By Rabbi Heidi Cohen and Cantor David Reinwald
The word “echo” has a number of meanings and connotations. In its simplest form, an echo is positioning oneself in a place where when we call out, our voice returns us, be it a mountain top, overlooking a valley. The echo is the sound returning from where it began.
Another way to think of echo is as a repetition of an idea or feeling. We are inspired by something we see or hear and we aim to ‘echo’ it in our own actions.
Whatever kind of reverberating shape the echo takes, it has the potential to become a physical and emotional connection that reaches out and touches us in some way. A major event in our lives and world have profound effects on our lives. Art, light, shape, color, words and music, can reverberate within us, building to a crescendo of inspiration and thought.
Echoes are essential to music. They are the infinite movements within a sound wave. They are the vibrations of instruments that bring the music to our ears, to our hearts, and immeasurably to our souls.
In the 1960’s, the group the Swingle Singers took famous classical pieces, set them for multiple voices, and then added one additional thing — a swinging jazz beat. It was innovative, refreshing, and who could say it wasn’t fun?! Their setting of Bach’s Fugue in G Minor remains one of their most famous and endearing pieces today, still wowing those who hear it and listen to each and every note.
As you listen, note how each of the different voices echo each other, which is the main characteristic of a fugue. You will also notice that in-between the voices echoing each other, they will often go off on their own short journey doing their own thing — and yet their unique musical idea fits into the puzzle of it all. And, then it all returns again to the echoing! Bach was a genius composer, and there’s nothing less than perfect in this music.
And then there are the words of Psalm 150, Kol haneshamah t’ha’leil Yah, Halleluyah, Let every living soul praise God. Bonia Shur, z’l, a modern Jewish composer, set these words to music that at first seems repetitive and simple, yet when we listen closely to how each syllable is carefully presented, we recognize that it echoes deep within.
Whether the echo is a single word sent out across the valley hoping for a return, or a complex musical piece that resonates within, or words and actions of others that move us to action, the echo has the potential to inspire and awaken our senses to the very core of our soul.
Over the next month, experience new insights, ideas, and perspectives shared by featured members of Temple Beth Sholom. Each have offered a personal reflection adding to the pool of thought and wisdom as we journey through this meditative month. These are the Echoes of Elul.