The sound and music provided here comprises the Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation liturgy, biblical recitations, and its cultural music stemming from its Turkish origins. Also provided here are selected poetry chanted on various holidays throughout the Jewish calendar and composed by some of the greatest Sephardic scholars and composers of the middle ages.
This section consists of excerpts from the prayers recited during services in various traditional Makam (plural, Makamim), a distinct series of notes, or mode, characteristic of the ancient music of Turkey from where the synagogue’s roots are founded.
This category provides various vocal recitations of Biblical selections. Each Shabbat, a portion from the Five Books of Moses is read. A thematic corresponding selection from the Prophets follows, utilizing a different musical mode. On special holidays such as Purim, Shavu’ot, and the Fast of Av and others the books of Esther, Ruth, or Lamentations, respectively, are recited, each with its own unique set of notes and styles.
This is also a reference point for those wishing to hear and study the recitation of the first Torah portion that will be recited on the upcoming Shabbat service. It is also previewed each week on the Saturday evening, Monday morning, and Thursday morning prayers prior to the Shabbat portion. Eventually this will include the 1st Aliya (portion) for the weekly readings for the entire year.
Featured are some of the greatest compositions by Sephardic scholars of the Middle Ages who were not only master rhetoricians with biblical and rabbinic texts, but also master composers of poetry as well, whose messages through poetry and music are timeless. They are recited passionately and with great sentiment in our synagogue and in Sephardic synagogues the world over.
Some of the featured selections were by composed by prominent scholars such as Rabbi Hai Gaon, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, Rabbi Shelomo ibn Gabirol.
Woven into the culture and minds of the Judeo Spanish people are its moving musical renditions in their native tongue, Ladino. A variation of a type of Spanish with Hebrew interspersed throughout, Ladino has survived for the past 500 years. It is still included in portions of the service as well. Much of the Ladino music are “romanzas” or forms of love songs portraying the character and ‘joie de vivre’ of the communal life from whence these composers and writers came, reflecting their spirit, life’s challenges, and joys.
Pizmonim, or Pizmon in the singular use are melodies most closely associated with Sephardic composers. They are sung in many different musical modes, or Makamim, each with its own very distinct melody, while at the same time provide for artistic license by the trained singer. The content of Pizmonim comprise religious, praise, life cycle and festival themes. Pizmonim are not liturgical in nature, and are therefore not necessarily limited to in-synagogue recitation. There have been hundreds upon hundreds of Pizmonim composed by great lyricists and musical composers of the Sephardic tradition from Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Morocco and many more countries from which the Sepharadim have hailed. The most common venue nowadays in the Seattle Sephardic community for the singing of Pizmonim is in private homes among the gathering of family and friends around the Sabbath or Holiday table, as well as at joyous life cycle events such as a wedding and similar festive occasions. Pizmonim, of course, are also sung in the synangogue for various special events.
Somewhat related to the Pizmonim in a general sense are the very distinct Maftirim which are comprised of poetry composed and sung to classic Ottoman music: Prof. Edwin Seroussi on the Early Music – An introduction to the beguiling melodies of maftirim. For the sound track click the link above the image. It includes a recording of Rev. Samuel Benaroya singing.