CELEBRATING 20 YEARS OF HIGH HOLY DAYS MUSIC
Scott Kumer, Music Director
On Friday, September 26, 1997 / 25 Elul 5757, Chicago Sinai Congregation excitedly kicked-off a “Weekend of Dedication” for our new Temple at 15 West Delaware Place. To commemorate that milestone in the life of the Congregation, we will have a special 20th Anniversary Sabbath Eve Service on Friday, September 15, 2017 at 6:15 pm. Please plan to attend this special service of celebration with the members of our Congregation and with our friends from the broader neighborhood!
It’s interesting to note that the Temple’s Inaugural Sabbath Eve Service during the Weekend of Dedication occurred just prior to Rosh Hashanah Eve, which fell on a Wednesday that year. Serendipitously, the Friday-Wednesday pattern repeats again this year, which should help to recreate the original experience.
With our 20th Anniversary approaching, Susan Solomon, our Executive Director, suggested that I listen to archival recordings from the first High Holy Days Services held in our new home. I did, and it was enlightening! The Services were conducted by Rabbi Howard Berman and Rabbi Michael Sternfield. Liturgically, we were using the Union Prayer Book II (1945) with its inspired, poetic language and unforgettable, majestic cadences. Throughout, the Hebrew was read and sung in the Ashkenazic transliteration. Under Music Director Mary Martell, one of my predecessors, the choir sang with solemnity and power. We continue to sing much of the same music today, such as: Sanctification and Adon Olam by Salomon Sulzer (1804-1890), May the Words by Alois Kaiser (1840-1908), Mah Tovu and L’cho Adonoy by Ernest Bloch (1880-1959), All the World and Shofar Service by A.W. Binder (1895-1966), and Avinu Malkeinu, Sim Shalom, and Kol Nidrei by Max Janowski (1912-1991).
One thing that stood out in the recordings was the large volume of choral music written or arranged by Hans Wurman (1922-2001), who preceded Mary Martell as Music Director. Mr. Wurman was born in Vienna, Austria and fled during the Anschluss period of Nazi rule. He was an excellent musician, a gifted composer, and a pioneer of electronic music through his fascinating use of the Moog synthesizer. On YouTube you can listen to some of his LPs dating from the late 1960s and 1970s: The Moog Strikes Bach, Chopin à la Moog, and Comic Carmen. Mr. Wurman wrote many choral settings for the High Holy Days including a striking Ovinu Malkenu. In recent years, we have continued to sing a few of his pieces, but not nearly as much as we did then. So as we celebrate 20 years, we are planning to re-present more of Maestro Wurman’s music this High Holy Days.
And as we honor our impressive musical past, we also gaze toward a promising musical future. Emma Daniels, who became Bat Mitzvah and was Confirmed at Sinai, is our newest and youngest Jewish choral composer! We look forward to singing music by Ms. Daniels this High Holy Days as we endeavor to preserve the finest of our musical heritage and expand our horizons with new repertoire which is an outgrowth of that same tradition, composed by one of our very own!