Musician Charlie Kramer Hosts Virtual ‘Singing in the Dark’

Participants will actually see each other on Zoom first, before turning off their videos and then lying on the floor for the 45-minute experience.

Musician Charlie Kramer.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Musician Charlie Kramer.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If you’re looking for a way to soothe your soul during these pandemic times, look no further than the acoustic guitar sounds and Jewish melodies of Los Angeles-based musician and song leader Charlie Kramer.
Just over two years ago, the 27-year-old created ‘Singing in the Dark.’ The group program combines spiritual Jewish melodies with mindful meditation and requires participants to be blindfolded. On January 23, Kramer will host the first  ‘Singing in the Dark’ program since the start of the pandemic on Zoom.
Why the blindfolds? Because Kramer himself is legally blind. Diagnosed at the age of five with retinitis pigmentosa, the genetic condition (which both his mother and his sister suffer from), gradually chipped away at his sight over the next 10 years. Today, Kramer has no peripheral vision and has zero vision in the dark.
“I’ve always wanted to create a really connected singing circle community,” Kramer told The Jerusalem Post. “I really believe in the power of group singing. The point is that you bring people to this container where they can recognize the thing that is causing them pain can be a great source of healing and joy.” It’s why  Kramer also shares his own blindness story during these sessions.
Aside from being the musician in residence at Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Kramer has been involved with WBT’s Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Summer Camp most of his life,  where he was a song leader  and is now also Gindling’s music director.  He credits Rabbi and Cantor Alison Wissot at his childhood Reform synagogue Temple Judea, for nurturing his love for Jewish spiritual music in the 7th grade, after she discovered he played the guitar. And being blind never stopped him from following his dream.
“I’ve never really lived my life saying ‘I’m going to do this because I can’t do that,’ or  ‘I’m going to play guitar because I can’t play baseball.’ I just go with whatever feels good in front of me. And I played music because I loved music.”
However, he added, “Later on, there was definitely a connecting moment when it came to ‘Singing in the Dark.’ For the longest time I was actually hiding the fact that I was blind.
I  didn’t want to be the blind musician. I didn’t want to be the blind spiritual leader, but the funny thing is that is who I am. That’s a part of my journey and a part of my story.”
It’s why, he said, ‘Singing in the Dark’ finally came together “when I realized that it’s actually beautiful to be exactly who I am. A big portion of ‘Singing in the Dark’ is me taking people through a spiritual journey where they’re able to tap into what they are going through and what they try to hide from or what they’re blind to.”
Kramer uses a combination of his own songs and melodies and those of some of his greatest mentors and Jewish spiritual music heroes. They include Debbie Friedman – “the matriarch of all song leaders,” Dan Nichols and Rick Recht, both of whom, Kramer said, are “huge mentors to me.”  
The seeds for “Singing the Dark’ were initially planted when Kramer went on a trip to Israel in 9th grade where he participated in a program in Tel Aviv called ‘Dialogue in the Dark.’ Later on he attended a ‘Dining in the Dark’ event. Like those events, Kramer said, “I wanted there to be some sort of entry point that drops people into the moment immediately.” Blindfolding them, achieved that, he said. “They become completely focused within two minutes. They aren’t thinking about what’s on their cellphones and they’re not focused on what’s happening outside. And they feel safe because they can’t see anyone when they’re singing. It’s always a powerful transformational shift of consciousness.”
With the January 23 event, Kramer has had to pivot thanks to the pandemic  by pre-recording the  music with his band “in a non-produced kind of way so it has a live aspect to it and I’m going to be singing along live.”
Participants will actually see each other on Zoom first, before turning off their videos and then lying on the floor for the 45-minute experience, “because it’s one of the most restful states and it also allows you to be near your computer but not sitting at it so you can avoid distractions like emails and texts and notifications,” Kramer said.
The event, he stressed, is “much more about the internal, personal experience. It’s important to take time to stop working, stop watching Netflix and spend time getting to know yourself.” Not having sight – even for a short time – he said is important, because “we can’t see who is the Person of Color, who is the person in a wheelchair. All we hear is their voices and that’s a really big aspect of what Singing in the Dark is all about.”
‘Singing in the Dark’ will take place on Jan. 23 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time. You can register for the free event at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/singing-in-the-dark-tickets-133021762673


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