Blowing the shofar which heralds the arrival of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is not for beginners.
However the results during a visit the other day to Talmud Torah, a St. Paul Jewish day school, were impressive.
You can hear the Minnesota Sounds and Voices moment I created from it this afternoon past part of All Things Considered.
Teachers and the head of school, Sara Lynn Newberger helped the students learn the ancient tradition and you can see them in the photo above snapped by MPR’s Jeff Thompson.
First the students soloed and then created sort of a shofar orchestra, if you will, and the sounds were, well, striking!
The general advice for making the primal sound from the animal horn is to pretend you’re a trumpet player.
Purse the lips, buzz and blow.
And expect a big gush of air and a blat rather than the hoped for plaintive bleat.
Oh yes, and one more thing.
You blow the shofar, you don’t play it. There are no fingering holes, no keys; it’s pretty much a one note instrument.
Apparently however, like bugle players, the best shofar blowers can create more than one note.
Yes, you should expect to expend a lot of breath, and that’s another measure of the best shofar blowers. They can really sustain some of the sounds.
Not that any of this is first person advice. No sir. I know when to bow out before making a fool of myself. After all, I was a clarinetist in high school band, not a brass player.
Jeff is the real trouper.
He put down his camera and accepted the invitation to blow the horn. Sadly I was too slow on the draw to capture a photo, but I do have the audio of Jeff’s shofar solo.
It’s probably not for broadcast, but it’s a hoot and will no doubt be a great audio addition to his retirement party in 30 years.
L’ Shana Tova!