At our Passover seder, we really ask an implied fifth question: On all other evenings and mornings at synagogue services, we strive for musical uniformity.
The "old timers" want the "traditional melodies," despite the contemporary melodies that our kids bring back from Jewish camps, and college Hillel and Chabad services.
Yet on Passover, we both accept and actually welcome musical diversity.
In many homes, the traditional texts are sung multiple times to a variety of melodies from throughout the Jewish world.
Here are a few of the newer tunes for both traditional Haggadah texts and for original lyrics that were written in recent years that have been embraced by the American-Jewish community:
· "Miriam's Song," by Debbie Friedman. Written in 1989 by the pre-eminent American Jewish composer and singer, this appears on the album "And You Shall Be a Blessing." It is based on verses 20 and 21 of Exodus, Chapter 15, the Song of Moses at the Sea of Reeds. It has become an anthem for women's seders. During one
I recently attended, more than 200 women of all ages danced around the room as they sang "Miriam's Song" while banging tambourines in celebration of their Jewish identities.
· "Dayenu," arranged by Laurence Juber and Craig Taubman, is a reworking of the traditional melody set to a hard-edged rock rhythm. Craig Taubman, a well-known California-based singer and composer, has added the Hebrew words for love, brotherhood, peace and friendship to the list of God's blessings for the Jewish people.
· "When You Believe," by Stephen Schwartz. Before writing Broadway's "Wicked," Schwartz penned the words and music to the animated film "The Prince of Egypt," which has become a part of a number of Jewish families' CD and DVD collections.
This hopeful song is sung by the Israelites as they are leaving Egypt.
Here is a list of Passover CDs for your music library:
· "Celebrate Passover" is a Taubman compilation of New Age Passover music.
· "The Passover Lounge," a collection of "outrageous instrumentals and eclectic laid back grooves," is also by Taubman, who released this decidedly unusual album of the traditional Pesach songs set in decidedly untraditional styles.
· "Let My People Go: A Jewish and African-American Celebration of Freedom." This excellent collection of melodies and spirituals roughly follows the traditional seder liturgical order. The eternal and ageless Pete Seeger is a participant on this wonderful album.
In December, I met Fred Hellerman, a founding member of the original Weavers. He told me that back in 1963, he'd written a song called "A Man Come Into Egypt," which was a major hit for the group "Peter, Paul & Mary."
This old favorite is found on the album, which in its entirety makes an excellent addition to Passover celebrations.