Nusach (Liturgical Music)

The recordings below come from two sources. The first is from a collection of liturgical pieces recorded by Rabbi Jacob Kret, zt"l. Rabbi Aryeh Mezei, Rabbi Kret's grandson, reports that these melodies were recorded by Rabbi Kret for his father, Rabbi Chaim Mezei, in the 1960s. The second source of these melodies are from Rabbi Chaim Mezei. These were recorded approximately in 2005 for our new baal musaf, Rabbi Reuven Hoff. All the recordings reflect the musical heritage of the Old Broadway Synagogue.  I am not an expert on liturgical music, but I understand that while some of these melodies are widespread, others are associated more specifically with Old Broadway. I am grateful to both Rabbi Kret and Rabbi Mezei for singing these niggunim and for Old Broadway Synagogue Vice President Jonathan Schachter for making the recordings of Rabbi Mezei. The page numbers mentioned refer to the Artscroll Rosh Hashanah Machzor and for Ve-ha-kohanim they refer to the Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor. Enjoy!

Kol Nidrei is the declaration of the beis din (Jewish court) nullifying vows that we have made between ourselves and God. The fact that this procedure is undertaken on the holiest day of the year reflects the seriousness with which we should take our words. Sung by Rabbi Jacob Kret.

Kaddish before Musaf on Yom Kippur. The Kaddish has many functions. Here, it introduces the Musaf prayer using an especially moving melody. Sung by Rabbi Jacob Kret.

U-nesaneh tokef is a famous piyyut (liturgical poem) that appears just before the Kedushah (responsive reading) in the Musaf Shemoneh Esreh of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. According to the Artscroll Machzor U-nesaneh tokef was written by Rabbi Amnon of Mainz. The story goes that the bishop of Mainz had asked Rabbi Amnon to convert and when he refused, was made to suffer cruel tortures leading to his death. Before passing away, Rabbi Amnon wrote this poem which powerfully depicts God judging, on Rosh Hashanah, his subjects. Sung by Rabbi Chaim Mezei.

Ve-chol ha-ma’aminim (Ha-ochez) is a piyyut that lauds God’s qualities. Sung by Rabbi Chaim Mezei.

Ochilah la-kel is the personal prayer of that the chazzan (cantor) recites before beginning the Malchuyos (Kingship) verses in the Musaf repetition. Sung by Rabbi Chaim Mezei.

Ve-ha-kohanim appears towards the end of the chazzan’s repetition of the Musaf Shemoneh Esreh. During this prayer, the service of the ancient Temple is to a degree recreated. According to tradition, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies only once a year, on Yom Kippur, at which time he bowed an uttered God’s name.  The Avodah part of the liturgy recounts this process, including the priest’s three bowings. In traditions, the chazzan and the congregant also bow during this retelling, and between the action , the music, and what it references, it is an awe-inspiring moment. Sung by Rabbi Chaim Mezei.

Ve-ha-kohanim. Sung by Rabbi Jacob Kret.