Tag Archives: Holiday

A Seder Plate of Music

14 Apr


Happy Passover! I write this as my stomach prepares for a night of hedonistic gluttony. While one of the central tenets of Passover is the prohibition of leavened items, the food is still absolutely sumptuous. Passover is perhaps my favorite Jewish holiday. Like all holidays, it presents the opportunity to see family, but Passover has a unique component – the seder. The Passover seder encompasses the annual retelling of the Jews’ biblical exodus from Egyptian bondage, and, like most elements of any good religious story, there is a great deal of symbolism and purposeful repetition. I am partial to storytelling, and, for Jews, this is one of the most epic tales of survival, revenge, and escape. With the recent release of Noah, it will not be long before the tale of Moses is offered in IMAX 3D.

So, in celebration of the first night of Passover, I thought I’d be a bit creative with a post before I start noshing on matzoh and hard-boiled eggs. Perhaps the most crucial element of Passover is the seder plate, which features six items – variations of food, of course – that are all symbolic of an emotion felt by the enslaved Jews. I wonder what song might fit each item?


1.) Maror and Chazeret

Maror and Chazeret are bitter herbs. In the Ashkenazi tradition (Eastern European Jews), horseradish or lettuce is used. As one might guess, Maror and Chazeret are used to symbolize the bitterness and terror of slavery. Unfortunately, slavery persisted well beyond Egypt, and the work songs of African Americans in bondage demonstrated just how awful slavery was (and still is). “Trouble So Hard” by Vera Hall is an excellent example of a bluesy work song from the early 20th century, which represented the troubles of African Americans during slavery.


2.) Charoset

Charoset is a sweet mixture of nuts, apples, cinnamon, and red wine, which represents the mortar that Jews used to build houses in Egypt. While the sweetness seems slightly paradoxical, it tastes a whole lot better than mortar! What best represents the dirty work of construction? How about a little late Rolling Stones?


3.) Karpas

Karpas, traditionally parsley or celery, is dipped in salt water to represent the tears of Jewish slaves in Egypt. Get the sense this is not the most optimistic holiday in the world? Crying. I don’t need any more of an excuse to use Roy Orbison’s operatic voice for the purpose of this post! The end of this song is one of the greatest vocal climaxes in any song ever – just saying!


4.) Z’roa

Sacrifice. The Z’roa is a roasted lamb or goat shank bone that represents the traditional Pesach sacrifice. It is not eaten. It is just on the plate to represent the sacrifice. A song to represent animal sacrifice? Elton John – “Sacrifice”? No. This is tough, and the food is calling my name. We go with Evanescence.


5.) Beitzah

The Beitzah also represents sacrifice (the festival sacrifice), but it has come to also represent mourning, as eggs are traditionally the first things served to mourners after a funeral. Let’s go with the latter option for our song. Unfortunately, mourning is an inevitable human emotion and thus several songs are written about the subject. Eric Clapton just happens to have one of the most heart-wrenching of the bunch.


Gosh, perhaps we shouldn’t say HAPPY Passover. Well, in the story the Jews escaped slavery! Jews have a history of powerful persistence, and no matter the adversity (and it continues to exist), Jews continue to persevere, and this holiday is an example of this. Enjoy the festivities if you celebrate!


What to Expect (Musically) in the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

21 Nov

Even the balloons are stretching!

There is just something about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, now in its 86th year, that gets me excited. Even as I grow older, I still like waking up and turning on the parade coverage – switching back and forth between channels – while I settle down for a leisurely breakfast. Perhaps I like the parade because it is associated with a family feast later in the afternoon. A full-day of football follows the three-hour display of floats, balloons, and performances. Heck, even a dog show annually appears on NBC from 12-2 p.m.

Maybe my interest is simply with the parade itself. I am a fan of the widespread display of optimism, the bundled balloon handlers stumbling down sixth avenue, the elaborate floats crowded with celebrities and musicians, the marching bands, the Broadway music/dance acts – the whole kit and kaboodle. There are not many events associated with pure, unadulterated happiness. The parade is one of them. Now, I’ll admit, I do end up only watching around 30-45 minutes of it (unlike when I was a child) before using the off time to catch up on schoolwork or visit the gym in anticipation of the impending shameless familial gluttony, but I cannot help but smile when I turn on the parade in the morning, and kudos to Macy’s annual event for giving me that every year.


Note: For a full list of performers visit Wikipedia.

The big musical acts of the 2012 parade are Flo Rida, Trace Adkins, Colbie Caillat, Chris Isaak, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Karmin. Broadway is sending Annie, Bring It On, Elf, Cinderella, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

There are several other acts, though, including two I will choose to feature: Mannheim Steamroller and Don McLean.

Mannheim Steamroller is best known for their modern recording of Christmas music. They made an appearance in the 2011 parade and played “Deck the Halls.” Since Thanksgiving is essentially pre-Christmas, it is fitting that they perform. Here is “Deck the Halls.”

While Arlo Guthrie is not listed as a performer this year, Don McLean will provide viewers with a live version of “American Pie,” which, like “Alice’s Restaurant” is just quintessentially American. McLean will appear on South Dakota’s float because, why not.

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