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Reflecting on Shabbat Shirah


This Shabbat is Shabbat Shirah: the week we read Parashat B’shalach, which contains the Song of the Sea (Shirat HaYam; Az Yashir Moshe). Though it already has the designation of a ‘Special Shabbat,’ Shabbat Shirah at the Shaar is particularly significant. This year marks 70 years since the Congregation introduced its special Shabbat Shirah service. Beginning in 1952, the Synagogue’s Choir Committee set out to transform the service into an unforgettable liturgical concert experience—a Shaar tradition which has continued to this day. While current restrictions leave synagogues in Quebec temporarily shuttered, we can reflect nostalgically on Shabbatot Shirah of the past—in particular that of 1970. 



1970’s Shabbat Shirah service (full program linked below) was organized by the Sisterhood in honour of Hazzan Nathan Mendelson’s late wife Mae. The program records that many of the musical arrangements were composed by the Shaar’s choir director of over 30 years (1942–72), Prof. Jacob Rosemarin. In another section, the program remarks that a selection of other compositions may be chanted in the weeks to come, including an arrangement of Mi She’asa Nisim for Shabbat M’varchim. Picture below is Rosemarin’s handwritten manuscript arrangement!





For a more immersive experience, listen below to selections from the record Hazzan Nathan Mendelson – Shabbat Morning Service (though not recorded on Shabbat!), some of which would have also been performed at the Shabbat Shirah service in 1970. (Please note, the music has been converted from a vinyl record and the sound quality reflects this.)

We hope you enjoyed this ‘sneak peek’ of the Shaar’s musical history. In the coming months, we at the archives will be going through some of the synagogue’s music and choir papers, and we look forward to sharing more of these fascinating pieces in the future.


Link to Shabbat Shirah Service Program 1970


Link to Jacob Rosemarin’s music manuscript for Mi She’asa Nisim


Link to “Hazzan Nathan Mendelson – Shabbat Morning Service”


Saturday, May 18, 2024 10 Iyyar 5784