In Featured at HBT, music

By Cantor Benjamin Maissner.

Haggadah, literally means telling. This ritual and story-telling of the Exodus from Egyptian slavery is contained in a special book used at the Passover Seder service. We are commanded in the Torah (Ex. 13:8) “V’higadeta l’vanecha”; And thou shall tell your children on this day”.

The Haggadah as we know it today with its varied and colourful literature developed from about c.e. 200 to approximately the sixteenth century. In its development, the Haggadah provided us with a fixed set of instructions about the order of the service as well as with a rich oral tradition. In almost every Jewish home even in the most marginally observant household, the very basic Passover tradition is rendered with songs of this season. Chanting and singing the text of the Haggadah is generally observed in all Jewish communities, each one according to its own peculiar style and tradition.

Traditionally, the Haggadah does not have to be chanted. It is in a different category than all other scriptures which are rendered in chant. Yet the Haggadah text is full of opportunities for solo chant as well as responsorial and community singing. The melodic recitations are very similar to the simpler form of Synagogue chant: The Ashkenazi prayer mode called – Adonai Malach, while oriental Jews employ their T’fila mode. The narrative and didactic sections, if presented with knowledge and skillfulness balances out the more melodious recitation of songs of praise and Psalms, called Halle.

In the Talmud we are told that singing Hallel “cracks the ceiling” from the enthusiasm of the participants. The medieval poetry and songs which make up the conclusion of the Haggadah are sung in variable tunes in different styles. Here each family, each community and household constitutes unexplored treasurers and folklore.

Our CD and booklet “Songs of Haggadah” available through Holy Blossom Temple (416-789-3291, ext. 224) provides a guide to the musical tradition and can be used as tools for preparation of the Seder, as well as during the actual celebration of the Festival. You can also log onto the website of the Atlantic Florida University Musical Archives  Each song, tenderly arranged, recorded and notated exemplifies a different style, representing the best of our familiar Passover Tradition. Many of the songs follow the traditional chant: Kiddush, Birkat Hamazon. Others follow Hassidic East European sounds and fervor: V’nomar l’fanav, Kol rinah, ‘Ma l’cha hayam, (from Hallel). The Sephardic song is represented in the renditions of: Ha Lachma and Kadesh Urchatz, as well as in the conclusion of the Seder: Chasal Sidur Pesah. The songs reserved for the end of the Seder are the “fun songs”, the songs we wait a full calendar year to intone again: Adir Hu, Echad Mi Yodeah and Chad Gadyah. These texts are sung to metrical melodies in typically folksong style.

Hag Sameach, Moadim L’Simchah

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