CD release parties might be a rare occurrence at most congregations, but not at Congregation Beit Haverim (CBH) in Atlanta. CBH—which happens to be marking its 30th
anniversary—just released its sixth professionally recorded CD, “Chant: Beyond the Veil.” It’s the fourth part of the Merkavah Project, the CBH Music Program’s expansive endeavor to connect to the most mystical text of the Bible: Ezekiel’s Vision.
“Music has become something that CBH is ‘known for,’” explained Gayanne Geurin, CBH’s music director. “We have wanted to create recorded experiences that in some ways makes a soundtrack for our synagogue life, reflecting who we are and what we strive to be.”
The goal behind the latest CD was to highlight the spiritual practice of chanting and capture its musical beauty.
At CBH, music is woven into the fabric of the community. Participation is high: the synagogue has 300 households, and the chorus, led by Will Robertson, boasts more than 45 members. CBH also has a band, a string ensemble and a tradition of participatory singing.
“We really do let the music guide us into new experiences of connection with each other. The music itself is connecting us, lifting us and teaching us,” she said. “One of the messages is, ‘If there is a creative impulse, let’s makes something happen.'”
CBH works to ensure that its music facilitates prayer and contemplation and doesn’t veer into the realm of performance. Geurin says the way to make sure music connects people and is contextually appropriate is to ask many questions: What is the intention behind a particular piece of interpretation of liturgy? What aesthetic tone is it trying to evoke? How does it empower a worshiper to connect with the prayer experience and with one another?
“Abraham Joshua Heschel says that the primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests,” she said. “The primary purpose is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song and man cannot live without a song.”
Visit Congregation Bet Haverim’s website to check out the entire CD collection