In Vancouver, I’ve been leading sacred Hebrew chanting events since 2004. In Eastern Canada, it’s pretty new. The last time and this time I’ve come to Ottawa for family visits, I’ve had chances to bring the joy and magic of chant to local audiences.
Thanks to organizing by Joel Yan, I joined with members of his Ottawa Simcha Band to present a chant evening Monday at the Jewish Community Centre, and again this morning with a seniors group at the JCC led by Merle Haltrecht. The wonderful musicians with Joel included Aditi Magdalena, Steve Shapransky and Elie Goldman Smith.
I’ve chanted on five continents and it’s always a beautiful experience. Each chant is a short phrase of sacred text, with a lovely melody and a deep kavanah (spiritual intention). And then repeated for about seven to 10 minutes. I told the participants in Ottawa that if it seems like it will never end, pause, take a breath or two, and dive back in.
Monday night’s program was similar to our evenings in Vancouver. We opened with my new favourite chant – one of my teacher Rabbi Shefa Gold’s many compositions for Modah Ani, the first prayer we say upon awakening, a prayer of gratitude for being alive. We included my chant for Ahava Raba Ahavtanu, A Great Love, and concluded with a Sephardic melody from northern Greece for Kadesh Urchatz that Charles Kaplan of Chanting & Chocolate discovered. Here are earlier recordings of the program’s chants.
After a first Seder Friday evening, I return to Vancouver in time for the April Chanting & Chocolate on Sunday. That’s 7:30-9 pm at or Shalom, 10th and Fraser. I’m baking gluten-free, kosher-for-Passover triple-chocolate brownies that promise to be yummy. Coming up is a special healing chant on May 22 – stay tuned for details.