We are moving in a new musical direction within the congregation and are inviting you to participate in our musical future. Two decades ago, our congregation went through a music transition. We went from a professional quartet and organist at every Shabbat service, to a compromise that included different musicians on different Erev Shabbat services. There are some practical aspects to consider. First, we lost two of the regular musical offerings (Charlene and Hazemir). Secondly, the dwindling membership we have experienced during the last 15 years, and the consequent drop in Friday night attendance, has made the large sanctuary an unfitting worship space for small groups. The Goldstine Chapel has proved to be more suitable for the congregation we are now, yet a professional choir with organ is no longer fitting for such smaller worship space. In sum, over the last few years, the compromise model has broken down and its usefulness vanished.
In considering any changes, it was important for me to know where our music taste will be in the next ten years –and not only where it has been. During the last four years as your rabbi, I have had several opportunities to talk to congregants, to discuss it at the Ritual Committee meetings, and to assess the preferences of those who attend Shabbat services regularly. All the evidence has told me that a collaborative, participatory, and integrated model of music and tefillah (prayer) is one that will inspire those who join us on Shabbat and holidays. That is our goal.
To find the right individual to achieve that goal, the Ritual Committee and I, in consultation with the entire Board, developed a new pilot position to help us move forward. From September of this year, until May of next year, Suellen Kipp will fill the position of Music Specialist. The Music Specialist will serve as an integral member of our synagogue team and will be responsible for supporting the liturgical music needs for our congregation. Suellen will be our Erev Shabbat keyboardist on a regular basis. Suellen is a talented musician who comes to us with experience in working with non-professional singers and musicians, both at churches and schools. In addition to Suellen, we will still have our beloved “Greenbergs” as well as the occasional visiting musicians local and regional.
Having a regular music specialist on staff, will help us expand our congregants’ own role in creating music. This is a formal invitation to anyone with a love for music and a gift for creating it - vocal or instrumental - to join us in bringing joy and meaning to our weekly Shabbat tefillah experience. If you play an instrument - if you sing - we invite you to volunteer and join with us in the coming months, to discover what "sound" CAV might create to lift our Shabbat celebrations even higher (just contact me directly, and we’ll get together with Suellen).
For the rest of you who might not be performance-oriented, you have an equally important role during this pilot year: be present! Come with enthusiasm to our Shabbat services, join in all of the musical elements of our tefillah, and let us know what you experience.
I look forward to the music we share, the tefillah that inspires, and the moments of holiness we create when we join together in creative, joyful prayer.