By Lubavitcher Center
“The Alter Rebbe famously said that ‘words are the pen of the heart, whereas niggun is the quill of the soul.’ So when words can no longer contain our intense feelings in the days approaching the 20th yahrtzeit of the Rebbe, where else do we turn than to a program focused on niggun?”
With these opening words, Master of Ceremonies Rabbi Yehuda Shemtov welcomed a full audience gathered in the iconic wood-paneled and chandeliered Crystal Tea Room for an all-original presentation of film and music entitled, “The Rebbe’s Niggunim: Songs of the Inspired Soul.”
Sponsored and produced by Lubavitch of Philadelphia this past Tuesday evening, this presentation shared the story of the niggunim taught by the Rebbe, both how they were taught as well as the stories and messages behind them. Six original and exquisite arrangements of niggunim, written by Israel Edelson, were performed masterfully by a string quartet led by violinist Yonoson Rothman.
A short film co-produced by yuvla|media and ZalmanG Productions introduced each niggun with its respective story and message, providing background and an additional layer of meaning to the music that followed.
The stories of these niggunim and certainly the niggunim themselves are no secret, but this might be the first time they were presented as one unified story, a story that touches on hallmarks of the Rebbe’s teachings; the struggle of the neshomo to come to terms with her existence in this cold, indifferent world and her realization that her destiny is intertwined with the elevation of the mundane.
“This presentation was designed,” explained the program’s creator, Bentzi Avtzon, “with the belief that through niggun the neshomo of every individual can be touched in the deepest of ways, so long as what is conveyed is left pure and uncompromised. From the crowd’s reaction, this belief was confirmed unequivocally.”
“Powerful.” “Inspiring.” “Stirring.” “Magical.” These are only some of the adjectives offered by an audience that remained glued to their seats throughout the forty-five minute presentation. And when it concluded with a short video of the Rebbe singing the niggun Tzomo L’cho Nafshi by Farbrengen, the crowd’s standing ovation seemed only natural, as if the program had in fact managed to lift them from their seats, to inspire them to challenge the status quo and make a renewed, deeper commitment to their yiddishkeit.
As Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, Head Shliach of Philadelphia and Director of the Lubavitcher Center, shared with the crowd, “It is not only about the inspiration felt this evening, but about how it is translated in the future.”
Judging from their contemplative steps leaving the hall, these were sentiments shared by everyone present at this memorable evening.