The influence of German music on United Kingdom synagogue practice*

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In his book The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer writes as follows on the subject of music and religion: 'The musician has done his part, as well as the prophet and thinker, in the making of religion. Every faith has its appropriate music, and the differences between the creeds might almost be expressed in musical notation .... For we cannot doubt that this, the most ultimate and affecting of all the arts, has done much to create, as well as to express, the religious emotions, thus modifying more or less deeply the fabric of belief to which at first it seems only to minister.'2

In what ways has German music functioned as a medium for expressing Jewish sacred texts in the United Kingdom, and to what extent has it indeed affected the very practice of Judaism?

Acculturation and cross-fertilization are vast and complex issues, even in a small community of less than one third-of-a-million souls. Just as the Adon Olam3 by the nineteenth-century Anglo-Sephardi cantor and composer David de Sola4 is sung in Ashkenazi synagogues of all denominations, so can the music of Handel's chorus 'See, the conqu'ring hero comes', from Judas Maccabaeus, be heard at Chanukkah time in Bevis Marks. Because this paper has a frame of reference that reaches far beyond the specifically 'German' congregations of the UK, it cannot claim to view such an enormous subject from all possible angles. Nevertheless, it is hoped that carefully chosen 'snapshots' will assist the reader in visualizing something of the whole panorama.

German music and German-Jewish music

In their article on German folksong in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Walter Wiora and Wolfgang Suppan describe certain standard, typic? ally West European characteristics.5 (These should, however, be regarded as guidelines, rather than rigid definitions, since regional variations can be quite dramatic.)

Melodies are mainly in the major key; their range is usually within the octave, sometimes as narrow as a pentachord (interval of a fifth); there is frequent use of the rising upbeat, and a preference for rising melodic shapes; and, apart from the expressive repetition of a single note, there is little evidence of ornamentation or melisma. Harmony, and the harmonic implications of melody, show a prefer? ence for simple triadic tonality, usually in the major. Rhythm and metre are mainly in simple triple or quadruple time. Phrase lengths are regular, usually of four or eight bars, and strophic forms follow poetic structures.

Many of these features were absorbed into German art music (especially the Baroque, Classical and Romantic idioms of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), though professionally trained composers developed such elements far beyond the parameters within which untrained performers were generally confined.

German synagogue song has a fascinating history: it developed parallel to Ashkenazi ritual, mainly between 900 and 1400, and was shaped according to changes in the liturgy. Originally, Jewish song had been transplanted to the banks of the Rhine and the Main, where it became fused with German non Jewish elements. This new genre was, in effect, a

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