Ever sat in High Holy Days services and when the Shofar is sounded, you thought “Well that looks like fun. I’d like to learn that!”
That was me a long time ago, and as a horn player in school (trombone, trumpet, baritone), I learned the very basics that carry into what makes that incredible sound. After B’Chavana’s High Holy Days services several people inquired about learning to sound the Shofar, and Rabbi Belgrad asked me if I would be interested in giving shofar lessons. So here we go!
The class will be conducted on 3 Wednesday evenings in July and August – and the “syllabus” is as follows:
Wednesday, July 12: Introduction to Shofar – we’ll concentrate on being able to make it make a good sound – this part is where the art comes in. And honestly, not everyone can do it.
Wednesday, July 19: Learning the calls: We’ll learn the calls of the Shofar in the High Holy Days services – 1) Tekiah—an uninterrupted tone lasting for several seconds. 2) Shevarim—three medium-length tones with a rising tone sound at the end. 3) Teruah—a minimum of nine very short blasts with the ending one higher tone. 4) Tekiah Gedolah – One LONNNNNG blast (until your face turns red and your eyes pop out).
Wednesday, August 2: Note the two week break, this is where you’ll practice – and on this final evening we’ll work on “dialing in” your calls and then work on performing them as a group.
Some thoughts if you’re considering this:
– While I won’t make this a hard and fast prerequisite, having previous experience blowing a brass horn instrument (trumpet, cornet, french horn, trombone, baritone, tuba) will take you a long way to success in blowing a Shofar as you already know how to form your mouth and how to tongue notes. If you have never blown a horn or successfully made a noise from a Shofar, OK, I’m happy to try but understand that this class is really focused on teaching the calls to you and performing the Shofar sounds in a service than it is about helping you make noise with a Shofar. If you can learn in advance to make a tone from your Shofar, that will be very helpful – this video is one to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyHNKqmr-R8
– I will not be providing Shofarot (or as we English speakers say, Shofars). If you do not have one and would like to participate, please either purchase one in advance (see below) or find a friend who has one (Rabbi Belgrad has a few – subtle hint) and arrange to borrow one.
– The lessons will be given at my house in Buffalo Grove and will start at 7:30 PM and last about an hour. I will share my address when you RSVP. We will play and learn on my patio as the sound of the Shofar isn’t very pleasing for my dog.
There are online resources to purchase a Shofar, including many on Amazon and on EBay – good search terms to use when looking are “yemenite Shofar” (more expensive) “rams horn Shofar” (less expensive) and “Shofar” (large variety including toys). There is a very broad range in Shofar costs – from under $30 to well more than $1500. You can find good sound from between $75 and $150. And just like brass instruments, the bigger the horn the louder and deeper the sound will be.
I look forward to teaching you this important part of our ritual. To RSVP and sign up, please contact me at 847-833-6349. Your “fee” for this is that if you successfully complete the course and feel good about how you sound, you will be invited join me on the bimah at High Holy Day services to sound the Shofar!