For the new month of Elul, songwriter Elie Lichtschein introduces his “mysti-folk” version of Hallel to New York. Lichtschein has composed new melodies for the psalms that are traditionally chanted on Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of the new Jewish month.
He describes his musical influences for composing this musical project, “Celebrate Hallel,” as American folk music, in the style of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, as well as Hasidic nigunim, or wordless melodies, as though one is sitting at the rebbe’s table.
Lichtschein, who recently moved to New York City from Washington D.C., had been playing these melodies with a group of musicians and friends, to celebrate Rosh Hodesh with joy, contemplation and meaning. He started with a small group that has now grown. At Drisha Institute, he’ll teach the melodies.
“The goal of the project,” he says, “is to raise the profile of Rosh Hodesh, a neglected holiday on the Jewish calendar, that’s worthy of celebration. Hallel is a way to do that.”
For Lichtschein, the words of tehillim, or psalms, “strike a chord” and he speaks of the soulfulness of the prayer. Once he memorized the words, he is able to truly think about and feel their meaning as he sings. His favorite lyrics are among the simplest, like “Praise be God, his kindness is forever.”
Lichtschein, who is pursuing an MFA in creative writing, is also at work on his debut album of mysti-folk songs.
Elie Lichtschein presents “Celebrate Hallel” at Drisha, 37 West 65th Street, on Tuesday, August 6th at 7 p.m. (suggested $10 donation). He will also present the work along with some of his other compositions at the Teaneck General Store, 502A Cedar Lane, Teaneck on Wednesday, August 28th at 7:30 p.m. (free).