Kol Nidre Banner

 

Click above and one of the 18 voices—the producer’s, number 3—

explains what he and the others have in common.

How did the Kol Nidre become a Jewish anthem and an object of intense interest for non-Jews? 

 

We find out when 18 voices sing Kol Nidre, when 18 storytellers share their tales, their anecdotes, about the prayer.   Some are top experts on the chant, some are just those who have been changed by chanting it.

 

Each tells his or her story with the help of unique visuals and a unique musical setting for the haunting melody.

 

The 18 voices—18 storytellers—include a Hassidic rabbi who tells the tale of a stable boy who is illiterate and can’t read the Kol Nidre prayer, but in frustration lets  his shepherd’s flute fill the synagogue with spirit. 

 

Also, African-American author Julius Lester, a convert to Judaism as an adult, recalls as a boy practicing the melody on piano "as its beauty and pain twisted together like the braids of a girl's hair."

 

And a legal scholar goes back to the Middle Ages to paint the scene, complete with medieval illustrations, of France's King Louis IX putting Judaism on trial and using as exhibit one the Kol Nidre.

 

A film critic shows how the prayer burst onto the general pop scene with the first talking film, “The Jazz Singer” in 1927, which included, among the first words ever heard on film, the Kol Nidre.

 

And a composer demonstrates how the chant has reached beyond Jewish circles, adapted by non-Jewish musicians from Beethoven to Johnny Mathis to the Electric Prunes.

 

In short, we learn the secrets of a sacred chant from those who have been touched by it.