By Fitche Benshimon for COLlive
Thank you so much for your important article, Rabbi Shusterman. As a musician, I’d love to share a few points.
Musicians play what they were hired to play. It’s always discussed beforehand. In fact, I’ve been hired by Rabbi Shusterman to play at 3 of his childrens’ weddings. The music was exactly as he, and the mechatonim, wanted – Lubavitch nigunim only. The weddings were extremely lebedik and full of energy!
Along the same lines, I am also hired by many families whose requests are very different. And I play what they request. During the wedding, I am constantly in touch with the ba’alei simcha and checking in that the style and volume are ok. In general, professional wedding musicians do not show up with an “agenda” of what kind of music they like. It’s a decision made by parents, mechatonim, chosson/kallah. Musicians aim to please their clients and they want the wedding to be outstanding!
While not negating the points in Rabbi Shusterman’s article, I will share some good news! Believe it or not, weddings in Crown Heights are becoming more chassidish than before! Approximately 7 out of every 10 weddings request nigunim only! And let me tell you, these nigunim-only weddings are incredible! High energy, great rhythms, upbeat music, they’re extremely dance-inducive!
Every wedding is unique – there are so many lubavitcher nigunim that I can probably keep playing for 5 weddings straight without repeating a single nigun! I recently got an email from a client who listed 80 of her favorite nigunim! I wish I could’ve done it all. And for those that don’t necessarily want ‘only Lubavitch’ nigunim, there’s an overabundance of other nigunim to choose from.
Regarding some of the comments online, I’d like to mention a few things:
1. If you’re making a wedding, hire a musician that will “listen to you” in the choice of music and volume. I can definitely tell you that my policy is “client is boss.” I’ve done hundreds of weddings and none of my customers ever “withhold money” or “threaten the musician” etc. like some commenters mentioned. When you hire a mensch everything works out.
2. When choosing wedding music, know that not every song is wedding material. If you request Matisyahu, then you need to be OK with the crowd’s response. (You can love a particular song but that doesn’t mean that it works for a wedding) there are plenty of nigunim that aren’t “wedding material” too.
3. There’s a huge range between “very chassidish” and “crazy wild.” There’s an entire genre of Jewish Freilach wedding music, which will bring an amazing, lebedike vibe to the wedding without making anyone feel uncomfortable.
4. When you’re a guest at a wedding, try to remember that the choice of songs and style of music were chosen by both the chosson and kallah’s families (parents and kids.) The music is discussed, then rediscussed so that everyone ends up happy. Instead of being critical, respect the fact that the families are working together. A lot of families give-and-take. For example: If the Chosson’s family wants Lubavitch nigunim only and the Kallah’s family won’t give up on their Israeli music that they are used to for all their simchas – that’s where compromises come into play. When you hear a set of Israeli techno, keep in mind that it will be followed by a set of Nigunim. Sometimes the Chosson and Kallah want music different than what their parents want. So if you hear the music changing at 11:00 pm, realize, that this was probably their compromise.
I am amazed and humbled by watching how countless families work it out. Yes, Chossonim and Kallahs have a tremendous amount of respect for their parents.
Here’s a text I got last month from a Kallah the day before her wedding, “Hi Benshimon, I know we discussed our playlist in detail and my parents are ok with it. But it’s more important to me that my father is happy tonight, even if you don’t get to play my whole list.”
I’d love to get your opinion! Click here to answer a few questions.
May we only celebrate simchas!