I enjoyed and empathized with “Cantor wanted: Must have a wonderful voice” (September 20). Until making aliyah nearly seven years ago, I had davened for over six decades in one of the large northwest London United Synagogues. Great importance was placed on the customs of nusah Anglia in which both the rabbi and hazan were well versed. Not just nusah – but every hag also came with its own package of melodies for “Yigdal”
in the evening service and Hallel in Shaharit. Different tunes were also sung on the three festivals and yamim nora’im for the taking out and putting back of the Torah scrolls.
In Israel, those extra frills do not exist, but correct nusah should still be fundamental to leading a service here as well. I do, however, feel that there is room for appropriate variation, and I actually disagree with Olivestone’s comments about the recent composition of “Ohila La’el.” The melody is not only beautiful but entirely in keeping with the meaning of the words, and I have – after some soul-searching – substituted this for the nusah recitative when leading services. The prayer is designed as a personal supplication of the hazan, but if the kehilla feels inspired to join in, I feel that this enhances the atmosphere of the occasion. There are, of course, three opportunities over the yamim nora’im to recite the prayer, so the traditional melody could be used for at least one of these.
I wish all my fellow shlihei tzibur a Shana Tova and strength to lead the services free from the first autumn sore throats! ALAN MAYS
I quite enjoyed David Olivestone’s piece. His descriptions of melodic High Holy Days bring me back to the yamim nora’im of my youth, where “cantor” was synonymous with these Days of Awe.
I made aliyah three years ago, and I still miss the pomp and cantorial melodies that characterized the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur experiences of my upbringing. While I am content to forgo the cantorial experience here in Israel to pray in the same synagogue as my loved ones, it is heartening that there are options and that the hazanut of old is revered by new generations.
JILL VIRAG SAMUELS