Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray
About Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray
Posts by Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray:
Cantor Debbie Katchko Gray would like to introduce you to a new piece for the High Holy Days 5780
The Danbury Music Centre is pleased to announce the Charles Ives Concert Series will present ‘Music by Jewish Composers’ at Congregation Shir Shalom in Ridgefield. The Series is dedicated to celebrating the legacy of Danbury’s own Charles Ives with performances of his music, today’s American music, and music that transcends the traditional boundaries of classical music to incorporate other styles. The Series is led by artistic director Paul Frucht and associate artistic director, Jon Cziner, both of whom are composers. Dr. Frucht a recent Juilliard graduate and Danbury native, is also the Centre’s new associate director, artistic planning and program development.
As part of a partnership with Congregation Shir Shalom, sponsored by Connecticut Family Orthopedics and Orthoprompt, ‘Music by Jewish Composers’ will take place on March 31st at 4:00 PM. The afternoon will feature violinist Avi Nagin, cellist Julian Schwarz, and pianist Marika Bournaki, all of whom are both familiar faces on the Ives Series and nationally recognized chamber musicians and soloists. Julian, in particular, is well-known in the community having been a soloist with the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra last season, playing the Elgar cello concerto alongside Paul Frucht’s Dawn. Julian, Marika, and Avi have performed on the Ives Series for several years. Julian and Marika having been particularly active promoting Jewish music, having collaborated with the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music on a program of the complete cello and piano works of Ernst Bloch.
The concert is free and open to the public, donations will be gratefully accepted at the door.
More information can be found here: http://danburymusiccentre.org/charles-ives-concert-series/
Funding for the Charles Ives Concert Series is generously provided in part by Connecticut Family Orthopedics and Orthoprompt, the Anna Maria and Stephen M. Kellen Foundation, William Frucht and Candace Ovesey, Peg Heetmann, and Joan and Steve Howard – a donor-advised fund of the U.S. Charitable Gift Trust.
Danbury Music Centre
The Charles Ives Concert Series
WHEN & WHERE: 3/31 at 4:00 PM at Congregation Shir Shalom in Ridgefield, 46 Peaceable Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877
Jan. 24 was the 18th of Shevat and the yartzeit of the date of remembrance of two individuals whose lives continue to bring meaning and lessons for me. They never met, but each one had a profound impact on our world and on our lives. Jan. 24 is the anniversary of the passing of Elie Wiesel’s father of blessed memory, Shlomo ben Eliezer Halevi Wiesel z”l, and my grandmother, Rachel Glicenstein Epstein, z”l.
My teacher and mentor of blessed memory, Professor Elie Wiesel spoke often of the impact of his beloved father, and the experiences they shared in the sweetness of childhood and the darkest of days in Auschwitz. His descriptions of his father in his now classic book, “Night,” are seared into our hearts. The love for his parents was literally enshrined in the magnificent Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University, where I spent many years soaking up words, stories, lessons, and kindness from my inspiring teacher and mentor.
Growing up in Stamford, my best friend and mentor was my grandmother. She came to this country in the l920s from East End London and never lost her English accent, or her love for all things British, including fine china and tea parties. She was a brilliant student and was offered a full scholarship to the London School of Economics to study German, but WWI broke out, and she could not attend. Her studies with Max Nordau, historian and the chief rabbi of the British Empire, Rabbi Hertz were tremendous sources of pride.
My grandfather was smitten with her as he trained to be in the Jewish Legion in 1917, stopping in England for training on the way to then Palestine. This highly educated woman left her beloved England with the passionate Jewish soldier who had helped Ben Gurion, Jabotinsky, Col. Patterson, and others secure Palestine against the Turks in 1917-1918. She arrived in Stamford and helped build the Jewish community.
I’ve always been so proud of my grandmother’s courage. She never drove a car, but managed to be president of countless organizations and helped found the Hebrew Ladies Educational League, which gave interest-free loans to poor Jewish immigrants and gave the seed monies to begin schools and organizations, such as the Bi-Cultural Day School, which I attended as a child. She was president and Sen. Joe Lieberman’s mother Marcia was treasurer. She worked all her life in her husband’s moving business, then the Stamford courts, and then volunteered for the Red Cross and Hadassah, earning the title Zionist of the Year.
When I hear the anti-Semitic hatred and bias against Zionism I often think of my gracious, brilliant and kind grandmother who helped so many people of all nations and races.
At this time, I remember the two individuals who helped shape my life — Elie Wiesel’s father and my grandmother Rae. Perhaps they are having a discussion over tea in heaven, hopefully not weeping over the state of our politics and bias, but dreaming of better days with hope and faith.
Celebrating Jewish Music All Year at Shir Shalom
Congregation Shir Shalom begins the new year 5779 with a calendar full of musical guests and specially themed services and programs. Spirit and Soul at Shir Shalom is a series of special musical services throughout the year
Celebrating the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah on Dec. 7th 6 pm, Mattan Klein, an Israeli jazz flutist will return for a special evening of jazzy Israeli and Hanukkah songs. On January 18th, the annual MLK Memorial Spirituals Shabbat will include the Serendipity Chorale with Gigi Van Dyke, conductor for the 16th year, and a new guest choir- the Keys Chorus, with Rob Silvan, director. The Keys program is a fabulous program in Bridgeport, CT that gives lessons and instruments to gifted students as well as opportunities to perform. Sharing spirituals with both choirs will be a unique experience, along with the community choir where anyone is welcome to join us that evening.
Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday was celebrated this year, and we are continuing the celebration with a musical Tribute to Leonard Bernstein on March 22 7:30 pm. Claire Simard, the Director of Wooster School’s Theater and Music program will be the guest artist along with our own Carrie Chanin, mezzo-soprano and Brian Besterman, pianist and arranger.
Jamie Bernstein, the daughter of Leonard Bernstein will be coming to discuss her book, Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein on Sunday, April 28th at 2 pm. The series concludes with an Israeli Celebration of Song with Shlomo Shai, accordion on May 17th 7:30 PM.
In keeping with supporting the arts in our community, Shir Shalom is hosting two classical concerts from the Danbury Music Centre on March 31 and June 2. Sundays at 3 pm.
Cantor Debbie will lead two folk community singalongs at the Ridgefield Library Sundays
Dec. 16th and Jan. 6th 3:30-5.
All the services and programs are open to the community. Members of the congregation are welcome to join the Adult Choir or participate as an instrumentalist. Please contact Cantor Katchko-Gray if interested. All programs are supported by donations and are free of charge. For more information please contact the temple office 203 438 6589. www.ourshirshalom.org
The ninth of Av, in Hebrew Tisha B’Av, has been a day of remembrance and mourning since 586 B.C.E. when the Babylonians destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and sent the Jews into exile. That day inspired the psalmist to write, “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1) Jews were permitted to return to Israel after the Babylonians were defeated to restore their homeland, but in 70 C.E. the Romans destroyed the Holy Temple and sent the Jews into exile yet again. This exile ended almost 2000 years later with the establishment of the State of Israel in l948. Whether by coincidence or tragic fate, the destruction of both temples occurred on the same date, the ninth of Av.
The Ninth of Av is a day that has taken on mythical and historical significance as a day of tragedy for the Jewish people. The Spanish Inquisition in l942 when the Jews were expelled from Spain occurred on Tisha B’Av. On the eve of Tisha B’Av the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka, concentration death camp.
As we remember the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem and the exile of Jews from Jerusalem, from Spain, and the incomprehensible tragedy of the Holocaust, we are strengthened by the mandate to resist the enemy and never give up in the face of our foes.
Today the State of Israel celebrates 70 years of rebirth since l948, and yet faces a nuclear and belligerent Iran who still threatens to destroy Israel, the Hamas terrorists who send rockets, missiles, and balloons filled with bombs to destroy and murder, and the failed leadership of the Palestinians who reject every single peace offer and still “pay to slay” rewarding terrorists for murdering Israelis. The BDS movement to boycott Israel economically is misguided and unethical. The tide is beginning to shift away from the hate, away from propaganda and Anti-Semitism. 16 US States, France, Spain have laws against BDS and so called activists are being turned away. Discrimination in the form of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel only is clearly immoral and racist. There is no BDS for Syria, Iran, Russia, North Korea or other countries supporting terror. The US Embassy finally moving to Jerusalem is a step in the right direction. Other countries are doing the same: Guatemala, Paraguay, with Czech Republic, Romania and Honduras considering it. In the face of all this, Israel remains a modern miracle, a beacon of light and hope. A source of never ending technology and science to cure disease and improve our lives.
For a country the size of New Jersey it is even more remarkable. There are 6000 startups currently in Israel! Countries are utilizing the technology of water conservation, solar hot water, computer innovations, and the Iron Dome rocket interception system. ReWalk, enables paraplegics to stand, walk and climb stairs; while a new robotic guidance system of spine surgery helps surgeons and patients. Nobel prizes abound from Israel, a tiny country with a tremendous brain power. If only Israel’s enemies sworn to destroy her put that hatred towards innovation and science, education and medicine, there would be less suffering and less ignorance. Arab states are now eager to form alliances to confront Iran and extremists. Israel recently won the Eurovision Song Contest and will host it next year.
Remembering our tragedies has strengthened our will to live, to create, to heal and to help the world.
On Tisha B’Av we remember the destruction of Jerusalem and welcome the rebirth of Israel, the return of the US Embassy and others to Jerusalem, and the modern miracle of a once exiled people returning to their homeland. The embrace of democracy and impressive scientific, cultural, and economic achievements are miraculous given the need for security against a barrage of hatred, wars and terror.
Israel is the model for hope against despair; creation against destruction and a yearning for peace above all.
Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray
January 30, 2018 by Deborah Katchko Gray
When I founded the Women Cantors’ Network in 1982, there were very few women who composed cantorial music. In fact, music often had to be adjusted for the voice of a woman cantor, sometimes even rewritten. But today, there are dozens of incredible women cantors who are composing for the synagogue. In the era of #MeToo, it is more important than ever that congregations #HearOurVoice and create spiritually safe places that respect women and use our work.
If you or your congregation is looking for more songs composed by women to sing, here is a list of amazing cantors whose work I regularly use in my own congregation. While it was difficult to narrow this down to seven (and my choices of course were purely subjective), I chose based off of melodies that really stick to your kishkes and bring the text to life. I also focused on cantors who have been composing for years; whose music is sung regularly in Reform, Renewal, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Congregations. But even as you read this, young composers are writing and their compositions will become the new “traditional” music in the future. There are dozens more composers whose work is worthy of attention, but hopefully this list can get you started.
Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller. As a professor of Cantorial Arts at Hebrew Union College (HUC) NYC, Benjie has inspired a new generation of cantors and exposed them to her passion for meaningful Jewish music. Choirs all over the world sing her “Halleluhu Psalm 150” and her new “Oseh Shalom” has been performed with orchestra and world class singers. Personally, I sing “May You Live to See Your World Fulfilled” at every B’nai Mitzvah and “Zeh Dodi” at every wedding. Benjie is also publishing a songbook in the near future—it belongs in every cantor’s library! Her CD, A World Fulfilled, is magnificent.
Cantor Natasha Hirschhorn. Natasha is the Music Director of Congregation Anshe Chesed in New York City and is part of the faculty both of HUC and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Her music is haunting and unusual. My congregation’s choir sings her rendition of “Oseh Shalom” during the High Holidays, and I believe that her “Yesh Adonai Bamakom Hazeh” (“G-d was in this place and I did not know”) has the power to cause a spiritual awakening every time it is sung.
Cantor Robbi Sherwin. Robbi is a force of nature—a unique mandolin playing cantor/rabbi who plays with the popular band, Sababa, and has been a leader in the Women Cantors’ Network. She and Marci Vitikus (also a member of the Women Cantors’ Network) co-wrote “Atah Kadosh,” which my congregation uses to complete the chanting aloud of the Amidah each week. Her “Maariv Aravim” and “Love Adonai Your G-d” are also both notable.
Cantor Rachelle Nelson. Rachelle is a composer of Jewish music from South Florida. She has created several songbooks and CDs and also runs In the Spirit Music Foundation, which encourages writing new inspirational Jewish liturgical music. She graduated in 1984 from HUC’s School of Sacred Music (now the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music). Her “Modim Anachnu Lach” is a Hebrew-English prayer of giving thanks that I use at my interfaith Thanksgiving services.
Beth Styles. Beth is a producer/composer/musician/vocalist and a popular Artist in Residence at synagogues. As a composer, her music is fresh and unusual, a mix of Jewish gospel flavored with deeply spiritual and lush melodies that stick to your kishkes. I met Beth in the 1980s when she produced my first CD, Jewish Soul. (She also produced for Diana Ross.) Years later, she is a frequent musical guest in my synagogue creating a “Shabbat Experience” that moves and inspires. I could list a dozen of her songs, but “Grateful,” “Light These Lights,” “Mi Sheberach,” “Shehecheyanu,” “Hashkivenu,” “Adonai S’fatai,” and “Shabbat Shalom” have now become “traditional” songs in my synagogue.
Cantor Lisa Levine. Lisa is a worship artist, songwriter, recording artist, and yoga prayer facilitator, who has been writing music for over 30 years. She created “Yoga Shalom,” combining Yoga and Jewish prayerful movement and worship. Her songbooks and CDs are numerous and well received, though I love her “Mi Sheberach” and “V’shamru” in particular. These tunes are essential parts of my Shabbat services, bringing an easy singing and soulful quality to song and worship.
Ellen Allard. Ellen is arguably the best known children’s composer and teacher around today. Her captivating energy and catchy tunes are classics in the preschool communities. “Holy Holiness” is one of those rare songs that can be perfect for three year olds, teenagers leading a service and/or any intergenerational group praying. The piece’s simple repetition of beautiful lyrics, like the phrase, “All around everywhere, holy holiness,” is transformative. “I feel like an angel,” said one young boy after singing this work. That’s what I hope to create in a service—a sense of holy transcendence, a feeling that is uplifting and peaceful. “Holy Holiness” does that every time!
Want more music written by women? The Women Cantors’ Network is soon publishing a new songbook that will shed light on many known and unknown composers.