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Young Clearwater Rabbi Hopes Her Music Inspires Spiritual Journeys
December 13, 2012 Elaine Markowitz - Tampa Bay Times
See the Tampa Bay Times Best Bets piece on Danielle's concert.
CLEARWATER — Rabbi Danielle Upbin of Congregation Beth Shalom, looking every bit a star in her black pants and high boots, took to the stage and belted out the music she loves to an enthusiastic audience of some 200.
Upbin, 38, is both a rabbi and a professionally trained singer, and her recent performance was a coupling of her musical talent with her passion as a spiritual leader.
It was also the live debut of the music from her first CD, titled Reveal the Light.
The title reflects the rabbi's personal mission: to help others find the path to peace and harmony and a sense of oneness with each other and with God.
"We live in a dark and complicated world," said Upbin, wife of Rabbi David Weizman of Beth Shalom and the mother of four young children. "We (humans) are charged with uncovering the holy sparks that are in all living things."
A native of Manhattan, she also serves the Beth Shalom congregation as cantor and musical director.
Upbin said that with the nine simple prayers on the CD, she wants to "invite the listeners in" and move them along on their spiritual journey to uncovering the light.
"I wanted to use music I knew and loved," she said, "but that had universal appeal and accessible melodies."
The music, sung mostly in Hebrew, is translated on the CD jacket. The themes of peace and oneness with God are apparent in the English translations, with titles such as Let There Be Peace, The One Who Makes Peace, Only One Thing and Return Us to You.
For her debut of the CD, Upbin was joined by five local musicians from all faiths and backgrounds who also accompany her on the album: Charles Barry Skeete, a jazz musician and percussionist based in Largo; Skeete's wife, Catherine Costa, a vocalist who plays numerous instruments; Tim Burnaman, pianist and musical director at several local houses of worship; Blake Lenett, guitarist and musical assistant to Upbin at Beth Shalom; and Fred Johnson, well-known local jazz musician and songwriter.
Upbin credits Johnson with mentoring her in improvisational singing. "Through him, I learned to trust myself and to let my own spirit guide me," she said.
Johnson praised Upbin for both her musical selections and her passion in conveying them. He spoke of her music as holding a light of faith and hope "that can serve as a catalyst for opening people's hearts."
In November, just prior to the album debut, Upbin performed selections from it as part of a music festival at the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater. The Rev. Abhi Janamanchi said his congregants loved the music.
"The energy that Danielle's music generated was both healing and joyous at the same time," he said. "She has an amazing presence that combines with the God-given gift of her voice." He sees her talent reaching beyond the walls of her synagogue. "She has the potential to embody something bigger," Janamanchi said.
Upbin hopes to perform at other venues throughout the Tampa Bay area. About 100 CDs sold following the debut performance, but they also can be purchased from her website, danielleupbin.com, which has links to all major online music purveyors, including iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby.
The young rabbi radiates enthusiasm for the project. "I've heard a lot of Jewish music," she said, "but in this album I feel I have a unique message of peace and connection among all religions."
Correspondent Elaine Markowitz can be contacted at email@example.com.
Rabbi’s New CD Offers Fusion of Faith, Culture
November 16, 2012 - Jewish Press of Pinellas County
The public is invited to a performance and celebration for the release of Rabbi Danielle Upbin’s new CD, Reveal the Light.
The event will be on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. at Congregation Beth Shalom, 1325 S. Belcher Road, Clearwater, where Rabbi Upbin and her husband, Rabbi David Weizman, serve the congregation. A $5 donation is suggested and refreshments will be served.
“This recording is an invitation into prayer. My hope is that as you listen, you will join me in chanting,” Rabbi Upbin writes on her CD notes.
Many of the songs are based on the liturgy, Talmud or a biblical passage with music by the rabbi. The tracks include Yehi Shalom (Let There be Peace), Hashkivenu (Lay Me Down) and Oseh Shalom.
“Lift your voice and draw closer to the Mystery. I am grateful for the many souls who brought this project into fruition,” Rabbi Upbin says.
Among those she credits are well-known local jazz musician Fred Johnson and keyboardist and percussionist Jay Klein who also helped with production.
Klein said that Rabbi Upbin “shared with me a vision to record a collection of songs that through melody, lyric, and soundscape bring together faith and culture.”
He said she wanted to do this in the Judaic music tradition, but include other cultures and faiths that have enriched her journey as a rabbi. “She believed, and I agree with her,” Klein writes, “that by blending eclectic sounds and culture with Jewish traditional melody and lyric, she would make a statement about her wish for the world to come together in peace and for people to explore their commonalties instead of their differences.”
Musical gourds, African stringed instruments and hand drums, Cuban box drums, tablas, clay pots, finger cymbals and a shiruti box are mixed with contemporary instruments for this CD.
Johnson praised the rabbi for embodying “ the knowledge, character and amazing artistic gift that can help lead us to a place of deeper inner peace.”
Rabbi Upbin provides lead vocals. Additional vocals are by Lily Lucey, Johnson, Tymber Wolf, Harriet Rudich, Talia Sager and Dana Garnica.
Besides Johnson and Klein, instrumentalists are Michael Cripe and Blake Lenett on guitar, Daryl Wicker on electric bass and keyboard and Tim Burniman on piano.
Rabbi Upbin also thanked Rev. Abhi Janamanchi and Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Clearwater, where the recording was made, the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Joyce Liu,Andi Szmiga, Congregation Beth Shalom and her family.
For more information, call the synagogue at (727) 531-1418.
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