songs include Jew from Kentucky, Dan Bern's Christmas Song, and even Lithuania II.

Bern bars no holds, cuts no slack, and leaves no sin unstoned, stoning himself most of all. Listening to a whole album all at once can be upsetting, sometimes even unnerving, but is ultimately cathartic. If you like the comedy of Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison, the novels of Philip Roth and Henry Miller, and the early years of Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson, Dan Bern is for you.

These songs are the truth. And Dan Bern is one of the few good men who can handle it.

The Chanukah Wrap-Up… in cyberspace!

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This is the 14th annual installment of the Chanukah Wrap-Up, in which I discuss CDs from the year suitable for Chanukah gifting. As you can see, we have moved the Wrap-Up to the new home of my Jewish-music musings: the blogosphere. This will allow me to include some sonic samples of the CDs themselves, too.

Also new this year is the number of CDs reviewed. It's always been eight, as in "eight lights, eight nights." But even after my impassioned plea (in this space!) for more CDs to review, only five came in all year. This does not mean less Jewish music was made this past year, only that CDs are being replaced by sound files as purely ethereal as the music itself. And now, to the CDs that did come in…

Rick Moranis:My Mother's Brisket and Other Love Songs 
Yes, the guy from the Ghostbusters and Honey I Shrunk… series. This is actually Moranis' third album, but his first Jewish one. As expected from a member of Bob & Doug and SCTV, Moranis' songs are comic, with titles like "Live Blogging the Himel Family Bris," "I'm Old Enough to Be Your Zaide," and simply "Pu-Pu-Pu." The holiday track is, oy vey, "I Can't Help It, I Just Like Christmas." Moranis has a very pleasant baritone, and of course impeccable delivery. The music ranges from tango and lounge to klezmer and a hora… and even a cantillation in Haftarah trop! Don't be a shlemiel… get the album already.

Various Artists: A Jewish Celebration
This is not part of Craig Taubman's "Celebrate" series, but a follow-up to Putumayo's Jewish Odyssey CD. Like that collection, this is a world tour (from Argentina to Moldova) with lots of Jewish standards, but it's also a Chanukah-centric one. Alisa Fineman gives us the old/new Sephardi tango "Ocho Kandelikas," Julie Silver gives a cha-cha-cha spin to the Israeli dreidel song "Sivivon Sov, Sov, Sov," and the Klezmer Conservatory band responds with the Americanischer version. There some Yiddish songs by garage-rockers Golem, the sandy-voiced Karsten Troyke, but also two reggae tracks (from France and the US)… and the winsome Abayudaya (Ugandan-Jewish) version of "Hinei Ma Tov."

Odessa/Havana: Walk to the Sea
Well, if you are walking from Ukraine to Cuba, you will have to walk through the sea. As their name indicates, this group- whose debut was's #1 Jazz CD of 2007- merges the sounds of the Black and Caribbean seas. Here, they explore a spot somewhat halfway between the two, the Spanish area of Andalusia, with four Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) songs. David Buchbinder leads with his trumpet, but is joined by everything from reeds to multi-ethnic strings to a half-dozen assorted hand-drums. The music is by turns sprightly, sensuous, spiritual and just plain funky, but always melodic. So come on an "Aventura Judia" across the ocean! (sound samples here. You can buy the CD at Tzadik Records or download it on iTunes.)

Mikey Paulker: Extraordinary Love
There are three "very" Jewish songs on here, "Borei," "Zion," and "Shalom Aleichem," but the folksy, New-Agey songs (with titles like "The Light" and "Where Ghosts Can't Hide") are all infused with a Jewish spirit, and many include Hebrew lyrics. He layers his sawdusty voice over an acoustic guitar and electronic drums and blips. The songs can range in size from Suzanne Vega-like wispy whispers to Coldplay-size epics. Pauker's lyrics can be impressionistic, even abstract. The result is incredibly sophisticated and complex, yet slips directly through the ears to the soul. Pauker was just named one of the Ten Stars of New Jewish music by Time Magazine even before this album came out, and he fulfills that status now.

Mama Doni: Jewish Holiday Party
This is a family-friendly DVD/CD set, each divided into three "episodes" of four songs each, one each for Passover, Shabbat, and Chanukah. There is a mix of Mama Doni's original songs, like "Matzah Pizza" and "Challah Day" (her last project was a cookbook, could you guess?)… and her spins on holiday classics like "Ma'oz Tzur," "Dayenu," and "Lecha Dodi." Her music here is all down-home country (provided by fleet-fingered multi-instrumentalist Eric Lindberg) , but she can range from reggae to disco. She can be hysterically funny or deeply touching, sometimes- and on "Eight"- both at once. The irrepressible Mama Doni soars past most kiddie-crooners, Jewish or general. If you have kids in your life, they should have Mama Doni in theirs.

No matter what the "format" or "delivery system," for songs, the important thing is content: Is the music any good? Does the message mean something? The answers, for all of these recordings, is an emphatic "yes." And, whether your Chanukah music comes to you in person, online, or somewhere in between, have a warm and happy Chanukah.

Fiddlin' with 'Fiddler:' 14 strange offshoots

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There is a new book, Wonder of Wonders, about the origins of Fiddler on the Roof, tracing it from a series of Shalom Aleichem short stories to Broadway to Hollywood. But that’s not where the Fiddler story ends. Its impact on popular culture is much deeper and wider than a Yiddish/klezmer/shtetl-based work could ever have reasonably expected to be. Here are more than a dozen of the strangest offspring Fiddler has birthed:

One of the most public covers was “Rich Girl,” performed by two women who were certainly rich: former No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani and rapper Eve. The number was produced by Dr. Dre (also rich!) and it opened nothing less than the Grammys in 2005.

But the Stefani/Eve song was itself a cover of a “If I Was a Rich Girl,” a reggae version by British duo Louchie Lou & Michie One. The rappers Sand People name-check “If I Were a Rich Man” (the track has some R-rated language), too.

While rapping is something Sinead O’Connor is not known for, she does so on “Famine”— about the Irish Potato Famine— while sampling Fiddler’s “Tradition!”

The mashup artist Lenlow has mixed “Tradition!” with an “electroclash” track called “Dog Ruff” by Jon E. Storm— to make a mashup he titled “The Roof is on Fire.” In case you like visuals with your music, someone threw a bunch of images from J-Pop (i.e., Japanese pop music) videos over the track. The resulting klezmer/dance-rock/Hello Kitty adorableness is here.

Speaking of adorable, someone animated some Lego minifigures to perform “Tradition!” (Which is the next logical step, since the Torah has already been Lego-fied.)

And still speaking of adorable, Sesame Street uses “Tradition!” to teach… “Addition!” It’s part of their Monsterpiece Theater series, hosted by Alistair Cookie.

What, not enough puppets? OK, fine. Here, the puppets of Avenue Q welcome the Anatevka refugees to their street, redubbed “Avenue Jew.”

Others have assayed medleys of more than one song. One of the earliest was by Motown’s greatest klezmer act, The Temptations. (The mere fact that they covered this musical makes the above claim true.)

Before he created the great City Winery venues, Michael Dorf founded the iconic Knitting Factory club in 1987, and ran it until 2002. The club spun off of a label, which wove a fun version of Fiddler, with covers by cutting edge musicians, called Knitting on the Roof.

An entire punk version of the musical was arranged and performed by YIDcore, a Jewish punk band from Australia. Here is their stand-alone (and NSFW) video of “If I Were a Rich Man,” which likely inspired these punks to take it all the way. Oh, and I’ve met these guys; the lead singer has a law degree and has served as his shul president. Only in Australia!

Meanwhile, in America, one of our great traditions is… the football halftime show! Yes, bands from Florida’s DeLand High School (Florida) up through Michigan State University have marched their way through fiddle-less Fiddler medleys.

On its 25th anniversary world tour, Fiddler made it to Japan. At the intermission, the Japanese theater’s manager approached the American producer, asking: “Do they get this in America? It’s so Japanese!” Evidently, however, not Japanese enough, because someone went and made an entirely Japanese version. Yes, in Japanese. And since we have done a lot of “Rich Man" and "Tradition” already, here are the Japanese versions of “To Life” and “Matchmaker.”

You know, all of this fiddling with Fiddler makes Cannonball Adderly’s jazz-sax medley sound positively. .. traditional.

Do you know any more out-there covers or versions of Fiddler songs? Let me know in the comments below! 

Free downloads from the Milken Archive: A “gem” of an idea

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The slogan "the best things in life are free" also, it turns out, applies to great Jewish music. Well, Jewish music is one of the best things in life, so we should have known that.

From August 7-September 4, 2013--aka the Jewish month of Elul--the Milken Archive of Jewish Music is offering a free music download every week in celebration of the upcoming High Holidays. The Archive is calling these selections "Musical Gems."

For many years, the Milken Archive has been collecting and publishing Jewish American music written over 350 years by professional composers--more than 200 of them--and performed by great orchestras and choruses. To date, the Archive has amassed 700 recorded works, including over 500 world-premiere recordings, many of which are on a 50-CD series released on the Naxos label. The composers have put original melodies to everything from Jewish liturgy to Torah verses to Yiddish folktales. They also have video of many of these recordings and related interviews, as well as photographs and documents.

Now, the Milken Archive offering free weekly downloads selected from their vast vaults. Each Thursday morning, starting August 8th, subscribers will receive an email with the free, limited-time "Gem" download link. The only way to get all of the Musical Gems from the Milken Archive is to enter your email address here. Subscribers will receive links to future downloads via email as they become available on Thursdays.

Now, ordinarily, you can't get the previous week's download. But I did not know about this service to tell you in time to get the first two. So the Milken people have been kind enough to provide this link to the first (August 8) download: "Ye Shall Be Holy" and "Shout Unto the Lord," tracks from Dave Brubeck's The Gates of Justice. And also the second one, Gershon Kingsley's "Lecha Dodi," is here. I am not allowed to tell you about the content of upcoming tracks, but the theme for this year's selection is "welcoming."

Milken's partner in this effort is no less a stalwart of Jewish music than Craig Taubman. For nine years, Taubman has been offering "Jewels of Elul" in booklet form and now online. Jewels of Elul is a themed collection of short essays from artists, community leaders, rabbis and politicians--let's just say you'll know their names--also on this year's "welcoming" theme. Subscribers to Jewels of Elul will receive a new Jewel each of the 29 days of the month. (There is also an accompanying CD of High-Holiday music from Taubman and his fellow contemporary Jewish artists).

For more information and to receive your daily Jewel from Craig 'n Co. (Taubman's production company), visit the Jewels of Elul website.