Violinist Joshua Sussman to teach course on niggun at B’nai Sholom

Joshua Sussman, photo courtesy of Evan Lauber.

ALBANY-A new course at B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany will look at the history and purpose of the niggun, vocal music based on repetitive sounds, both with and without words. “Song is the Pen of the Soul,” taught by musicologist and violinist Joshua Sussman, will meet four Tuesdays beginning March 5, 7-8:15 p.m., at the synagogue, 420 Whitehall Rd., Albany.

The course takes its title from the teachings of Chasidic Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Ziadi who wrote, “If words are the soul of the heart, song is the pen of the soul.” This course will explain the history and purpose of the niggun, discussing how the authors of Chasidic song in some cases share technical features with classical works by composers such as Liszt and Handel, and examine as well the niggunim sung during Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. The course also will delve into the Chasidic lore behind the melodies and share the purpose and power inherent in this musical form.

Sussman is a violinist who has played with symphony orchestras and chamber groups across the United States and Europe. He has a master’s degree in music history from The Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford in Connecticut as well as a degree in rabbinics from the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, N. J. Sussman is familiar  with standard classical repertoire and Jewish folk traditions, and his teaching is informed both by his training in musicology and in the ways of Chasidism.

“Song is the Pen of the Soul” is open to the public.

Fee for the four-week course is $25 ($20 for B’nai Sholom members), and registration is required.

The B’nai Sholom office: 518-482-5283 or can provide information.



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