Anyone who has tried singing with a live band on Zoom during the pandemic knows how chaotic and deeply unsatisfying such an experience could be.
Zoom just wasn’t made for that. As much of Jewish communal life resumes in person, many are excited to raise their voices together in song again — and in the same key and tempo. On October 30, Joey Weisenberg will provide a unique opportunity to do so when he visits the Bay Area to teach a workshop and give a concert at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco.
“A giant of contemporary Jewish music,” in the words of Cantor Toby Glaser of Sherith Israel, Weisenberg will share techniques for creating singing spaces, harmonizing, finding rhythm and cultivating silence. A program presented by local cantors and a concert involving Weisenberg, choirs from local synagogues and workshop participants will follow. All events will be in person only.
“Since community life has been disrupted by the pandemic, I have gained a much deeper appreciation for the preciousness of every musical moment,” Weisenberg, 40, wrote in an email to J. “More than any another thing, I’m just thrilled to be a part of the beautiful spiritual soundscape we’re creating together!
Weisenberg is the founder of the Philadelphia-based company Institute of rising song, which promotes Jewish spiritual life through music. (This is a program of the Hadar Institute, an egalitarian educational institution in New York.) He has conducted vocal workshops around the world, and he said the Sherith Israel program is for Jewish professionals and secular leaders, musicians and “anyone who wants to transform their local musical culture.
Glaser told J. that he attended one of Weisenberg’s workshops in New York a few years ago and was “blown away” by the experience.
“His teaching is truly grounded in Jewish thought, philosophy and scholarship,” Glaser said. “He really uses a lot of text, whether it’s from the Torah or the Talmud, to emphasize how the melody affects us on a Jewish level.”
Unlike the Reform tradition of Jewish music, which is grounded in American folk music (think Debbie Friedman), Weisenberg works with melodies based on Jewish liturgical music, Glaser said. “It’s a different style from a lot of popular Jewish music that’s been written,” he said.
FROM 2016: Singing with Joey: The Power of Prayer in Community Melodies
With its massive dome and evocative stained glass windows, the Shrine of Sherith Israel is a great place to “go transcendental” with music, Glaser said. Temple Isaiah in Lafayette and Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael are co-sponsoring the events.
The author of “Building Song Communities: A Practical Guide to Unleashing the Power of Music in Jewish Prayer” and “The Torah of Music”, Weisenberg plays several instruments and composes new nigguns, or wordless melodies. His last album, “Leila,” dropped earlier this year.
He said he looked forward to working with as many Jewish music lovers as possible.
“The more people present, the richer the sounds, the deeper the conversation, the more uplifting the experience,” he said. “And hopefully this will just be the start of a much longer journey into collective song.”