Music for Jewish weddings

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    Elizabeth Ahlgrim on #144993

    I am playing at

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #144994

    Sunita Staneslow has published several books of Jewish wedding music, and also her other books of harp solos have some wonderful Jewish and particularly Ladino pieces. Her books are well laid-out, too, with good page turns and legible print, and not too difficult, so that you can throw together a program quickly.

    amy-walts on #144995

    Be sure and check out the arrangements for intermediate pedal harp by Barbara and Joe Dechario (Timeless Jewish Songs Vols. 1 & 2, and Three Hassidic Songs Without Words). They are generally available from Melody’s Traditional Music amongst other places, and they are also available on CD if you are unfamiliar with the tunes and would like to hear them as they should be done. In many cases, they are arranged for harp or piano with voice/melody instruments, but can be adapted for solo harp. Martha Rock Birnbaum also provides translations and IPA (phoenetic) lyrics. Excellent and lovely arrangements by two outstanding musicians, including some lovely pieces for weddings. If you can’t locate all the CD’s or music, they can also be purchased off Barbara’s website (

    amy-walts on #144996

    Just a note on Sunita’s music… very useful stuff but I have had a rabbi and some Jewish friends question why a couple of the particular pieces were in Sunita’s book of wedding music (they didn’t see the songs’ connection to weddings, and not being Jewish myself, I really couldn’t specifically answer them), so be sure and double check your selections with the rabbi in question for appropriateness/relevance. I suppose tradition varies by region and interpretation. As with all faiths, the officiants would much rather field questions from the musicians in advance than have surprises on the day, and it’s so much more comfortable being confident in your selections! Good luck!

    diane-michaels on #144997

    Just a quick run down of a few of the tunes that come up on many of the Jewish jobs:


    unknown-user on #144998

    Diane has a good list. Some of those are published. There is a collection with Erev Ba, Dodi Li and Erev Shel Shoshanim together. Another one is called By the Shores of Kinneret. There are additional Klezmer-style tunes you can find in Klezmer collections. Sunita’s arrangements may be too easy for a professional gig. Dewey Owens has a collection also, that was carefully chosen with Jewish advisors.

    unknown-user on #144999


    This is Sunita speaking, although it isn’t my email and it is a little bit after the discussion, but I thought that I’d clear up a few things.

    I selected all

    unknown-user on #145000

    What I have had is the most surprising last-minute changes coming from the rabbi. Rabbis are not necessarily well-trained in music, as are cantors, so you may need advice from more than one source. Klezmer music is another source for tunes, especially recessional and after. Simon Tov is indeed awkward with all those repeated notes in the melody. One solution is to play them as alternating octaves like in d minor: 414 (ddd)2(a)414 (ddd) with the fifth thrown in; use that as a pattern for the melody as it moves upward. Mazel Tov adf a-a-g#-a fed works better and they can be played in sequence, so you only have to do Simon Tov once.

    unknown-user on #145001

    I think your work is pioneering, Sunita, and it would help me to use your books if you considered going both directions, and have a very bare-bones version of a song on the left page, and one more fully worked-out on the right page. It helps to have ideas of how to develop a song stylistically, especially if it is Sephardic, and then I could write out my ideas on the sparer page. One thing that would help in terms of lighting is to have the notes bigger or all the printing more bold. I would also appreciate a blurb describing the use and tradition behind a song, because it is so easy to pick the wrong one for the situation, especially if you don’t know Hebrew or Yiddish, or that an Ashekenazi family or a Lubavitch family would never use such-and-such, where a cosmopolitan family or Sephardic family would. Or Orthodox vs. Reform, Reconstructionist, Secular Humanist (no G-d words), etc. We’re so complicated.

    amy-walts on #145002

    I agree with Saul that any information about the songs’ usage and context would be FABULOUS! It would help harpists who are less familiar with Jewish repertoire make much more educated suggestions to brides. I’m sometimes embarrassingly at a loss for giving them options and I am concerned about inadvertently choosing inappropriate selections. Keep those lovely arrangements and suggestions coming, Sunita! We need you! 🙂

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