Annual Chol Hamoed Kumzitz Features Unique Modzitzer Compositions

by YS Gold

It has become a tradition among aficionados of vintage Modzitzer neginah to gather at the Boro Park home of Reb Aaron Orlander, a protege of the legendary Ba’al menagen, Reb Benzion Shenker, z”l, for an evening dedicated to singing and harmonizing these timeless compositions. 

Nearly one hundred people were in attendance this past Sunday night at the Orlander home, where Reb Aaron, along with his longtime partner R’ Duvid Bick led the inspired and uplifted group in one niggun after another. Elevating the program with brilliant and unique harmonies was the legendary pianist R’ Dov Lenchevsky who accompanied the singers on piano, bringing the nigunim to their true potential as he artfully harmonized the melodies.

Several particularly interesting musical features were on display at this year’s kumzitz. Numerous nigunim of the repertoire featuring unusual harmonic movement, defying conventions of nusach composition, yet bringing the singers to an incredibly deep emotional state. 

Ethnomusicologist Dr. Gordon Dale performed the first-ever composition of the Imrei Aish of Modzitz. When the piece was initially composed it found favor with the Imrei Aish’s father, the Imrei Shaul, who sang it often. After the Imrei Aish moved to Eretz Yisroel, he added two new sections to the end of the piece, including a finale that truly transforms the arc of the piece. He taught these new sections to Reb Benzion Shenker, who was visiting the holy land, and brought them back to America to teach to the Imrei Shaul. The piece has become a classic of the Modzitzer repertoire.

As the sound of these timeless melodies filled the room and reverberated outside, it was the sound of authentic chassidishe neginah, emanating from the holiest source to uplift Yidden until the coming of moshiach. 

Video and photos by: Achim Lenchevsky.

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