First things first, the NF skipped out on his annual selichot night hot date with the LA. Srulik Hershtik's choir had not been engaged to accompany any chazzan and past experience taught me hearing a chazzan with a random choir is about as spiritually uplifting as being on the recieving end of a high colonic (or giving end for that matter).
So the NF attended his local yokel shul where a very nice kumzitz was held in the 45 minutes leading up to Selichot. Selichot were led by the same guy who led last year's neilah using the nusach from Geshem. Said Selichot leader proceeded to do an inoffensive job until he began singing everything to the Yonatan Razel melody for והיא שעמדה. The Big Gong started giving out matzah to the mitpallelim who then complained of bloating and constipation. The connection between והיא שעמדה (The Abeshter saving us from our enemies) and Selichot (repenting for being very naughty) is not very clear to me.
Four short days later and Rosh Hashana was upon us. Shacharit first day was led by a guy with inoffensive nusach until he got to the piyutim in חזרת הש"ץ. He then preceded to sing אתה הוא אלוקינו to the melody of אלי אלי, the Holocaust poem by Chana Senesh. I am assuming he got confused between יום הזיכרון and יום השואה. Either way, he succeeded in alienating the kahal. Just when the NF thought it couldn't get any worse, the
"J" led an excellent musaf.
2nd Day, the Big Gong led a perfect psukei dezimra. Nicely done Big Gong. All psukei dezimra chazzanim in the neighborhood now use the Big Gong's perfromance as a benchmark for their own.
"YS" led what was probably the best R"H Shacharit I've ever heard. YS picked excellent melodies and came up with some excellent innovations such as sing all the Kadosh's leading up to Melech Elyon to this melody. YS, you have won a golden shtender.
The NF led musaf. This was a first for the NF after having led Shacharit on Rosh Hashana about 20 times going back to when I was in University. All in all it went well although it was far from perfect --- the NF has invited the Big Gong to write up his critique and present it here.
In the meantime, here is what the NF did:
Hineni - The Gush nusach (Rami Yanai) with three part harmony from J and YS at the end...
Unetaneh Tokef - Heinevitz for the beginning, Kibbutz for the middle and Carlebach at the end. Brosh Hashana using this and then Henivitz for all the מיs and of course, Modzitz for אין קצבה.
For Vchol Maminim - this and this (more on that later)
Pipiot - this and Ana Hashem by Carelbach
Seu Shearim - this wedding processional
Zacharit Lach - Lewandowski (with multi part harmony from J, YS, Yankel, Ben Bolloks, and the Gonging Gabbai
Halleluya - Carlebach's shomrim
Hashem Tzvaot Yaken Aleihem, ken Tagen - the high part from והיא שעמדה (Here, the meaning of the phrase matches the words of the song)
Hayom Teamtzanu - Tehei Hashaa Hazot.
Hayom Harat Olam - Avinu Malkeinu
Areshet - This melody
1. If it aint broke don't fix it. The NF switched the melody in vchol Maaminim half way through...a mistake....the kahal really got into the first melody and didn't take to the second as well.
2. You often have to sacrifice the traditional melody you love/you grew up with if you want to the have the crowd on your side. J used the Gushi hoyom teamzanu and Hayom Harat olam and both fell a bit flat because people either don't know them or associate them with anything special....using more traditional melodies on the 2nd day, people seemed to be singing more.
3. In a participatory minyan, the chazzan is as good as the guys supporting him. Without J, YS, the Gonging Gabbai and Yankel, singing at the top of their lungs I would have been dead in the water....As it was, I was hoarse all Friday afternoon. thanks guys!
Happily, A very tired NF is not leading anything on Yom Kippur....