We sing a lot at camp. Between two shirot (song sessions), T’filah, and siyum every day, camp is an incredibly musical place. Last Shabbat, I was sitting with my campers as Myles played “It’s Up To Us,” an English version of Aleinu. As he finished, one of my campers leaned over to me and whispered, “all the hair on my arms is standing up”. To me, there is no higher compliment. T’filah can be a difficult time for campers to engage – it’s a lot more time sitting still and focusing than we usually ask of them. But T’filah at camp is also magical: everyone’s voices join and blend together to create a whole far greater than the sum of each individual part. Helping campers find that moment of chills, where the music we do all the time suddenly becomes so profound, is one of the best parts of being a songleader.
Every night at camp we do siyum, two prayers to finish our day and transition to bedtime. Sometimes kids come into siyum tired from a long day of activities. Other days, they are super excited and don’t want to stand still. No matter the energy level, for siyum, they quiet. As the familiar chords ring through the air, we take a deep breath in all together. As breath and wiggles die away together, we can begin.
The night before campers arrived, we did an all-staff siyum. Together, we took a deep breath in, seeing and being with all of each other in a way we rarely have. Together, we did siyum, harmonies diverging and then blending back into a unified whole. This is what songleading is about: helping campers find that incredible moment when everyone’s voices just blend. Creating a sound that comes from no single person but from the entire group. Teaching the joys of singing with other people. Kalsman is a magical place, and songs are a major part of that magic. I am so glad and honored to be helping create that magic this summer.
Miriam on right during evening shira!
By Miriam Cory
Songleader, Summer 2021