Kaddish is a Hebrew prayer that’s recited in remembrance of loved ones who have died. It is rarely translated because its recitation seems to be more important that the meaning of its words. However, I love that when you do look at the words, you see that it basically says “thank you” to the Power that makes life possible. In our most fragile moments, our moments of loss, we express gratitude for being lucky enough to have shared living when someone we have loved.
This is the first piece of music that I wrote, and it was only due to the encouragement of my mentor and friend, Rabbi Joel Wittstein (z”l). Joel was the Educational Director in the mid-1970’s of the religious school at Isaac Mayer Wise Temple in Cincinnati, OH, where I grew up. Joel suggested that, rather than attending regular classes, I take a semester to study something in Hebrew and then try setting it to music. Why he saw ”the music thing” in me before I did, I’ll never know. But I’m forever grateful that he did.
This recording was made in 1975. We turned on a cassette tape recorder and Amy Liebschutz, a friend from Kindergarten onward and now an extraordinary vocalist in New York City who goes by the stage name of Amy London, sang for me. We were finalists in the NFTY Song Competition that year which, coming from Cincinnati, was something special. I didn’t win but something much more exciting happened that night — Ellen Siegel was sitting in the front row at my performance. We’d meet two years later and get married five years after that!
Hope you enjoy this first work of mine.
Oh, and here’s an informal recording I made in 2008. It’s a bit freer and the accompaniment is more soulful. Gives you another idea for how to present the song.
Let the glory of God be extolled, and God’s great name be hallowed in the world whose creation God willed. May God rule in our own day, in our own lives, and in the life of all Israel, and let us say: Amen. Let God’s great name be blessed forever and ever. Beyond all the praises, songs, and adorations that we can utter is the Holy One, the Blessed One, whom yet we glorify, honor, and exalt. And let us say: Amen. For us and for all Israel, may the blessing of peace and the promise of life come true, and let us say: Amen. May the One who causes peace to reign in the high heavens, cause peace to reign among us, all Israel, and all who inhabit the earth, and let us say: Amen.
recorded 1975 (and 2008) music by Billy Dreskin text from Jewish liturgy
1975 tape performed by a couple of 16 year olds (Billy Dreskin and Amy London)
sound engineering by nuttin’ but a junky old cassette tape recorder
MP3 Audio (very rough 1975 home recording), MP3 Audio (2008 recording), Lead Sheet (pdf), Words and Chords (pdf)