Upcoming gigs with The Bliss Jockeys: Tammany Hall and Mercury Lounge

I’ve updated my website performance calendar to note my next two upcoming gigs with The Bliss Jockeys:

  1. 2013 FINALE SHOW– Triple Bill!!
    Saturday, November 23, 2013 • 7:00pm
    Tammany Hall: 152 Orchard Street (btw Stanton & Rivington), NYC
    $5.00 (advance) / $10.00 at the door

    The Bliss Jockeys share the stage with Myriam Phiro’s Swing Party and Victor V. Gurbo & Co. — each act turns in a 50-minute set for three full hours of music! Come join us for our FINAL SHOW of what’s been our most triumphant year yet! We’ll be closing out 2013 just the way we began it: by tearing it up all night at a hot venue down in the Lower East Side with a couple of other GREAT BANDS. Myriam Phiro and Victor Gurbo are making great things happen in each of their careers: Myriam’s freshly returned from a three month international tour, and Victor’s band won both the WNYC & WQXR Brooklyn Borough Champion and WNYC & WQXR Audience Choice Awards this year. Not too shabby!
    Order tickets | RSVP on Facebook

  2. Note: the BJs are also playing the Brighter Than Today: A Secular Solstice festival on Saturday night, December 14, but I won’t be with them. Sniff! Instead I’ll be performing at Town & Village Synagogue’s 25th Annual Cantor Louis Moss Memorial Concert, featuring the T&V Choir and Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars! $30 at-door, $25 by December 12; students $10, 18 and under get in free. 7:30pm: 334 E. 14th St. (at 1st Ave), NYC.

  3. 2014 KICK-OFF SHOW– Triple Bill!!
    Wednesday, January 15, 2014 • 6:30pm
    Mercury Lounge: 217 E Houston St (btw 1st Ave & Ave A), NYC
    $10.00 (purchase in advance)

    The Bliss Jockeys’ New Year’s Resolutions for 2014:

    1. Play at epic venues that are known around the world.
    2. Open for international touring sensations.
    3. Share the bill with NYC’s BEST & HOTTEST bands.

    Well, it looks like The Bliss Jockeys will be able to check off all 3 of these resolutions only 15 days into the new year! The Bliss Jockeys will be opening for international touring sensation the Villalobos Brothers. Also on the bill are our good friends, Victor V. Gurbo & Co.!
    Order tickets

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Where you can find me for the High Holidays

One of my fellow members at Town & Village Synagogue in downtown Manhattan is Rabbi Judith Hauptman, who is on the faculty at JTS. I first met her over Rosh Hashanah lunch this time last year. For the past several years, Rabbi Hauptman has run a free, public community young adult High Holiday congregation under the name of Ohel Ayalah (“the tent of Ayalah,” named for her mother z”l, the inspiration for this hospitable service). Ohel Ayalah also runs a community young adult Passover seder, which I happened to attend this past April when I needed a place for 2nd-night seder, and I was impressed how they managed to do what felt like a full and complete traditional seder liturgy, blend in enough time for socializing, and still get us out of there at the stroke of 10pm.

One week earlier this summer, I attended T&V’s regular Friday night service, which as a rule is incredibly rich with powerful singing (thanks largely to the amazing Cantor Shayna Postman, and whichever of my fellow choirmates happen to be in the congregation on any given week). After the service, Rabbi Hauptman came up to me and said “How would you like to come daven with me for the High Holidays?”

“Um,” I said, “I’m not sure how useful I can really be to you on that!” I’m not, in truth, very well versed in actual liturgy for anything beyond the Friday night service, Torah service, and occasional Shabbat Musaf. But she has (as I knew) a regular cantor, Josh Gorfinkle, who does the liturgical heavy lifting, and a couple of additional/backup service leaders. In particular, she said, she was basically just looking for someone to reinforce the singing up front on a microphone and thereby add to the overall ruach of the service. That, I said, is something I can do. Even if it means I have to negotiate splitting my time with the choir at T&V, where I would otherwise be spending all of the holidays.

The upshot is that I’ll be with Ohel Ayalah’s Manhattan service for the first evening and day of Rosh Hashanah and for Kol Nidrei. And in addition to harmonizing throughout the services, and reading the Haftarah (the story of Chana, which is my Hebrew name, so that’s awesome), she asked me to sing one of the three repetitions of the Kol Nidrei prayer. I am deeply honored… and only a little terrified. It turns out that I have at least some version of Kol Nidrei internalized from the many years I spent in the professional High Holiday backup choir in Swampscott/Marblehead (starting in 1997 at Temple Israel, which eventually became Congregation Shirat HaYam). Of course, the arrangement in my head is a choral monstrosity for cantor, four-part choir, and possibly organ… but if I sing through some combination of the lines I remember, with enough conviction and kavannah, it seems to hang together well enough.

Rabbi Hauptman offered to lend me a kittel, since she wants all of us to wear them on the bimah. But the Sunday before last, I went up to West Side Judaica on 88th & Broadway and bought one of my own. Amusingly, the nice lady at the register wished me mazal tov… because these are—like the tallit—traditionally considered a men’s garment, and worn particularly for weddings, as well as High Holidays and Passover seders. So, y’know, what else does it mean when a woman of marriageable age is buying one? (Granted, the last time I bought one, that was what it was for, but that’s another story.) Happily, the gentleman who assisted me in finding one had not batted an eyelash when I asserted that it was for myself and patiently helped me sort through and try on all the sizes of the three or four styles they had. I purposely picked out the very most girly-looking one: all pintucks and lace edges. It’s like the world’s prettiest lab coat. I am excited.

I think it’s going to be a good year.

And if you want to come and daven with me, they’re still accepting walk-ins at the Prince George Ballroom (15 E 27 St., between 5th and Madison), tomorrow night at 6:45pm and Thursday morning at 9am. L’shanah tovah u’metukah!

This summer’s challenge project: Beginning Russian

Я теперь изучаю русский язык. Это трудно, но очень интересно!

… I’m big on languages; in my lifetime I’ve studied French (starting in grade school), German (starting in high school), Italian and then Hebrew (starting in college). The next ones on my list have always been Russian and then American Sign Language.

Last fall my synagogue (which does a lot of deaf outreach) offered a 6-week “mini-course” in beginning ASL, so I eagerly signed up for that. There was supposed to be a Level 2 class at the turn of the year, which I signed up for as well, but it was cancelled due to low registration; I have unfortunately kind of let the practicing slide, in the meantime, but that’s another story.

At the beginning of May, due to a confluence of personal circumstances, I decided it was time to tackle Russian. I signed up for 6 weeks of a beginner class through ABC Language Exchange and started at the beginning of June. There’s only one more session left now, and while I’m not going to be able to continue it right away (for reasons of both time and money), I’m definitely interested in doing more with them — it’s been a great experience. I come out of every session with that delightful “brain is full” feeling. Granted, it’s hard to get very far in 90 minutes a week without any language lab component to force you to drill, so I’m still not so solid on, say, verb conjugations (let’s not even talk about case endings). But I’ve been pretty motivated to put in practice time on my own, and for sure I got the main thing I wanted out of the class: a crash course in reading fluency that would allow me to do more self-study going forward.

To my handful of dear friends who are Russian speakers: I’m looking forward to enlisting you in my practice. :-) My [cute] Russian-speaking colleague tells me my accent is good, so I credit you all with my prior exposure.

There are a bunch of online resources out there, but I especially want to give a shout-out to a site called FunRussian.com (“Learn Russian the Fun Way”). She’s got really good articles and a truly impressive set of video tutorials. I happened on it because I was trying to track down a Winnie-the-Pooh poem that my friend Alyosha taught me some 15 years ago, during one of our few tutorials… and it was right here! in an article on Винни Пух, Vinni–Pukh, the Russian adaptation of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Спокойной ночи!