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traditional jewish music

Modern couples often decide to devote a small part of their Jewish wedding reception music to participating in classic traditional dances. This decision may be based upon the couple’s own wishes, requests from the family or the number of guests who are familiar with more Orthodox Jewish wedding dances.

The Chuppah or marriage ceremony is an example of how many clients like to have traditional live music, usually provided by a duo or a trio of musicians playing clarinet, accordion and double bass. Music for the important Chuppah ceremony has to be just right for the pair involved and the repertoire is always selected well beforehand and with great care.

Meaningful rituals

The Jewish wedding ceremony has a number of meaningful rituals as well as rich traditions. These traditions represent the bride and groom in reflection of their changing relationship status. Traditional Jewish music and dances therefore play strong roles in the nuptial celebrations. There are a variety of traditional Jewish dances that take place at the wedding reception which are coupled with traditional songs. It’s not only the bride and groom who lead the dancing but family members and guests get involved as well. The whole event becomes a joyous, vibrant and warmly filial affair sealing relationships on both sides of the families.

The Horah

The Horah or Hora is one of the most well known songs traditional Jewish music for weddings. Even the non Jewish would likely have seen this dance portrayed in TV shows and films featuring Jewish families. The Horah is invariably performed to the favourite Hava Nagila or Klezmer. Hava Nagila and is actually a Hebrew folk song, performed not only at weddings, but also at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Today, it’s often given a modern musical twist as an upbeat techno pop number.

The words ‘hava nagila’ is a call for all to rejoice while the song Klezmer is a song in traditional Jewish music related to Ashkenazic Jews. It means ‘vessels of song’ or can be translated as an actual instrument of music.

Bride and groom in chairs

To dance the Horah, all of the guests gather on the dance floor in a circle, moving back and forth while kicking out a leg and making grapevine type steps. The bride and groom sit in chairs in the centre of the circle, which are then lifted into the air above shoulder height. The newly-weds then each hold onto one end of a handkerchief. Sometimes even their immediate family are lifted into the air, also on chairs. It all makes for a very fun and lively atmosphere.

The Mezinke Tanz is another dance performed within traditional Jewish music for the wedding reception. This is when the last son or daughter in the family is getting married. For this dance, the mother is given a crown of flowers to wear on her head, and the parents sit in chairs in the middle of the dance floor. All the guests then dance around the family. The Mezinke Tanz is invariably danced to Di Mezinke Oysgegebn which translates to ‘away our youngest daughter.’ One very special occasion is the double mezinke, which is when both sets of parents have married off their last child.

Performing traditional Jewish music

Finally, at the end of the wedding reception, a dance called the ‘gladdening of the bride’ is performed to traditional Jewish music. No specific song is used and any familiar Jewish instrumental is played – as long as it is upbeat and lively of course! For this dance the guests again form a circle on the dance floor, the bride seated in the centre. The guests just dance around singing her praises and their well wishes.