Judy Schaffert, a Wexner Heritage alumna from Phoenix, is past president of Temple Solel in Paradise Valley, Arizona and of Jess Schwartz College Prep, The Jewish Community’s High School.  She can be reached at judy.schaffert@gmail.com

After our temple’s music director left, the choir disappeared.  Our new cantorial soloist, a professional singer-songwriter, announced he would start a choir for the High Holidays.

Like Nachshon on the seashore, I joined, and recruited friends.

On the cantorial soloist’s first anniversary, our rabbi suggested the choir surprise him by singing one of his compositions.  The hazzan’s wife surreptitiously lifted the chart, a series of chords (no staffs, no notes).  I transcribed it and passed it to another choir member to input in her software to create printed music.  Hours before our one rehearsal, she e-mailed saying she had written “simple harmony.”

When choir members saw it, revolution was at hand.  Some cannot read music.  Most gamely tried to learn the complicated arrangement.  I knew we could not meet both her ambitions and the choir’s abilities in the hour we had, but had to balance her efforts with group solidarity.  I opted to let things unfold.  One easily-exasperated person announced she just could not do it; I assigned her the melody.  After a period of sincere effort mixed with frustration, a quiet woman emerged as the truth teller:  the point of all the effort was to delight our cantor, not to butcher his music by botching the harmony.  To preserve the group’s friendships and the arranger’s honor,  I suggested we save the arrangement until we could devote rehearsal time to getting it right. 

Honestly, we could have used more rehearsal.  But you should have seen his face.

Hear the song, Coming Home, at www.toddherzog.com/music.html