Jewish Holiday Music Playlist


Music for Jewish Holidays

Great songs from the new album Poetica to consider for any specialty airplay around the Jewish High Holidays. Rachael Sage, a descendent of the Baal Shem Tov, provides comments below on the relevance of these chosen songs.

  • Artist: Poetica
  • Playlist: Music for Jewish Holidays
  • Album: Poetica
  • Label: M Press
  • Release Date: Oct 22, 2021
  • Formats: Americana, AAA, Noncomm, Folk, Jazz
  • More details are online here.

Jewish High Holidays 2021

  • Rosh Hashanah: Sep 6-8
  • Yom Kippur: Sep 15-16
  • Sukkot: Sep 20-27
  • Simchat Torah: Sep 27-29

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    We – Dave Eggar and I – picked this poem, because it had a mournful, funereal quality to it and it felt in a way, like a kind of kaddish (prayer for the dead)…As we learned of thousands and eventually hundreds of thousands of people all over the world lost to the pandemic, the emotional weight became so inconceivable that many simply became numb, watching the news. But eventually, nearly everyone was touched directly and had lost a loved-one, including myself. So in arranging this piece we tried to honor the memories of loved-ones who passed over the last year and a half, instilling into the track the compound loss of so many who were unable to go comfort those who were sick or to have traditional memorials, whether at synagogues or other places of worship.


    This particular piece is kind of my version of Patti Smith-meets-Joan Jett. The title of the poem is taken from the English translation of how the Jewish High Holiday period is described, and is a metaphor that relates atonement to behaving rashly and selfishly within a romantic relationship. In Judaism – and most religions – of course there is a time, a season, for virtually every ritual and myriad laws for how to treat loved-ones with kindness and compassion. The poem describes someone being accountable and remorseful for their misguided actions, while highlighting their own lack of faith in ‘karma’. The duality of pain revealing truth and misdeeds garnering perspective are prominent Jewish themes, especially during Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah when we seek a clean slate after repenting. Cynical lines like “I’ve seen too many mensches suffer / while the shlemiels won the prize” give way to self-awareness, and the kind of mindfulness for which one strives during “Days Of Awe”. 
    In many ways this poem seemed to reflect the unprecedented times we are in, where at every turn we are faced with opportunities to either uplift or alienate one another…to connect or divide. The electric guitar on this track feels raw and even a bit aggressive, but the strings add more of a thoughtful polish to the devolving chaos, which seemed to work well with the duality contained in the language.


    I was very fortunate to be able to recruit renowned klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer to perform on this track! He is so soulful and absolutely steeped in Old World Jewish music that from the first note he plays, it’s impossible not to feel a certain sacred, Eastern European soulful quality in his performance. It felt like a very appropriate choice of instrumentation because the piece chronicles a broken bond, and the tragic, intractable lover whose ‘engagement’ has been severed, and whose unbridled passion continues to burn, however unrequited.


    This poem was written several years ago but it felt especially relevant this past year, which of course, is the incredible thing about poetry and how it can be reinterpreted. The piece describes the challenges of channeling one’s awareness of world events and human suffering into something as seemingly trivial as a ‘gig’, let alone a gig on Shabbat. The show becomes a kind of temple, the stage a pulpit, and the audience a congregation. Music becomes the source of light and hope for those who’ve made the effort to gather together and to receive comfort through catharsis, and for the subject of the poem, there is no choice but to be grateful for community, and for the opportunity to instill hope through artistry.


    A Father’s Nachus is a tribute to that timeless Jewish term describing the pride one loved-one feels in the accomplishments or qualities of another. Typically, parents feel ‘nachus’ for their children and in this piece a child flips that paradigm, describing the pride and “rachmanus” (joyful compassion) they feel for their beloved father, who though frequently away, nonetheless manages to be an exceptionally loving and emotionally present parent and mentor. By the end of the piece it is clear that both father and child share equal amounts of ‘nachus’ for each other, and that the elder generation has blessed the younger with with deep seated values, with learning, and most importantly, with unconditional love and acceptance.

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