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The Chanukkah Songs That Keep on Giving by Karen Kamenetsky

12/04/2023 09:58:50 AM


I asked our member Karen Kamenetsky to be my guest writer this issue. Please read her story and listen to her songs below.    

Songs are often gifts. They can spark joy, soothe pain, bring people together. The songs I wrote for my Chanukah album, “With This Flame” were gifts right from the start. The idea for the album came at a time when my Rheumatoid Arthritis was out of control. I had been performing multiple times a month and playing for hours a day writing songs. Now, the pain in my joints was so bad I could only play my guitar for a few minutes at a time, and I believed I couldn’t make music, or write songs, without it.
The first gift the Chanukah songs gave was to show me I could keep making music whether I was able to play an instrument or not. I had three songs, written a few years before. I wrote five more, singing in the shower, refining melodies in the car, plunking out notes on the piano and recording lyrics on my cell phone, without ever touching my guitar.

I brought the songs to my friend Steve Kohn who helped me put together lyric and chord sheets.I wanted to record an album, but the “click track” of guitar and vocals I usually used to start the process would not be possible. I reached out for help and the response was overwhelming.

The second gift the songs gave me was the kindness and generosity of fifteen musicians, good friends, acquaintances, even family of friends, who responded to my request for help by coming into the studio and creating the beautiful backing music, harmony, and solos that made “With This Flame” everything I dreamed it could be. Not a single one of them asked for compensation, they gave freely of their time and talents.

Steve, who produced the album, repeatedly refused compensation, but I insisted. We settled on a promise to donate the first one thousand dollars of profit from the CD to Temple Hatikvah. At the time we both believed that was a pipedream. My two previous CDs had not generated any significant income and even if “With This Flame” got airplay, it would only be for a month or so
each year. But my Chanukah songs kept on giving. I submitted them to Sirius XM Radio, and they began to play on the Hanukkah Channel, on Jet Blue and United Airlines, and in various unspecified elevators. It took a few years, but between CD sales, downloads and royalties, the songs generated enough profit for me to write that one-thousand dollar check to Temple Hatikvah.

Several years later, two of the wonderful musicians who had donated their time and talents to bring my songs to life lost their jobs. There wasn’t much I could do to help, but “With This Flame” had generated about twelve hundred dollars in royalties and download sales that year, so I split that money between them and sent each a check, no strings attached. Another gift from the
Chanukah songs that keep on giving.

Recently, several attempts to use the songs to generate donations for Adath Shalom did not work out, but and I will continue to look for ways to make that happen. My dream is to someday send fifteen checks for a few hundred dollars each to the musicians who made this whole thing possible. Another pipedream perhaps, but I believe these songs have more to give.

To learn more about Karen Kamenetsky and to hear her music, go to her website

Thu, February 22 2024 13 Adar I 5784