On the dangers of being a singer at weddings

I’m not sure if I could be insured for this type of situation, but it happens all to often. Maybe playing in a cage would be safer.

Hat tip to frusk

You can picture the scene. Benny Friedman was invited to do a guest spot by both Mechutonim/Chosson-Kalla. It’s not cheap. He starts, together with the existing singer, and all of a sudden an overweight “holy man” who can’t cope with the “modernishe” sound of the song, keeps approaching and eventually takes the microphones away.

מי שמך לראש?

Who gave him the right. No, he wasn’t a Mechutan. He was a guest from Israel who felt that, like many extremist Charedim he had the right to dictate what could or could not be played.

It is a very horrible situation to be in. In my case, it’s even worse, because my band are Nochrim and they see it as grossly unacceptable and unprofessional—read, חילול השם ברבים

I have had my share of these “situations”. The most infamous one was where I met with Chasan and Kallah and one Mechutan and went through what should/should not be played. I followed it to the letter. I have always done so. I proffer advice, but at the end of the day, it is the client who chooses. Suddenly, while playing a Shwekey Mizrachi style song, I was approached by a group of angry zealots, who turned out to be the Mechutan from overseas (a highly extreme and opinionated Rosh Yeshivah, and his Hefty holy sons). They tried to pull out the electrical chords. I asked them to confer with the other Mechutan and to come back, but he was having nothing of it.

I don’t know how I stayed cool, but I gracefully stopped the bracket, and tried to explain later that Shwekey was far from a Goy, but nothing helped.

Ah, for the old days. Holocaust survivors had another approach. They used to come up to the band stage waving $100 bills and asking whether we could play a particular song next. Suffice it to say that I never took the money, and always played within the rules provided to me. I told them to speak to the Mechutanim first.

Indeed, I played at a wedding last week, and someone wanted me to do something extra and brandished some $100 bills. I told him to give them to Tzedaka, but I’d do as I was professionally bound to do.

What should that Ferd (horse) who attacked Benny Friedman have done? If he was a mentch and didn’t like the song, he should have gone to the foyer, eaten a few more knishes and come back.

You might be giggling, but I can tell you, it’s a horrible scene. Everyone has an opinion. Only one opinion counts, however, and that is the Mechutanim in concert with Chosson Kallah.

One of my acquaintances in New York, has gone as far as specifying a contract which states that nobody is permitted to approach the band stage with their narishe requests except through the Mechutonim. I’m not sure if that helps, but it’s another approach.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

15 thoughts on “On the dangers of being a singer at weddings”

  1. Was this guy’s objection to the modern sound of the song? It was reported that his objection was to the use of Ivrit. Notice that Friedman immediately stops singing the words, and the guy seems to have no further objection to him.

    You know how strongly the Rebbe Nishmoso Eden wrote against the use of Hebrew for secular purposes. Nowadays it’s not really practical to boycott Ivrit, but the existence of kanoim like this is a beneficial reminder that our use of it is not lechatchila. If we must compromise with reality, let us at least remember that we are compromising, and not forget our principles altogether. Without such incidents the younger generation has no idea that there’s anything even a little bit wrong with it.


    1. He can do all this later. In the meanwhile he should walk out quietly. I guarantee you he speaks Ivrit and at the end if the day it’s here and here to stay, and unless there was a Psak telling him to do a Pinchas, he should have found another knish


  2. שו”ת ציץ אליעזר חלק כב סימן י

    אם מותר לשיר פסוקי תנ”ך בשמחות וכדומה.


  3. Why do you have to label the Kanoi a pferd!?!???

    The modernishe protocols are well known in New York and such “stars” such as Pinky Weber, Chilli Posen or Lipa Schmeltzer are more than aware of what is appropriate MUZIK for a chassneh, Friedman should have known better! Stop trying to turn simchas into chareidische discos C”V.


    1. You and the Kanoi miss the point

      It is NOT repeat NOT their Simcha!!!

      I don’t care if it was Rav Aviner who tried to take the mics away.

      It’s just not their call!

      I have no problem playing chassidishe music all night and when that’s my brief, I don’t deviate.

      I only have one personal red line. I won’t sing Yechi. I will sing the niggun to the original words.

      You think a ‘March’ is holy? That was modern music of their time. Provide me with evidence that the Leviim sang Bobober marches?


  4. Benny Freidmans muzik is too fast and the “beats” are designed to flame the yetzer hora, such raucous MTV style muzak is not heimische. While it is not bekovidke to grab a microphone out of the performers hand it is worse to allow this jungle beat/techno influence pervade the sanctity of a simcha. There is modernische music and then there is wild beats and it is the latter that Friedman was doing. L’Havdil Please dont try to compare the Leviyim of Har HaBayis to what is going on today especially in New York, why do you think Schmeltzer was asked to vacate New Square?


    1. New Square is not a place for lipa or any modern singer.

      Don’t forget waltzes, a la Modzits style were the modern music of their time. Men and women used to dance to that in physical contact

      At least Russian melodies sound depressing like Rachmaninov

      And don’t forget Chacham Ovadya explicitly allowed Arabic music to become part of davening

      The Rambam only forbids love songs.

      You don’t like the beat, go to a foyer.

      Some won’t tolerate Carlebach. Chabad don’t. BUT you don’t shter a simcha if you don’t approve. In the worst go home quietly!


  5. I have to say that what happened to you at leonda that fateful night was terrible and disgusting… Very well played on your side.
    I love it how these zealots come up and decide that they run the show… Terry having a little dialog with them about what is Jewish music and they struggle to bring any serious logical argument.


  6. Oy Vey! Muzak has reached an all time LOW! One only has to listen to Meleyim Ziv by Yeedle Werdyger to witness the Sitra Achra! H-shem Yishmor.


    1. Mark

      I don’t witness the Sitra Achra but I do have to say the music has become somewhat boring and repetitive.

      Do you approve of breaking Klipas Noga?




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