I attended a Carlebach Shabbos this week. To be frank, it was a little disappointing. The actual Carlebach tunes were of course beautiful and sung well by the chazzon, a singer brought in for the occasion. But it was only about Kabbalas Shabbos. And the after dinner tisch/kumsitz/sing- a- long. Shabbos morning, his big singing was Kedusha in Musaf. But it was nice to go to shul on Friday night (admission! I am female!) .This is a shul where most of the people are 50+. There are a few with young kids, but many people have moved away, and the neighborhood is not one that has a lot of young people with growing families moving in.
What was disappointing? When I think of Carlebach of my younger days, like when he was alive, the people who danced at his concerts or get togethers were, um, well, odd. Groupies, hippies, lost souls, or probably people like myself and husband, regular frum who felt an emotional tug and appeal to the rather bohemian side of life, but always as observers, and not active participants. Part of the enthrallment and electricity in the air was waiting to see who all was close to Reb Shlomo, and who his followers were, and what the crowd was like. And there was probably a faint sickly sweet smell wafting over the audience, but I was clueless about that.
I attended a "private" performance when I was in high school. Carlebach played at a local nursing home. I went with a friend and two siblings. And a lot of people snoring in wheelchairs.
I won free tickets to a Shlomo Carlebach concert Tanis Esther, 1988. How do I remember the date?
1. I could not find a babysitter because it was Ta'anis Esther night
2. I had one child, and I wheeled her, in her portable crib, up to my neighbor, via elevator.
(too, many, commas, I , know. Whatever,?!")
We got to the concert.
1. Carlebach was late.
2. extremely late
3. Someone had to run and get his guitar
4. He apologized for having a slight cold
5. He sang one song for 45 minutes
6. He asked the audience to come down and move closer and come on stage, and
7. Someone in a clown costume did, and spend most of the 45 minutes doing wobbly handstands and waving his feet in the air. Blocking my view of the hoarse Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach playing and singing five words (Dovid Melech Yisroel Chai Vekayom) on his bad guitar.
THAT was a Carlebach experience.
So no fault of the congregants of this shul who grew up with Carlebach and love his music and wanted to enjoy the intense spiritual nature of his songs, in the comfort of their shul, with their families, on a cold Friday night. And it WAS warm and beautiful and haunting tunes. And it WAS nice when the men all joined hands and danced around the Bima for a while.
But it just wasn't as authentic as when Reb Shlomo would sing and women with wild hair and colorful skirts and no socks, and men who looked not quite like men and had lost looks in their eyes and seemed gaunt or starved would shuffle around or break into a spontaneous foot maneuvers. And I felt sad because we seem old. And I don't think anyone under 30 really enjoys the Carlebach weekends.
And also, I am so irked that Carlebach is now accepted and played and almost revered by right wing musicians, when he was practically ignored by the mainstream when he was alive. I am an elitist and a snob. A purist. And I loved Carlebach music when it was played and sung by Carlebach.
And I am not so bohemian. And I do a lot of mainstream things. And that is probably the real reason why I enjoyed but also felt sad singing along with the Carlebach shabbos.