The Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons will be hosting a unique concert exploring the self-reflection and rejuvenation of Elul, the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days.
The concert and discussion will take place on Saturday, September 5 and will feature Israeli cellist Elad Kabilio, accompanied by pianist Benjamin Laude, performing a range of music—from the traditional Kol Nidre to a contemporary Israeli setting of Kaddish. Kabilio will also lead a discussion of the spiritual significance of the music.
“Our program prior to the beginning of the Selichot service is especially exciting this year,” CSH Rabbi Jan Uhrbach says. “We’ll have the chance to hear the magnificent Israeli cellist Elad Kabilio and, most especially, we will explore and experience the way in which music uniquely touches the heart and soul.”
Rabbi Uhrbach answers some questions and reveals more about Saturday’s event below.
How did the idea for the concert come about?
Three things came together. First, this is a traditional time in the Jewish calendar to provide settings and programs in which we can be introspective, self-reflective, and try to access deeper parts of ourselves. This particular Saturday night, about a week before Rosh Hashanah, it’s customary to gather together, at night, for a special service anticipating the High Holidays. I’m always looking for something beyond the service itself to help people connect. A concert such as this is a natural—music speaks to the soul directly, in a way that few other things do.
Second, I was introduced to Elad Kabilio and I was convinced the moment I met him that he was more than capable of creating a concert experience that would be both aesthetically beautiful and also spiritually uplifting.
Third, I’ve just taken on a new role in the winter months at the Jewish Theological Seminary as director of the newly established Block/Kolker Center for Spiritual Arts. So I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of the arts in spirituality, and this concert is a natural fit.
Can you tell us a little bit about what people can expect from the concert and discussion?
They can expect to hear gorgeous music on solo cello with piano, including Bruch’s Kol Nidre, a contemporary Israeli setting of Kaddish, and some secular classical chamber music. The social hall is perfect for this—it has wonderful acoustics and soaring ceilings with lots of glass opening out to the natural beauty of the Hamptons. In addition to hearing the music, we’ll learn something about it—how the music relates to the text that inspired it, and how the music can then inspire us do the work of what we call in Hebrew cheshbon hanefesh—taking account of one’s soul.
Who can attend the concert?
The concert is open to everyone, and it’s free, though of course we gratefully welcome donations.
Do you plan on expanding your programming with more of these types of performances?
Absolutely. For example, at the moment I’m looking for ways to share the extraordinary compositional talents of our intern, Michael Boino. Michael is a first-rate, award-winning composer—not just a songwriter, but a composer—specializing in liturgical music. He’s written settings for both Jewish and Christian liturgy, and some shared scripture–like psalms, and the Song of Songs. He’s truly one of the foremost young composers on the scene today, and his music needs to be heard and performed widely. We’d love to partner with one or more of the music festivals out here and co-sponsor concerts featuring his music, and perhaps feature one or more of the magnificent organs in the churches in the area.
What attracted you to the Hamptons?
It was the congregation, actually, which brought me out here. The synagogue was just starting to get together, and a close friend invited me out and introduced me to the fledgling congregation. Obviously, once I arrived I fell in love with the magnificence of the natural beauty here, but even more with the congregation itself. It’s a group of kind, caring, open, intelligent and really thoughtful people who are able and willing to be real and vulnerable with each other. That’s not so easy to find anywhere. That was 16 years ago—the congregation is still that way, and I’m still here and part of it.
What do you love in particular about the fall season out East?
I love the light out here in the fall. It has such a unique quality to it. It’s more beautiful than at any other time of year, and yet at the same time, in its very beauty, it conveys a wistfulness and longing–a hint of sadness–that comes with the end of summer. That brings a kind of peace and restfulness. It’s not just because there are fewer crowds that the Hamptons feels so peaceful in the fall–it’s partly the light. It does something to one’s soul. And of course, that fits so well with the rhythm of the Jewish calendar, which invites introspection at this time of year. It’s also the perfect setting for the cello.
The concert program and discussion begins at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 5 at the Social Hall of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church (2350 Montauk Highway) in Bridgehampton. Dessert begins at 9:45 p.m. followed by a Selichot Service led by Rabbi Jan Uhrbach and Michael Boino, featuring cellist Elad Kabilio and music of the High Holidays at 10:15 p.m. For more info, visit synagoguehamptons.org.