(FALLS VILLAGE, Conn.) – The Torah of music and the music of Torah is the theme of “Kula Shira: Music as Spiritual Practice,” a week-long Jewish music festival and workshop at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center from Monday, August 29 to Monday, September 5. Over the course of the week, attendees will enjoy performances by and study with Jewish singer-songwriters including Neshama Carlebach and Basya Schechter and jazz artist/composer Rabbi Greg Wall and his ensemble, Later Prophets. Also teaching and performing are Shir Yaakov Feinstein-Feit, Shoshana Jedwab, Eden “Eprhyme” Pearlstein, and Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein.
Through traditional sources as well as contemporary creative practices and perspectives, participants will collaborate, create and contemplate music as a spiritual practice. Sessions will explore the music business and creative process with some of today’s most innovative and engaging Jewish musicians; focus on marketing, concept-development and other music-industry tips; engage prayer as music and music as prayer; explore the social and spiritual implications of music for our communities; and enhance or develop new skills in songwriting, music theory, guitar playing, shofar blowing and more.
Attendees will participate in open jams, nusach labs, user-friendly workshops in Jewish text literacy, poetry workshops and other skill-shares. There will also be evening performances by featured artists and a full-time jam studio.
This retreat takes place during Rosh Hodesh Elul (the beginning of the Hebrew month that precedes Rosh Hashanah) and also marks the yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) of Rav Kook, one of the most celebrated and influential rabbis of the 20th century. Ushering in of the month of Elul will be celebrated, and the mystical teachings of Rav Kook and the spirituality of music will be studied with Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein.
On Thursday, September 1, Greg Wall’s Later Prophets, featuring Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein, will perform Ha’Orot: The Lights of Rav Kook, a musical journey into the illuminated poetry of Rabbi Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook, TZ’L, presented in honor of and on the evening of his 76th Yaartzeit (Elul 3, Sept 1). This groundbreaking collaboration blends soulful modern jazz and timeless texts for an ecstatic cultural fusion that reaches for the divine.
Rabbi Greg Wall was ordained in 2006, and may well be the only recording and touring jazz musician who is also a rabbi. He has long incorporated Jewish themes into his adventurous and inclusive sonic universe; his rich saxophone and clarinet playing is heard with important bands such as Hasidic New Wave, Later Prophets and The Ayn Sof Arkestra. Greg has been the spiritual leader of the Sixth St. Community Synagogue in New York’s historic east Village since 2009.
Neshama Carlebach is a leading star in Jewish entertainment whose talent and charisma captivate people worldwide. With her incredible band and in collaboration with The Green Pastures Baptist Church Choir, she is continuing the legacy established by her father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Her seventh recording, Higher & Higher, was an entrant in the 2011 Grammy Awards.
Shir Yaakov Feinstein-Feit is a singer, composer, designer and producer. He has written liturgical chants and melodies that are used in prayer circles and synagogues around the world. Shir Yaakov was an Elat Chayyim Residential Intern, Isabella Freedman’s Creative Director and an ADAMAH fellow. He is currently the Musical Director of Romemu: NYC’s Shul for Body, Mind and Spirit.
Shoshana Jedwab is an award-winning Jewish educator and “primal percussionist” who facilitates Jewish-oriented drum circles nationwide. She drums for the Kirtan Rabbi, Romemu, Chana Rothman, earth-based celebrations, healing circles, retreats and synagogues. Shoshana has taught Jewish Studies for more than twenty years and she co-creates ritual experience and embodied prayer for Kohenet, Nehirim and Storahtelling.
Eden “Eprhyme” Pearlstein is a radical Jewish renaissance rapper. His music and lyrics combine cutting edge cultural expression with consciousness expanding kabbalistic commentary. Eden has performed and presented his work in major clubs, colleges and conferences around the world in secular, academic and religious settings. Eden is currently a K Records and Shemspeed recording artist, as well as one half of the musical midrash project Darshan with co-creator Shir Yaakov.
Basya Schechter leads the neo-Hasidic band Pharaoh’s Daughter. She travels through continents, key signatures and languages with a genre-bending sound that mixes echoes of the Mediterranean with flashes of Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic chants from her orthodox childhood. Basya tours internationally and has recorded six albums, including Haran, Daddy’s Pockets, Out Of The Reeds, Exile and Queen’s Dominion. She is currently a musical resident at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in NYC.
Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein, MSW is a rabbi whose teachings integrate the depths of the ancient teachings and the breadths of the contemporary unfolding. As a passionate student of the teachings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) for over 30 years, he is doing pioneering work in bringing Rav Kook to the public. His current focus is a creative jazz poetry collaboration with Greg Wall’s Later Prophets known as HA’OROT: The Lights of Rav Kook. Their acclaimed CD was recently released on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records.
Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center
116 Johnson Road
Falls Village, Conn.