Friday, February 20, 2009

1st Time Chanting for Services

It was awesome. Freakin' awesome. I helped to do Friday evening services at my synagogue. I did the chanting. Amazing.

I was nervous, of course. I *should* be, you know? It's worthy of a few butterflies.

So I met with Diane S., who leads lay services occassionally. She says she winds up doing it like three or four times a year. Her usual co-host just lost her husband, and so was not up to singing, though she was there. Diane and I went through the service, as she usually does it.

Me: Oh, Shabbat Evening II... yeah I like that one better than I. (flip, flip, flip)

I notice that she *doesn't* do the Hatzi Kaddish. Gulp. I *just* wrote a friend about how psyched I was to do this particular prayer, since I recently learned it's very not kosher to do it alone.

Diane: Just let me know if you want to take anything out or put anything in.

Me: (!) Oh yes.

So, we added the Hatzi Kaddish to the begining, and continued through what the service would be, checking to see if I knew the tunes to various prayers. Yep, know that one. Ooo, we should just read that one in English, 'cause I have no idea. Yup. Cool. Cool. Chant Oseh Shalom instead of wrapping up with it? How about ending with Ein Keloheinu? 'Kay?

People start to come in. My hand is sweating, holding the prayerbook. We sit down. I feel like it's NEVER going to start. I wonder if Diane has lost all sense of time. It feels like the first time I ever smoked pot and I thought that an hour had passed in the space of three minutes. I tell myself to chill and just be. "Moses and the bush," I remind myself.

Be. Look up. Don't look at the faces of the people who are looking right at you, wondering when the hell the service is going to start. Resist the urge to ask Diane again if the woman doing the candle lighting knows when to come up. Breathe. OMG Diane's never going to ... oh, she's ready.

Diane has to gesture to me to get me out of my seat. My facial expression is probably "oh right!" We start. Breathe.

First a lively "hine matov" and then, the long awaited Hatzi Kaddish, right there.

Diane is chanting with me. Mind you she's not the most... musical. I step back slightly, and start in, wobbling slightly. I realize, about ten words in, that no one else is with me. I am doing a solo, not entirely abnormal for this prayer, but still slightly shocking. I get to the line where the crowd should join in, nervous and waiting for the sound. They're there, including the guy who always wears suspenders and is basically his own horn section. He pronounces everything with an S, in the Ashkenazi style. He's on it. I'm golden. Line is over and I'm back to the rest of the prayer. A voice in my head says, go for it. I let it rip, just like I used to before I was cognizant of the practice of chanting it publicly on purpose. I screw my face up, I bend my knees, I sway and I clear my lungs of air.

Nailed it.

And *that* was when it became Just Fine that I was going to be doing the chanting tonight.

The rest of it was awesome. With Diane next to me I felt like Cantor Bortnick (with a cold). I was able to use my Big Voice to power over and through, actually *leading* the tune. I kept my nose in the book, because when I looked up I was distracted by the faces looking directly at me. Talk to the kippah.

When Diane and I sat down briefly for a moment of silent prayer she quickly told me, "You've got a great voice, I'm so glad you're here."



  1. That was eloquent, and I would have loved to hear you/the service.