Nusach Ha-Tefilah for the Jewish Year

Nusach Ha-Tefilah for the Jewish Year


From Hazzan Jack Kessler: 

In the 1990’s, at the request of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z"l, I began developing the ALEPH Cantorial program. Our overall goal, as he and I discussed, was to train hazzanim as Jewish musical spiritual artists of the future. To achieve this, the hazzanim of the future must be grounded in the rich Jewish musical heritage that has developed over the centuries– able to translate the emotional power of that legacy in a way that cracks open our hearts, while also embracing and creating the new melodies and rhythms that our contemporary lives bring to us.

As part of this long-term project, I began to create the Nusach Ha-Tefilah series. Over time I recorded the Ashkenazi nusach – the classical modal chant – for the entire Jewish liturgical year. It is an ongoing project, as time and new insights alter how I sing the liturgy. 

In addition to the classical scales and musical motives for each part of each service, I emphasized communicating the feel and mood of all the tefillot. Basically, I davvened the whole year (it took a while). 

A second project, which I created for the Davvenen Leadership Training Institute (DLTI) (www.dlti.org) is the series called “Learn to Davven.” This series - Weekday and Shabbat - features the entire services davvened word by word in simple basic nusach. It is a personal learning tool whose goal is to help listeners internalize the tefillot as personal practice. 

The original recordings were on cassettes; then everything was digitized for CD production. Now they are in mp3 format, and I have decided to make them ALL available here for download.

Some of you may have purchased the cassettes and CDs years ago. Thank you. Now, at this stage of the endeavor, I have decided to offer all of this at no fixed charge. You may have it all as a gift. 

I do ask, if you are so moved, to please make the best donation you can to the Hazzan Susan Wehle Cantorial Scholarship fund. This fund is named after one of our early graduates, a wonderful Jewish musician who died too young in a tragic plane crash. The fund helps subsidize the tuition costs of our future hazzanim. 

One gentle word of advice: These tracks are by no means the only way to sing the liturgy. Any nusach recording is a snapshot of what the hazzan is doing in that moment. While part of our Jewish nusach heritage features set melodies (for instance: kaddish for different services) most nusach is essentially an improvisational medium. While there is much standardized structure and patterning, a great deal of creative freedom is given to the singer within the medium. You may sing the same piece of text very differently from one service to the next, depending on the mood of the event and your inspiration of the moment. My recordings are not designed to be memorized, but to provide a springboard for your own creativity as you hold the energy of your davvening community. 

I invite you to reach deep into our musical roots to grow your own creativity. In the words of the 16th century poet Shalom Shabazzi, gishmei b’racha yiz’lu: may blessings rain down everywhere! So, sing! Sing our people’s love song! We sing to heal ourselves; we sing to heal Am Yisrael, and ultimately we sing to heal the world. 

Hazzan Jack Kessler 
Director, ALEPH Cantorial Program 


List of Recordings (Shabbat and other festivals to come later on!)

High Holiday #1: Maariv and Shacharit — minimum suggested donation: $36 
High Holiday #2: High Holiday Musaf — minimum suggested donation: $72 
High Holiday #3: Rosh Hashanah Specials — minimum suggested donation: $18 
High Holiday #4: Yom Kippur Kol Nidre, day services — minimum suggested donation: $72 
High Holiday #5: Yom Kippur Neila — minimum suggested donation: $36 
High Holiday #6: High Holiday Torah Readings — minimum suggested donation: $36 
Learn to Daven #1: Erev Shabbat — minimum suggested donation: $18 
Learn to Daven #2: Shabbat Morning — minimum suggested donation: $18 
Learn to Daven #3: Weekday — minimum suggested donation: $18 


NOTE: When you register, you will see a box for each section of recordings. Please make a donation of your choosing for each section that you would like to receive access to. After donating, you will receive an email with links to the sections of recordings you selected.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Stephanie at stephanie@aleph.org.