Memorial for Walter Blum

by Brian on April 27, 2010

in A Parent in Israel,Jewish Holidays and Culture,Music

Walter Blum, 2008

My father, Walter Blum, died a year ago on March 22 of lymphoma. At the time, I wrote on this blog about my difficulties saying the traditional Kaddish prayer and how I planned to formulate a series of alternative “events” to honor my father in a manner that I hope he would have appreciated and to which I myself could better relate.

Over the course of the last year, I have taken on several projects “ilu’i nishmato” a term which, re-framed in a modern light, might be translated as “to elevate the essence of who he was.” I’ve posted already about SiddurWiki, my collaborative approach to create humanistic commentaries on the traditional prayers in the siddur (if you haven’t taken a look, please do). I’ve been working hard on another project that I’ll be writing about in the coming months.

The first event, however, was a memorial evening where I mixed music and humanistic interpretations of Jewish texts to try to share what my father was like and what he was passionate about.

The music for the evening, which took place last year on June 9, 2009, was composed by Yoel Sykes and Daphna Rosenberg, musicians from the Nava Tehila Jewish Renewal community in Jerusalem, who performed seven original songs based on psukim from various places in the Torah, prophets and psalms. In addition, my daughter Merav and her guitar teacher Mishael Dickman played an appropriate cover of a Foo Fighter’s song.

The entire evening was recorded and I am very pleased to present excerpts here, one a week for the next 8 weeks. The evening ran about an hour, but I’m only posting the recordings of the music here. You’ll see the written text preceding each video clip.

If you don’t want to wait for each week’s post, the entire evening is online – just click here.

(תהילים כ”ז, ד)

The first song we’ll be singing together is based on a verse you’ll probably be familiar with: “Shivti B’beit Adonai, Kol Yamei Haya.” I will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

In these psukim, we understand the importance of being in what I’d call “full God consciousness.” But another meaning that would be more appropriate for my father is that he spent his life fully conscious and present, his mind actively engaged in the world, never passive. He was able to discuss any subject, and he was lucid up until the end. This being present filled up the days of his life. A major part of what filled him up was music.

My father was a musician. He had a degree in music composition from Columbia University. He wrote music, he played piano beautifully. We had a baby grand in our home growing up. Early in his career, he played music on the radio as a D.J. That love of music fills me up too. And Jody. And our children.

So as we sing the words of Shivti, think about what fills you up, what keeps you present and engaged in the world. And think about the music and how important that is to all of us, especially to my father.

To view the entire memorial evening on a single page, please click here.

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