I had one of my rare whims yesterday afternoon to listen to some church choral music. I thought December might be a good time for that because I imagined lots of American classical stations would be broadcasting Christmas carols. (Swedish radio isn't much use for this, partly because the choral tradition here is rather weak, and partly because they are sensible enough to confine celebrating Christmas to actual Christmas, rather than all the way through the autumn.)
In the end I couldn't really find anything suitable, because while I was right about the Christmas music, most of the classical stations I know of only had 64K streams available. 64K really isn't good enough for classical music (and it's kind of inadequate even for pop, honestly). KUSC is ok, with a 96K stream, but at the time I wanted to listen they were doing a three-hour stint of Wagner, no thank you very much. So does anyone have any recommendations for classical stations that broadcast online at decent quality? (I'm not asking for high quality when I'm not expecting to pay for it, but 96K or 128K is bearable and 64K just isn't.)
I've spent this weekend helping the Progressive community host a German cantor from the Jewish Renewal movement. Her approach to Judaism is rather the opposite of mine, all spirituality and meaningful emotional experiences and meditation and wordless melodies and neo-chassidism. But she's extremely good at what she does, incredibly charismatic and really musical; she was a professional actor and singer before she trained as a cantor. And I got the impression that she really does connect to this stuff on a deep, personal level, it's not just facile schmaltzy emotional manipulation.
So we had a Friday night service and meal, and a Saturday morning service which I was theoretically helping lead, though I actually I just stood around and let the cantor do her incredibly professional thing, and then she lead a discussion, and then I went home for an hour and a half before going out to a supper party in her honour. She's doing a concert today, but I have too many experiments to get on with to be able to attend. It was fun, and we got a bunch of people who aren't regulars but were curious to see her, and you could see that people were really moved by the whole thing. I found it kind of exhausting, though, partly because I only managed to snatch three hours to myself by spending unreasonable amounts of time travelling back and forth across Stockholm, and partly because it was in fact emotionally intense, and I was tired anyway.
There was a guy there, one of the group of young-ish active Jews, who was even more uncomfortable with all this spiritual stuff than I am. He and I got into a violent agreement on this topic at the meal on Friday. And then on Saturday at the discussion he asked a very good question: what about the German and western European Reform tradition, with its rationalist, intellectual approach? Well, part of the answer to that is the Holocaust, sure, but all this revival of Polish-Yiddish-mystical vaguely chassidic style of Judaism is still a recreation of a tradition that was nearly wiped out, so why can't we revive other parts of our community's history as well? Some of this is to do with which streams are dominant in America, and American Judaism is obviously richer and better resourced so it's not surprising that many European traditions get a bit bulldozed.
But this, as well as some conversations with Joanna recently, has made me realize that I do actually feel a personal connection to this originally German rationalist, liberal tradition. I don't just like it better because externally enforced spirituality scares and alienates me, but because it is my history. Even the parts of my family that came from a Yiddish background didn't speak the same dialect of Yiddish that has become popular on American TV shows and is therefore thought of as folksy and Jewish. This is part of why I got so excited about the weekend in Berlin, because what they're reviving is proper German Reform Judaism, though they're not slavishly trying to recreate the nineteenth century either, they are incorporating modern developments and understandings, and don't exclude spiritual, emotional stuff.