In the summertime, New York City has so many outdoor musical performances. Day, night, evening, morning, you name it and there always seems to be some kind of music. Pop, rock and roll, classical, jazz, ethnic, experimental, and so on. This is certainly something I love about my hometown: music galore. Often the shows are free, so if you stop by and listen in on a band or performer with whom you are unfamiliar, and you enjoy the sound, then your efforts have been rewarded. If you don't like them, you move on.

I went to the fabled Lincoln Center, specifically to the Damrosch Park Bandshell, to see an evening of performances in the Lincoln Center Out of Doors series. The first act was a large gospel choir. A few of the songs were absolutely stirring, beautiful group efforts. They touched upon religious themes, and particularly echoed some Old Testament names and such. I happen to enjoy that kind of gospel music, even though it is particularly identified with the Baptist Christian denomination. Then some of the other songs were not quite as interesting to me. Those were the more modern ballad-like numbers.

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But those old-style group gospel songs, with multiple parts, are very touching to me. They sound so vibrant, and they often harken to Jewish themes and personalities. And as I listened to these songs, I realized that they are like Goyische Hazzanut. Will someone find that offensive, or do you understand what I am getting at?


I happen to adore old-school hazzanut. I truly enjoy listening to old recordings of fabled hazzanim and their songs, especially for the High Holidays, but Shabbat prayers and others as well. I like when there are choirs that sang along with the big names such as Yossele Rosenblatt, Richard Tucker, Koussevitzky and others. Their chanting, their wordless vocalizations, the high emotional pull and the call-and-response are not only found in Jewish music but in much Christian gospel music as well.

In the case of old hazzanut recordings, we sometimes hear chilling pipe organ music in the background. Sometimes you hear that in gospel recordings, but they also feature piano, drums, guitar, tambourines and much more. And there is much more hand clapping that goes on in gospel music.

If you are a true scholar of music, or would like to listen to some different kinds of music and make comparisons, I recommend that you give a listen to some gospel music. I realize you might be uncomfortable about this, but it will be a learning experience and make your appreciation of Jewish music even richer.


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