Friday, February 22, 2008

The Real El Adon

Musical Note By Cantor Sherwood Goffin
The "Real" Keil Adon Melody

Every Shabbat, during Shacharit, a highlight of the tefilla is the singing of Keil Adon. As your Chazzan, I try to choose appropriate melodies that fit the words, the "mode" (minor), and melodies that tend to "move" - that is, not too slow. However, as you've heard from me previously, before the 20th century we didn't "sing" congregational-type melodies in shul as we do today. The question therefore begs, what did they sing for Keil Adon before 1900?

There is a "nusach", a chant, for Keil Adon that was always recited and is still heard in some Yeshivish/Chassidic shtibels and in synagogues with the "old" tradition. That melody is one our oldest, and can be traced back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and possibly as far back as the 1200s. You may remember your grandfather or great-grandfather singing a very special "Kol Mekadesh Sh'vii" on Friday Night for Zemirot before and during the Shabbat meal. That melody is the tune of the "nusach" of Keil Adon, for as long as anyone can remember. We know that it is very old, because in the oldest existing Judao-German book of folk songs by Boeme, c.16th/17th century, there is a melody called, "Bruder Vietz's Ton," "Brother Weiss's Tune," and this is exactly the same melody that we know of today! It is not a "sing along-type" melody, so, unfortunately, you won't hear it here at LSS or in any "modern" shul. It is now traditional to sing a "niggun" at this point. I do occasionally wonder whether we are actually poorer for its lacking in our service. But then again, I'm always nostalgic about such things!

Daven Well and Sing Along!


Mar Gavriel said...

My great-grandfather's (ז"ל) chant for "Kol Mekaddeish" (which I know from my grandmother תבדל לחיים) is rather different from the one which I think of as the "traditional" Eil Odôn chant, but I hear the resemblance.

For the record, the minhog at KAJ is to recite Eil Odôn amumble in the winter, and to sing it to sing-along tunes in the summer.

charles said...

Is there a place online you can hear the old melody?