Friday, May 15, 2009

Craig Taubman Returns to TBE

In the winter of 2000, two things of note occurred: the Pope visited Israel and Craig Taubman came to Stamford. Both visits were historic. The Pope's changed the way Jews and Catholics talk to one another and Craig's "Friday Night Live" changed the way we talk to God. My reactions at the time were strongly stated and somewhat controversial in the cantorial world (see the article here), but I felt that this style of service was the new wave that would soon become normative in the Jewish world. I'm not right about everything (for sure!) but I was right about that.

I was speaking to Craig Taubman about that very topic a few weeks ago, in anticipation of his return here, which occurred last night. I guess Craig comes to Stamford every time a Pope visits Israel. Indeed, the style of communal worship pioneered by people like himself and Debbie Friedman, with many newer variations and spin offs, has now become the standard. Successful congregations everywhere have looked to these new forms as ways of reviving their own staid, stale sanctuaries.

So what could Craig bring us this time around? He already made history the last time. What kind of encore could possibly come after that? After all, the Pope's visit this week was at best anti-climactic, given the historic nature of the prior one. Would Craig's second appearance here also be less memorable?

Well, on one level, things never will be as they were on that cold night in January, 2000. That was our first opportunity to sing unto God this new song. But what we got last night was no less inspiring, perhaps because some of it was so familiar. The walls were shaking at times, not with his voice but with our own voices. We danced - which Taubman told me almost never happens at his concerts - though often on Friday nights. And in fact, for while last night I thought WAS Friday night. Shabbat came one night earlier this week. Craig Taubman gave us an even greater gift than last time: an extra day of Shabbat - one more night to loosen our ties and lose our worries, to smile and enjoy simply being together, to look at the hundreds of people around us and feel like a family, to send off one of our families, the Goldblums, to Israel, with our blessings and love (and quite a bit of cash for tzedakkah), to kvell over our kids in the junior choir and to sing, simply to sing.

He interspersed some new and some old favorites. His most recent creation, a version of Yedid Nefesh, was lovely. We all swayed to the duet of "Hashkivenu" done with the cantor, loved the "Shehechianu" performed with our choir and then he ended with two of my all time personal Taubman favorites, "Shiru L'Adonai, Shir Hadash" and "Master of All Things."

Craig Taubman gave us the chance to bring Shabbat into our lives on a Thursday night. What greater gift could we hope for?

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