Tue 23 Sep 2014
The traditional Rosh Hashanah posting on The Catcher in the Sand is dedicated this year to the shofar. Jews are (among other things) a nation of musicians and they have been so since the oldest times. King David is said to have introduced music in the religious rituals and some of the oldest musical instruments have their origin in the land of Israel or around. None of them however is that much related to the Jewish holidays and specifically to the New Year and Yom Kippur as the shofar.
The shofar is a traditionally made of the ram’s horn. The sound is modulated using the blower’s lips. I have no personal experience, but it looks like it takes both strength and skills to create meaningful sounds. It is mentioned many times in the Bible, the first time in the Book of Exodus, around Mount Sinai.
Let us first remember the significance of Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year and the role of the shofar. Today it announces the start of the High Holidays in the synagogue services.
There are four traditional Jewish shofar calls or blasts. Here they are explained by Jim Barbarossa, whose trip in Israel in 1996 triggered the passion for the instrument, which now he masters to the point he is surnamed The Shofar Man.
Here is how actually the shofar sounds during the Rosh HaShannah service in a synagogue.
The usage of the shofar is not limited however to the Jewish religious services. Musicians took the instrument, experimented, and created in different musical genres. Here is an excerpt (#2) from Tekeeyah (a call), Concerto for Shofar, Trombone, and Orchestra by Meira Warshauer. (Copyright Meira Warshauer 2009)
Lighter genres did not avoid the shofar either. Here is Phil Driscol playing the shofar in a trumpet style.
Closing the cycle here is Randy Spencer playing the instrument in a spiritual, world music genre.
To end with here is a Rosh Hashanah parody song ‘Blow Shofar’ by The Shlomones. There is little shofar sound here, but a lot of talk about it.
Shana Tova! A Good Year, with good health and sweetness in your lives!