Songbook is music to the ears of Reform

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

The Reform movement has launched what is thought to be the first major new collection of synagogue music published in the UK for nearly a century.
Shirei Ha-t'fillah ("Songs of Prayer"), a compilation of sheet music and explanatory articles, was produced by Cantor Zoe Jacobs of Finchley Reform Synagogue and Rabbi Sybil Sheridan of Wimbledon Synagogue.

According to Cantor Jacobs, the last major work of Jewish liturgical music published in the UK was The Voice of Prayer and Prayer in 1914, commonly known as the Blue Book.

"The Reform movement has tried to create a resource to support communities making choices based on a real knowledge of Jewish music," she said.

The book features a range of styles - it's "a real mixture" - with contributions from Israel and America as well as from British composers such as Judith Silver, Dean Stake, Alexander Massey and Rebekka Wedell.

Another contributor is British-born Danny Maseng from the USA, who has regularly appeared at the Limmud conference.

‘Providing a new set of liturgy was going to be a challenge’

When the Reform movement brought out its new siddur three years ago, Cantor Jacobs explained, it reintroduced many traditional prayers that had not been used for many years by the movement. The question then arose of what music to choose for the new material.

"Music is what holds our services together," she said, "and providing a whole new set of liturgy was going to prove a challenge to the communities. There needs to be a synergy between text and music. For each text, we have given multiple options."

    Last updated: 2:56pm, July 14 2011