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THE ANIM Z'MIROT SHUL CHOIR REHOVOT

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 FAQs
 
When was the choir founded?
Why was the choir started? 
Where did the choir first sing?
Just how much Jewish national musical heritage can there be? 
What is Jewish music? 
So when did Jewish music take off?
Doesn't a choir make the service longer? 
Does An'im Z'mirot have any other aims?
How many people have heard the choir? 
What about the religious establishment?
May the congregation sing along? 
Does the choir sing with a chazan? 
What can I do to help? 
Who are the choir members and may I join? 
An'im Z'mirot Choir in the local press 
Thanks !!!!!
 

When was the choir founded? In October 1996 with 5 members.

Why was the choir started?
To re-introduce some of the wonderful tunes, part of our Jewish national heritage, that were written specifically for singing in shuls which have been forgotten for a variety of reasons.

Where did the choir first sing? Our first shul performance was in the 'Prins' Shul - Merkaz Avraham, Menucha V'nachala Street, Rehovot, Israel on 21st December, 1996.

Just how much Jewish national musical heritage can there be?
Volumes of sheet music lie gathering dust on shelves. (If you have any Jewish musical scores lying around on your shelves - let me know about them). If we were talking about a 150 year old golden b'samim box it would be on show in a museum as a national treasure. Because music cannot be appreciated when it is lying on a shelf, it gets forgotten. It would be a great pity if our children are not exposed to some of it. I have a listing of 1,700 names of composers who wrote music for shul use! Can you name three of them?

Most Ashkenazi shuls in the Rehovot area sing the same tune every time for Adon Olam on Friday nights and Shabbat mornings. Some shul members are more fortunate. They know two tunes!

To give you an inkling of the richness of our heritage, below are 31 different melodies for Adon Olam in MIDI format! Please feel free to download any/all of them. Send in your comments - we'd like to hear your preferences and a little about your background so that we can begin to have an idea about what influences tastes in Jewish music. Harmonies have been omitted so that the melody can be judged on its own merits. In these files, some words may be repeated, so you may experience difficulties fitting the words to some of melodies.

If you know any melodies for Adon Olam not presented here, find a way of sending us a MIDI file, a fax or photocopy of the music or even a .WAV file. Let's shift that music 'from shelf to shul'!!

What is Jewish music?
The answer to this raises more questions! From references in the Tanach and the Gemarrah, the Temple services were accompanied by music from many types of musical instruments, wind, strings, percussion and choir. However, after the fall of the Second Temple, this art fell into oblivion and we are left with no clue as to its tonality - did it sound Oriental, did it sound European - did it sound Jewish? At this point we leap into the world of speculation! But, it is more than pure conjecture that the foundation of the Western musical tradition is based on what was once heard in the Temple in Jerusalem. 'Jewish music' today is basically whatever you associate with Judaism, however, there are certain Jewish modes, or scales, which more definitely have a Jewish association.

So when did Jewish music take off?
We have been chanting and singing in our prayers from time immemorial, but it was not until the beginning of the 1800s that shuls became large enough to support a chazan, and later choirs. This led to such great chazanim as Sulzer (1804-1890) in Vienna, Naumbourg (1815-1880) in Paris and Lewandowski (1821-1894) in Berlin, to compose and arrange new melodies for choirs, and also to set in musical notation those tunes which had been known for centuries (the traditional tunes). Many hundreds of Jewish composers wrote 'shul music'. 'Jewish music' even influenced some of the great non-Jewish composers. This is a big subject!

Doesn't a choir make the service longer?
No! Our total repertoire per tefillah is about 15 minutes and most of this comprises tunes which are normally sung by the congregation anyhow, thus adding nothing to the length of the service. You'll still get to your cholent before it dries out!

Does Anim Z'mirot have any other aims?
Based on the enthusiastic response in local shuls to the An'im Z'mirot Choir, we are hoping to seed choirs in other towns. Please get in touch with us if you would like to start a choir in your town. We can give you all the help you need. Get in touch. We also welcome new members for our Rehovot branch.
 
Who are the choir members and may I join?
The choir comprises members of various shuls in Rehovot who share the choir's ideals. We are all amateurs, some of us read music and some of us don't, but we all share a love of singing. (Current choristers). If you'd like to join us, please get in touch.

How many people have heard the choir?
To date more than 1,000 families in the Rehovot area have heard us and experienced a new dimension to their tefillah. For many of them it is a totally new and wonderful experience. In a recent survey we took, 70% feel we add to the service, 15% aren't concerned and only 15% are anti. This points to one thing: a revolution! We are offering something that was lacking and that just required the effort to start!!

What about the religious establishment?
One Rabbi said to me after having heard us that thanks to us he had fulfilled the mitzvah of 'Oneg Shabbat' (making our day of rest a pleasurable experience). Another, in his sermon, said that a Jew should get up on a Shabbat morning with enthusiasm to get to shul quickly so that he'll miss nothing - the choir is a big step in this direction. There is always the risk that shul prayers will become ordinary and routine - a choir adds a level of innovation which is perfectly acceptable and desirable to orthodox Judaism.

May the congregation sing along?
We do not offer a concert. We want to be a core of singers within the congregation, and not a performing group. So please - JOIN IN!!!

Does the choir sing with a chazan?
No, we do not. Our goal is to be a nucleus of singers to inspire congregational singing, so a chazan is not a necessity. In Israel, most shuls are small and prayers are led by any member of the community who wishes to lead the tefillot.

What can I do to help?

Tell your friends about this page. Maybe one of them will want to join us or set up a choir in his own town. We are the only web site on this planet offering JEWISH music midi files.

If you have any Jewish music scores you aren't sure what to do with, please send them (or at least a copy) to us so that it can become a part of our music scanning and distribution ("Shelf to Shul") project (send to: steves@shani.net).

If you have any questions - please send them to Stephen Simpson, so that we can all learn from the answers.

If you would like to make a donation (however modest) - please get in touch with us. With a relatively low financial input, this web page could become a beacon to the nations ('Or L'goyim') broadcasting the richness of our Jewish musical heritage to the world, a musical foundation that fortunately survived the Holocaust, and upon which future Jewish composers will be able to build - a national enterprise in which every Jew will derive benefit.

If you would like to start your own amateur choir to sing in the shuls in your area- get in touch!
 
If you are already a member of an amateur shul choir, then get in touch - quickly!!
 
Thanks
A debt of gratitude is owed to many people. To the members of the An'im Z'mirot Choir for their devoted effort. To Gila Gilboa for her musical arrangements and for helping us attain such a high standard in such a short period of time. Thanks to Ari Applbaum for originally setting up this web page. Also thanks to Stephen Simpson, the founder of the choir and creator of all the midi files on this site.

Thanks to the Boards of Management of the various shuls in Rehovot who have taken the bold and innovative step of asking us to sing at their shul services.

Thanks also to all of you who have shown appreciation for the effort the choir has made to bring our Jewish musical heritage from 'Shelf to Shul'. Please don't stop - your praise is our reward.
 



The following is the interview which appeared in the Rehovot Reporter's Spring 1997 edition.
 

The Anim Z'mirot Male Voice Choir - Rehovot was founded in October 1996 to revive our almost forgotten Jewish musical heritage at various shuls in Rehovot. To date almost 1,000 Rehovot families have enjoyed the spiritual enhancement that the choir brings with them wherever they sing.

An interview with Stephen Simpson.
by Reuben Wides
 

Stephen, why did you start the Anim Z'mirot choir?

I have been waiting patiently since I made aliya in 1979 to hear again those melodies I heard in shuls until 1979. My patience just ran out! I became fed up with hearing virtually the same tunes repeated every week for 18 years. This was the fuel. The match was a visit to the Diaspora Museum where I heard a recording of a medley of several tunes for Adon Olam beside a reconstructed synagogue. Apparently, in Israel you have to go to a museum to hear a new tune for Adon Olam!

But why bother? Surely the majority of shul goers in Israel prefer to 'get it all over with' as soon as possible?

In London, all those who came to shul enjoyed the choir experience. We do not have a chazan and we do not extend the service. We can only return to the same shul about once every 3 months, thus keeping the music alive while not placing a strain either on the choir or the congregation.

For Israeli congregations this is all very new.

Indeed, yes! For many we are offering something completely revolutionary. When we started we had no idea how we would be received.

So what was the reaction at the shuls you visited?

Extremely enthusiastic and encouraging. Many said that we made that particular shabbat a special occasion for them. One Rabbi who heard us sing came up to me afterwards and said that thanks to us he had fulfilled the mitzvah of "Oneg Shabbat" - enjoying Shabbat. We are now in the middle of our second 'tour' of Rehovot shuls. We must be doing something right!

Does the choir sing at concerts?

We have been persuaded to open the annual conference for shaliach tsibbur in Jerusalem in September, 1997, but our time resources are limited, so we give priority to visiting a different local shul about once every 3 weeks. We only rehearse for 2 hours once a week at 8:00 on Monday evenings. All of us in the choir are committed to our work, family, friends, other interests etc. but we all readily find the time in the middle of the week to recharge our batteries. We also have great fun.

Are you satisfied with the successes achieved in Rehovot?

We started with you Reuben, Shlomo Flam, Leslie Mound, Yosef Gilboa and myself at my house. Yosef's wife Gila, who has a masters in music from Bar Ilan University, invited us to rehearse in her lounge with her assistance at the piano. She soon took an active role in arranging three-part harmonies for us. The rest is history. I am very grateful to her for all that she has done with such devotion.

How many members do you have now?

The choir today comprises the following members. I mention them all by name firstly, to thank them publicly for their loyal effort and secondly, to enable anyone reading this who cares to join us, to get in touch with any one of them. Without the help of Gavriel Berger, Dan Dunkelblum, Eliot Dobin, Shimon Krausz, Menachem Malkosh, Bob Naimark, Stuart and Gavriel Smith and Ben Svetitsky, the An'im Z'mirot Choir would just be another unrealised dream.

You must be very satisfied with such success?

So far, so good. However, if this experiment turns out to only be a local, anglo-saxon immigrant phenomenon, then I will not have achieved my goal.

Which is?

If enough funds and/or interest is available, I would set up 2 similar choirs in every town in Israel. To achieve this, an umbrella organisation must be set up to offer the benefit of our experience and to act as a distribution point for music.

A last word.

Thanks are also due to those shuls which have joined us in this exciting experiment. Last but not least, thanks to my wife and children who have to put up with my constant preoccupation with this wonderfully satisfying communal activity.

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