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Three−way transplantation of select Jewish liturgical music from Eastern Europe through South Africa to Australia: a century of migratory musical continuities and transformations

posted on 20.02.2017, 23:51 authored by Hancock , Kerrin Henry Richard
This is the first ethnomusicological study to specifically address the transplantation of the South African choral/cantorial Jewish liturgical music in Australia. The investigation explores the multiple migratory pathways of transmission and transplantation of this tradition across three continents: Europe, Africa and Australia. It examines the social and cultural narratives and responses in select orthodox communities along its transmission routes to Eastern Europe, specifically Lithuania, South Africa and Australia, with an emphasis on Melbourne. The impact of the music on the local Jewish communities is considered in detail, including changes in how it is practised following its localisation within its receiving communities and its responses to local cultural conditions. Overall, the arguments are framed by the notion expressed by the ethnomusicologist Adelaida Reyes Schramm: ‘where people go, music goes. They are inseparable’ (Reyes Schramm 1999, 15). Three clear sequential phases mark the transmission of the music at each respective site: conflict, resolution, acceptance and cultural change. The investigation considers the context of each phase in order to understand social and cultural narratives within musical transplantations in new communities. A particular focus of the study is an investigation of several orthodox congregations in the Melbourne Jewish community specifically the Yeshurun Synagogue in Doncaster, the first site of the introduction of choral/cantorial liturgical music to Melbourne, and Central Shule Chabad, which was purposely developed for the continuity and transplantation of the choral tradition in Melbourne. The study makes a detailed examination and analysis of the music and musical choices for the Friday evening services of Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv at Central Shule Chabad and the influences and impact of this music on other orthodox synagogues in Melbourne. An initial finding of the study was the high significance of the choral tradition to South African orthodox Jews, demonstrated by its early introduction in Melbourne very soon after their arrival around 1994. A second finding was the deliberate formation of Central Shule Chabad, which allowed the unimpeded transplantation and continuation of the choral tradition in Melbourne. A third finding was the identification of changes to the original practice of the music, which included a relaxed performance style and willingness to experiment with prayer melodies including tunes that were restricted in South African synagogues. The study also identified a growing respect and acceptance of the music in the broader Melbourne orthodox community, following its initial rejection by the orthodox synagogue in Doncaster where it was first introduced in Melbourne. It has now been introduced into several orthodox synagogues in Melbourne and Sydney and, in the process, transformed into an Australian-South African choral tradition. Overall, the investigation illuminates the importance of transplanted music traditions in assisting Jewish migrants to gain a foothold in their adopted community, and gain the security of recognition and acceptance.


Principal supervisor

Margaret Kartomi

Additional supervisor 1

Aline Scott-Maxwell

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts