Cantor Asa Fradkin of Greenwich's Temple Sholom has released an album of High Holiday and classical music in time for Rosh Hashanah, which began Wednesday at sundown, and Yom Kippur,
"The songs I chose are balanced between the dramatic pieces and the folk tunes that people know and love to sing," he says. "It's a good balance between the dramatic and the more informal. ... There's the mood of the awe-inspired congregation, the fear of God and there's also this mood of renewal and of coming together as a community."
Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the Jewish New Year before a period of reflection and atonement. The traditional Jewish melodies act as a conduit in achieving a sense of renewal, he says.
"I think the music is what helps us to atone. It's a pathway that when we hear the sounds, sing that music, we somehow feel that it's going to be OK," Fradkin says. "It's so rare we are able to accept that vulnerability, and the music helps to take us to an emotional place."
He grew up in Baltimore and was influenced by the cantor at the synagogue he attended with his grandparents on the High Holidays. In he was in college at Indiana University's School of Music, Fradkin realized his interest in singing in a synagogue. He then attended the Jewish Theological Seminary before going to Temple Sholom in 2007.
He heads a teen choir at Temple Sholom that will showcase High Holiday songs during services.
"There's nothing better than having a group of 20 kids singing in four-part harmony with the music they're used to hearing, but now it's coming out of the mouths of children," Fradkin says. "I think it really makes people feel like the future is in good hands."
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