I was invited to sit in with the Havurah Hakafah Orchestra -- basically a pickup band of Havurah musicians and their friends who play around town -- as a rhythm guitarist. Being a sideman is how I got started as a professional musician and I always enjoy returning to my sideman roots. Just show up, read the charts -- or, if there are no charts, watch the piano player's hands to figure out the changes -- and swing the crap out of everything. I got to play with some awesomely talented folks and we had a blast!
You can check out an evidence video here:
Next week, I head to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin for my first Shabbat Shira -- basically a grown-up and more intimate version of the famous (and overcrowded) Hava Nashira songleaders' workshop. I look forward to learning, singing, meeting my fellow Jewish musicians and poets, and bringing home some new music to share.
Immediately after that, I head to Madison where I'll be a Scholar-In-Residence at Temple beth El, Madison's Reform congregation. We'll explore the poewr of personal story and look at how our individual stories can help a community create a bigger story -- and take their place in the chain of Jewish story and commentary. I am very excited about this and look forward to hearing some wonderful stories from this community.
I will arrive in madison a few days ahead of my Shabbaton with Temple Beth El, so if you know the city and want to recommend a coffeehouse in Madison with an open mic night, shoot me a message in the comments below!
Fall has come to Oregon. The leaves are coming down quickly with the rain and wind. Before I head out of town I'll spend some time in our vegetable garden, pulling out the tomato cages, laying down cardboard, compost and leaves and putting the beds to bed for the winter. Doing this gives the garden time to rest, and nutrients from the compost will work their way into the soil for another planting season next spring.
It's like that with music, too.
I will spend a fair amount of time traveling this winter, to be sure; but in between travels I'll be at home, writing music and planning my next studio project, which I hope to begin raising funds for in early 2017.
Stay tuned for more info on how you can be involved in this project!
Last night, on Simchat Torah, I joined Jews around the world in re-committing to Torah -- to studying and teaching and helping to add more commentary to our peoples' foundation story. It's often a difficult story. There are parts that we don't like to discuss, let alone look at. But if we are to be true to ourselves and our place in the world, we have to look at the hard parts, too; and support each other in the looking.
So I commit myself for another year of looking, searching, wrestling. We glean important information from Torah, not only history but also ethics, the way we ought to live in the world so that we contribute goodness, justice and kindness -- so we leave the place better than we found it in some way large or small.
"Turn it over and over," we are taught, "for everything is in it."
So I will do my part and help turn it over.
Torah is a big part of why I do Jewish music, why I stubbornly try to write songs that are inspired by Jewish thought and history and ethics. There's something there in that gold mine, a deep vein that I want to learn more from. I'm not done yet. I hope I won't be done for a long time to come.
The High Holy Days conclude with these fall festivals of Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Now, we prepare for the winter.
We stack firewood, put on sweaters, and put up big batches of soup to keep our tummies warm. (If you live in Florida your version of winter will look different; but here, just north of the 45th Parallel, winter really is winter and this is what we do.) The flannel sheets go on the bed and we snuggle down tight under a mountain of blankets against the cold rain and wind that will come down for the next six to seven months. And we gather our loved ones together and celebrate the warmth and light we give to each other.
If you're in any of the cities I'll visit this year, please come to a service of concert and say hello!
May the coming winter be thoughtful and may you hold your loved ones close and dear.
(Below: A kids' song I wrote a zillion years ago. Seems appropriate for this time of year. Enjoy!)