Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2002

s worship band attracts a crowd

February 23, 2002


Shiray Shabbat is a Hebrew term for "songs of Sabbath."

But the phrase has even more meaning for members of the Lawrence Jewish Community Center, 917 Highland Drive, where Shiray Shabbat is both the name of a monthly all-music worship service and the group of musicians and singers that performs during it.

Shiray Shabbat, which debuted at the center in January 2001, grew out of center member Diane Whitten's imagination.

Not satisfied with the traditional format of Friday night services at the center, Whitten started thinking about creating a more contemporary, music-based worship service.

She pulled together some music by internationally known Jewish songwriters Debbie Friedman and Craig Taubman and found 12 people who shared her enthusiasm for the idea.

"We got together and started practicing. It was a risk that we took, because this was a very new thing in Lawrence," Whitten said. "They had never had an all-music (Jewish) service, and there are people in every congregation that are opposed to playing musical instruments on Shabbat.

"We also realized that the (center) is the only synagogue in town, and it needs to provide a way for every Jew to express their needs for whatever kind of service they wanted to do. We talked to the president of the community, who thought it was a wonderful idea."

Meaningful music

The result has been a success.

Shiray Shabbat services typically attract 75 to 100 people  good turnout for a Friday night  including some non-Jews who come just to hear the group perform.

"We're seeing a lot of college students, a lot of people we don't see at other services," Whitten said. "I hear people say this service has a lot of meaning for them, that the music puts them in a very spiritual place."

The music group itself is diverse, made up of Jews and non-Jews of all ages and a variety of backgrounds, including several Kansas University faculty and staff members and students.

Charlie Rose, 22, is a KU senior majoring in geology who plays bass and mandolin in Shiray Shabbat.

"I got hooked up with Diane (Whitten) through my friend Adam Galblum, who plays violin and mandolin with the group. He said, 'I've got a rehearsal with this Jewish band. Why don't you come over and play with us?'" said Rose, who isn't Jewish.

"I love it. It's a good time. It feels like I'm doing a good thing, and I think people truly enjoy it. I've heard some people have started coming to the services more now because we're there playing."

Fund-raising disc drive

The 12-member Shiray Shabbat group  six singers and six musicians  is working on a CD that will be carried at Borders bookstores in Lawrence and the Kansas City area. It will also be marketed online at the Web site, operated by Tara Publications.

The CD will be sold for $20 as a fund-raiser for the center's Sunday school program. Shiray Shabbat is planning on pressing 500 to 1,000 copies of the disc, which should be available in April.

In December, four of the group's musicians spent several days in Nashville, Tenn., recording the main music tracks for the CD. Whitten's sister, Donna Hilley, is the head of Sony Music in Nashville, and she offered the Lawrence musicians the use of a studio and sound engineers for free.

The group's members are working locally with z'gwon,th studio to record vocal tracks and percussion, mix the CD and ship it to a Canadian company that will press the discs.

Rick Frydman, a Lawrence attorney who plays guitar in Shiray Shabbat, is enthusiastic about his experience with the group.

"I don't speak Hebrew, but the music speaks to me," he said. "It's just very beautiful, melodic music and it's wonderful playing with all these talented musicians."

Micah Salkind, 17, is the group's youngest member. He's a senior at Free State High School and sings in Shiray Shabbat.

"It's getting more and more like a family," he said. "It's a trip to be with these excellent musicians, doing something fun. It gives people an outlet to just get together and jam."

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