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Jewish Journal

Musical Matzah

Craig Taubman gets ready to celebrate Passover on a new CD

by Ruth Andrew Ellenson

April 13, 2000 | 8:00 pm

Craig Taubman is ready to celebrate Passover, and, as always, he's ready to express his joy through music.

In recognizing the spirit of celebration around a holiday that focuses on the emancipation from slavery, singer-songwriter Taubman, who has set many passages from Jewish liturgy to congregation-pleasing music, welcomes the seder as an occasion for rejoicing and renewal. That spirit infuses his new CD, "Celebrate Passover."

The album includes musicians from Debbie Friedman to Shlomo Gronich to Taubman himself and reflects a variety of musical styles in songs that center around the Passover theme. Featuring genres from klezmer to gospel to rock, "Celebrate Passover" aims to mirror the diversity of Jewish culture and music.

The inspiration for this record was personal as well as professional for Taubman. "My professional life is rooted in two communities, Jewish and secular, and I also face that challenge in the music business," says Taubman, whose credits as a composer include work for Disney and HBO, as well as his albums of Jewish tunes for children in which he headlines Craig & Co.

In seeking projects that join Jewish celebration with popular sounds, he's found great satisfaction in creating albums on Jewish themes. "There is an audience for this music if it's high-quality and marketed well. It's this broad portrait of wonderful music and it's all Jewish -- my artistic and social agendas blended together."

"Celebrate Passover" is the second of a planned three-part series, following "Celebrate Hanukkah," with "Celebrate Shabbat" scheduled for release later this year.

In all three albums Taubman went about pursuing specific artists for contributions but also sought music from all corners of the Jewish community. Via e-mail, he asked for submissions from members of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist congregations, as well as Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Israeli musical sources. Some contributions, such as Shlomo Gronich and The Sheba Choir's "Motherless Child," happened as a twist of fate.

"I saw a concert with Shlomo Gronich after the "Celebrate Passover" album had already been mastered. Gronich is a highly respected Israeli musician and had taken these children from Ethiopia and had them singing African-American spirituals. I couldn't help but be moved. I spoke to Shlomo after the concert in my best Hebrew, and we put it on the album the next day."

Other musical highlights on the albums include Debbie Friedman's "Miriam's Song," which depicts Moses' sister leading women in triumphant dance after crossing the Sea of Reeds, though Taubman says there's more to Passover than the liberation from Egypt.

"If you dig even a little bit, you'll get a much deeper message. 'I Am Green,' by Dana Mase, strikes the closest to my perception about what this holiday is about: renewal. That things are green, they wither and are reborn. We are part of a continuum and need to recognize that. I hope these songs create a mood, getting ready for the seder the week before, and help to create a meaningful celebration."

Other musicians on the albums include Linda Hirschhorn and Vocolot, Rich Recht, David Broza, Alberto Mizrahi, Safam and Alan Eder & Friends, whose own album, "Reggae Passover," is a wildly celebratory take on the holiday.

Celebrate Passover is available on the Internet at www.celebrateseries.com or by calling (818) 760-1077. The record will also be available at Ralphs and Gelson's supermarkets for the Passover holidays. A portion of the profits from the record will benefit ARMDI-Magen David Adom, the Israeli Red Cross.

Ruth Andrew Ellenson is a writer living in Los Angeles.


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