On May 2, Kolot Mayim Reform Temple in Victoria welcomes singer, songwriter, teacher, music producer and cantorial soloist Len Udow to speak on Worship with Joy. Drawing on both secular and cantorial music, Udow will recall his journey from 1960s coffee-house folk singer to cantorial soloist at Temple Shalom, Winnipeg’s Reform congregation, where he helps to officiate and teach.
By sharing both his own story and performing live with vocals and guitar, Udow wants to show how we can “carry our ancient narratives to other hearts and souls … respecting the old traditions while introducing innovation in prayer and spirituality.” As he describes it, “In Judaism, we see ourselves enlivening prayer with breath and melody, revealing the joy, praise and gratitude embedded in our heritage.”
For Udow, the phrase iv’du b’simchah (worship with joy) has been “a call to service, putting this musician on the bimah (altar) of a little prairie shul … where I have been privileged to lead a kahal (assembly) to a closer musical fellowship and learning.”
With humour, Udow quotes his mentor, the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom: “When Jews talk they argue; when they sing, they sing together.” To Sacks, “Words are the language of the Jewish mind; music is the language of the Jewish soul.”
Udow has performed on concert stages, at festivals, on radio and television, and on numerous recordings. As well as playing the piano, banjo and guitar, he was a featured vocalist and music producer with fellow Winnipegger, Fred Penner, for more than two decades.
Worship with Joy is the final lecture of Kolot Mayim’s six-part series called Building Bridges: Language, Song and Story. It starts on Zoom at 11 a.m. and registration is via kolotmayimreformtemple.com.