So you’re sitting in shull waiting for licha dodi and the chazzan strikes up some far off obscure tune that neither you nor anyone else in the shull knows. Everyone waits for the chazzan to change the tune when he realizes no one is singing along, yet he just chugs along to the dismay of the crowd. Has this ever happened in your shull?
In many shulls the only time they ever sing anything is licha dodi, and for someone like a vigilante chazzan to take this rare singing opportunity out of the hands of the worshippers and go off running with it has got to be stopped. I personally think there should be some sort of rabbinical legislation introduced to ban this practice. Licha dodi should have some sort of protocol to insure a smooth and easy transition from tune to tune and to make sure the chazzan picks a good smooth tune.
A really good chazzan knows how to bust out the new tune that not many people know, in a way that invites those far flung back of the shull folks to scream their hearts out in honor of the shabbos queen. Then you have the even better chazzan that understands the lack of singing in the audience is directly due to his crappy tune choice. He senses this infraction of his immediately and changes the tune wherever he may be- even if he is before the traditional lo-sevoshy tune change point.
Then you have the bastard chazzan that wants to show who’s boss and will take his crappy tune that he probably learned sitting around a bonfire in camp when someone decided to “teach” everyone a new way to sing “acheinu” and throw it down on the foolish crowd waiting for their traditional licha dodi. Then he realizes his mistake and instead of fixing it he not only sings on with his solo surrounded by some brave souls who have decided to hum along to save the chazzan from an embarrassing solo- this renegade chazzan decides he is going to punish the congregation by continuing with the tune straight through lo-sevoshy.
Now this is very gutsy even with one of the few traditional licha dodi tunes. To continue past the normal lo-sevoshy tune transfer takes balls to say the least, and to make it smoothly past there without letting the singers themselves change it for you takes a real man.
The best way to make sure a chazzan does not act out of line and keep singing his tune, the best thing to do is to change the tune without him ever noticing and this is indeed what happened to me on Friday night. The chazzan picked some random ghetto tune out of his hat and we the people took it upon ourselves in the name of democracy to change the tune. We basically had a mutiny and threw the captain off the deck and took charge of the ship in a Marx like manner. The lowly congregants or proletariat took the monopolistic chazzan down and he just went along with it as if nothing happened.
Some times you may notice the Rabbi taking control and doing this, this is accomplished by the Rabbi expertly from years of practice starting the tune for any prayer moments before the chazzan can have is say of the tune. Many Rabbis take years to master this skill while others can do it while taking a shot of whiskey and twirling their peyos.
If someone were to establish some sort of protocol for the time allotted for the tune to catch on we would all have greater licha dodi’s. The bad tune choice can also effect the time we have allotted for the esteemed “licha dodi lookback”– a term coined by myself some years back when the only time we got to see a glimpse of the girls in the girls school was during the licha dodi lookback. One had to time it so they were bowing as the girls had already turned around- this allowed maybe a split second stare without embarrassment and also took extreme precision to time your bows correctly. The problem with bad tunes are that instead of having a nice slow licha dodi turnaround- the congregants may opt to hurry u and rid themselves of such a bad tune- rather then the traditional two minute overflow of singing.
Please write your LOR to complain about the infringement on our one chance to sing and look over the mechitza without doing crazy stretching, scratching our heads or extended yawns and neck cracks.