Alexander Massey is a solo singer, multi-instrumentalist and composer, writer, teacher, prayer leader, consultant, and coach. He has performed around the world as a vocal soloist; his compositions have been published by Transcontinental (USA) and Reform Judaism UK and featured as world premiéres in the 70th anniversary of the UK Council of Christians and Jews, and communities in UK, Europe, the USA and Australia use his sacred music for their services; his writings have been published in newspapers, magazines, and academic books and journals, and Ritual Well; and as a teacher, trainer and coach, he has been a conference keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, taught at universities and in the therapy and business worlds, as well as leading sessions at Limmud, and performing and teaching in Jewish communities in the UK and Australia. He lives in Oxford, and is a member of the London Ruach Chavurah (Jewish Renewal). Alexander is also founder and curator of the Jewish Music UK network.
Singer, Multi-instrumentalist & Composer
(see also www.OxfordSingingLessons.co.uk)
Alexander has performed internationally as a solo vocalist in the classical, opera, folk and jazz worlds. He has led prayer and singing for several communities, for regular services and High Holy Days. He is in increasing demand as a performer/teacher on Jewish song in both Jewish and interfaith settings, such as the Jewish-Christian Bible Week, Limmud, the Council of Christians and Jews, Unicorn, and CoExist ‘Faiths in Tune’ Interfaith Music Festival.
As a composer, Alexander has written choral pieces, liturgical and sacred songs, chants and nigunim, also arranging shabbat songs for voice and violin. He has composed over 60 settings of Jewish prayer and Bible texts, in both Hebrew and English. His Yedid Nefesh was selected in an international competition to be published by Transcontinental Music (USA) in 2011. Two of his pieces (‘Ahavat Olam‘ and ‘Holy Mountain’) were premiéred in the 70th anniversary of the Council of Christians and Jews (2012). With Philip Clouts, he co-composed and recorded ‘Songs of Eden’, a meditation and song cycle based on the Tree of Life and kabbalistic texts from Torah and psalms. Their devotional concerts have been presented at Limmud Bournemouth, the Portland Festival of Sacred Music, and other venues around the UK.He was involved with the preparation (transcribing and proofreading) of Shirei HaT’fillot, Reform Judaism UK‘s 2011 publication of a comprehensive music book to complement their siddur (also contributing two compositions, ‘Yotzeir Or‘ and ‘B’nei Mitzvah Nigun‘)).
His musical settings offer searching commentary on religious text, and his poetic translations and English lyrics are themselves midrashic – staying close to the intent of the original. His – always memorably tuneful – music is in turns contemplative, yearning, majestic, celebratory, searing, mischievous, and peppered with sing-along choruses. It is a musical voice that links to the past and earlier traditions; to the present, by making it relevant to contemporary listeners; and to the future, by offering a new and exciting possibilities for innovation in Jewish liturgical music.
Teacher, Facilitator & Keynote Speaker
Alexander has spent almost 30 years pioneering one-to-one and group work internationally that straddles the fields of voice, communication, personal growth, spirituality, music, meditation and therapeutic intervention. He has taught and lectured in many different settings, as well as working with people one-to-one.
In the Jewish world, he has coordinated Chavurah community retreats; led Torah study sessions; held a voice and meditation session at Limmud events; facilitated communication training and teambuilding for Jewish educators at UJIA; and taught singing to trainee and working cantors. He taught ‘Sacred Singing’ courses for a Jewish community in Sydney, facilitated an interactive session for all the therapeutic staff and associates of Raphael Jewish Counselling Service [Patron: Chief UK Rabbi Jonathan Sacks] for their 30th Anniversary, and has led events for, for example, The Association for the Teaching of Religious Education in Scotland, The Guild of Pastoral Psychology, and the International Association for Voice Movement Therapy.
He feels deeply the power of the word; the nourishment offered by contemplation, group prayer and ritual; the connection of sound, music and kavannah (attention and intention); and the importance of authenticity.
Alexander’s diverse interests have meant that his writing has been published in both therapy and voice journals, books on education, learning, ethnography, research methodology and Jewish magazines. Every piece of music that he composes is accompanied by a commentary/essay. This includes:
- Explanation about the source and history of the text, and how it has been traditionally understood and used in Jewish life and liturgy.
- Further interpretation, drawing upon ancient midrash, as well as suggesting new perspectives.
- Description of how my musical setting makes its own midrashic commentary on the text, both honouring what has come before and pointing towards new liturgical possibilities.
His long-term writing project is based on the Shema (all of which can be found on this website), intended as a companion for meditation, prayer and Torah study, and personal and group learning. It includes a brand new translation of the full Shema text, expanded into a 21st century midrash that uncovers layers of meaning from wordplay in the original Hebrew, cross-references in Torah, Talmud and other Rabbinic sources, and a rich range of ideas drawn from Jewish and non-Jewish writers up to the present day. The commentaries and reflections are mini-essays in themselves, and his personal experience of the Shema has also led him to writing a number of poems.