Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hava Nagilah

MUSICAL NOTE by Cantor Sherwood Goffin
The Metamorphosis of Hava Nagila

This popular Israeli melody, known throughout the world, began as a mid-18th century niggun of the Sadigora Chassidim of Bukovina, East Europe. When the great Jewish ethnomusicologist Dr. A.Z. Idelsohn, formerly of Leipsig, who had opened the first Jewish Institute of Music in Jerusalem in 1910, was looking for words to put to this niggun, he asked his class for assistance. It was already 1918, and 12 year-old Moshe Nathanson volunteered the words "Hava Nagila Hava," which Idelsohn put together with the melody to create a new choral piece.

It eventually spread like wildfire throughout the Yishuv, and when it became popular among the Zionists, the chassidim of Sadigora disowned it! To this day it is popular in Jewish and non-Jewish circles, but because it has taken on a very secular nature it is unfortunately no longer appropriate for use in shul. Little Moshe grew up to become the first Chazzan of the SAJ on 86th St. and a West Side neighbor when LSS first began in 1964!


1 comment:

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

If I am not mistaken, part of the traditional "elaboration" of the basic "Hava Nagila" niggun is actually derived from a famous scene in the opera Samson Et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saens.