Archives for category: singing

As I approach sixty I thought I had better start doing the stuff I always wanted to do.
One of the most heavily invested emotionally for me is learning to leyn. That is learning to chant the Torah… from the Torah scroll.
I had grown up hearing my brothers practising their maftah and haftorah ready for their barmitzvah. I knew the brachot ( blessings) off by heart. Yet, as an Orthodox Jewish girl in the late sixties, it wasn’t even the done thing to mark a girl’s bat mitzvah in any way.

So, here I am, learning to leyn. I have my batmitzvah in four weeks on my sixtieth birthday.

I thought, being arrogant that being able to read music would help.

I am far away from anyone who could help me learn by sitting and practising with me. I am doing it from a CD. Years ago I was given a tape with the cantillation on. It has long since disintegrated through several moves and lots of heat.

I started half heartedly in September, the new year. Sporadic attempts to come to terms with the tropes followed. I then found out like a lot of bar/bat mitzvah people that I had been learning the wrong bit.


Now I am studying hard. I practise the tropes. I can do it with the CD. I do it every time with the CD.

I wrote out the tropes on the musical stave. I wrote out the words underneath in transliteration, trying to match the right bits to emphasise with the accented bit of the trope. More difficult.  I recorded the music playing it on the piano and trying to sing the tropes etc.

Then I found the key I was learning in was a different key from the back of the Chumash. I started to write it all out again. And gave up.

Here I am, four weeks away from my bat mitzvah and every time I start to leyn I am struggling to pitch. I know the tropes but in the middle of the sedra my pitch wanders.

I still have to learn the haftorah! But luckily my husband has recorded that for me with his mistakes and cross words as he gets it wrong and does it again. I am very grateful, really. Really.

Will I get it all done in time? That is the question.

How do I find the right pitch? What will happen if I lose it half way through? How do I get it back? I am muttering the tropes in my sleep already. And still I get them wrong!



What a day! There aren’t enough superlatives to give it.
My group doing The Novel- taking it deeper, moving it on with Jane Pollard had our last session. We recapped everything we learned and then split into two teams. We had half an hour to come up with a skeleton of a novel from a picture stimulus and choice of four themes.
I have to say, we were a tiny bit sceptical- just a weeny bit. How can that be done? We were not allowed dialogue or description but we had to have character with depth, fears, passion and courage, crises, internal and external tensions and more and a viable plot line.
We did it! Both sets of us. We amazed ourselves. Thank you , Jane. We now have a skeleton that we can work with for any novel. Brilliant! Just what you want to come away with from a Writers’ Holiday.
I moved on to my next choice of course. This will develop over the coming days so hold that thought for a while. It was enough that we succeeded where we did.
We went on the trip to St Fagan’s, National Museum of Life. If you haven’t been, go. They have added new houses and streets. I spent a long time chatting to the cobbler, Geraint, who makes bespoke clogs. I asked how long it took him to make one shoe. He replied that he never makes one shoe always a pair. You can imagine the rest.
Then it was traffic jam all the way back in time for the Cwmbach Male Voice Choir who charmed us completely and sounded so magnificent. There were around 60 of them in concert, the night before they go to Brittany to represent Wales in the Celtic Festival in L’Orient. All I can say is, look out Brittany. These men are wonderful -so sweet, so powerful; glorious. After the concert, they came and sat in the bar with us and sang. For another two hours! Superb! Absolutely joyous. We sat on the baritone table and the twinkle in their eyes sounded in their voices.
And so to bed, without having done my homework for tomorrow- but that as they say, is another day.

%d bloggers like this: