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Melodies for Shabbat

Introduction

The essence of prayer is kavannah, inner engagement, attention, concentration. There are many ways of developing this in ourselves, - silence, meditation, mindfulness. But perhaps the readiest and the most popular is music. The music of the prayers connects us to each other, transforming us into a community singing together, and also links us with our inner selves.

It's therefore important on many levels that we develop our music as a congregation. This new series of sound files is intended for us all, to give us confidence in participating in prayer, and to enrich the repertoire of familiar melodies. Please listen, and please join in during the service!

Click here
to access the SoundCloud library. Check back periodically for new updates as we plan to add more recordings as we build our library of melodies for different sections of the liturgy.


El Adon

Click here for one melody, and click here for another.

This piyyut (liturgical poem) is an acrostic with a tidy metrical structure which can be sung to many different tunes. Notice the theme of light, appropriate enough as we’ve just blessed God who is - “yotzer or” “Creator of light”. There are references to the angels and the Divine Chariot - again, a foreshadowing of the assertion of Divine oneness, coming up in the fragments of the Kedusha (“kadosh, kadosh, kadosh”) coming up ahead, and then of course, in the Shema itself.


Nishmat Kol Chai

Click here for the melody

This isn’t really a melody, but it’s recognisably melodic, and it announces a shift in the service. Prior to this we’ve been saying Pesukei DeZimra - Verses of Praise. There has been mostly private prayer, and the mood has been contemplative. Now we’re moving towards Shacharit proper, and the tone is more assertive. Suddenly, with Nishmat, the universe wakes up as “the breath of every living being” swells into a wave of praise for our Creator.


Yishtabach

Click here for the melody

Using the same melodic mode as Nishmat, Yishtabach closes the Pesukei DeZimra (Verses of Praise) and marks the threshold to the blessings preceeding the Shema. This final paragraph features fifteen different terms which all refer to “praising God” which summarise what we’ve been doing up till now. Listen out for the short visit into the major key - the famed Yishtabach manoeuvre!