Update 3: I have always loved the songs of Firday night, both from the Kabbalat Shabbat service, and from around my family’s Shabbat dinner table. After college I studied at Yakar in Jerusalem. The Kabbalat Shabbat service at Yakar is historic. Rabbi Doctor Michael Rosen, the founder of Yakar, decided he wanted to assist those with an interest in davening at Yakar by creating a compact disc of the music they use. While there I helped Reb Mickey create a CD liner with the complete text of the service and notes on the origins of the tunes. This CD is available from Yakar for a modest donation (I think they ask for something in the range of $10 which covers the cost of the CD). I also helped them create a second CD of the Seudat Shlishit service. This CD was unique in that we produced it with two tracks for songs with harmonies: one with the melody alone and one with the melody and harmony together. Our intention was to help listeners learn harmony and melody so they could choose which suited them best.
My experience at Yakar renewed my interest in the music of our tradition. I somehow got it into my head that it would be a lot of fun to someday collect these tunes in one place. You may have noticed the Tunes – לחנים page which has a placeholder for the future possibility of sharing some of these tunes so you can try them for yourself.
I’ve decided now is as good a time as any to start. I would like to start small and see how things go. I’ve decided to start with the prayers and songs that traditionally start off Shabbat dinner. I will soon post three tunes for Shalom Aleichem, a tune for Eyshet Chayil, and my favorite tune for Kiddush. I must warn you, however, that I am no David Broza. I hope to convince one of my oldest, dearest, closest friends, Jason McKinney, and my cousin, Heidi Maistelman, to assist me in this regard. Jason and Heidi are both extraordinary musicians. Jason is a classically trained opera singer and has performed for the first family at the White House, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York just to name a couple. Heidi is also a classically trained opera singer and has her masters in musical education from Northwestern (where she graduated Cum Laude). She is now in music education at a Jewish day school in Milwaukee. Oh… and they honored me by singing at my wedding.
The reason I think it is important to have both a male and female voice is it can be difficult to master a tune when sung far outside one’s own range. I hope having the option to hear a tune sung both ways will be useful to those listening. Until I’ve had a chance to convince Jason and Heidi to help me out, however, we’ll have to be OK with my voice.
One final note: After the first tunes go up, I’ll be asking for two things from those visiting this site. First, if you know of the origin of the tune I would love to give credit so please email me (ariel /at/ arielbenjamin /dot/ com) and let me know. Second, if you have a tune different from the tune I’ve posted and wouldn’t mind letting me add it to the site, I’d love to hear from you on that as well. Please don’t just send me a file of your recording. Please contact me by email and we can discuss the best method of transport. Thanks!