The Greater Good, a Jewish music ensemble, held their second annual “Inspirational Music Night” concert in front of about 70 fellow residents in the Protestant Chapel on March 29.
The group began by playing at Jewish religious services on Friday nights. Later, with the support of Rabbi Paul Shleffar, they expanded their repertoire to perform music concerts for the population at large. Their goal is to introduce incarcerated people to music from areas like Greece, Turkey, ancient Babylon, Yemen, Spain, and Eastern Europe.
“A lot of the music we are playing dates back into earlier and ancient times,” said band member John Zeretzke.
The talented band performed songs with an assortment of instruments, including violins, acoustic guitars, drums, a piano, a cello, a Native American flute, and a Turkish saz, which is a form of the lute.
Before performing a Spanish-style song, guitarist Moises Romas made note of the joyful day. His song was a reminder of the sufferings experienced by the Jewish people. The sound the guitar made resembled a love scene in a romantic movie from the 90s.
Guitarist Eddie Arizmendez sang an original piece entitled Water, a song of God’s love and kindness. Arizmendez expressed appreciation for that love and kindness in his life. He wore a smile as he performed.
“Your love flows like water washing over me. I could get lost in all of your love for me,” he sang. “How you want that freshness to come over you. God cleanses us and our hearts.”
The music ranged from street songs that may be common in Eastern Europe and the Middle East to harmonious tunes similar to the sounds of a safari, where the music begins with the sound of a tribalesque whistle and bass, before picking up the pace.
One song in particular, Crossroads, brought most of the audience to a standing ovation with its Persian-and-Irish-originated melody.
The Greater Good hopes to continue their monthly concerts and inspire the residents of SQ.
Surprised at the content of the concert, SQ resident Eric C. expressed amazement at the performances. Seeing incarcerated band members playing multiple instruments is something that he will remember, he noted.
“I closed my eyes and pictured being out in the mountains [on] Indian land with the wind blowing,” he said.
As the night progressed, pianist Mark Kenny performed a new song that came to him at 4:30 in the morning. He noted that the band grew from just a piano and a guitar into the large group it currently comprises.
“Music has always been my passion, and when I came to prison in 2011, it became a mechanism to gain authenticity and freedom of mind,” said Kenny.
The song, which he dubbed Clean The Attic, is inspiration from the self-help groups he has attended, sharing powerful words aimed at supporting people dealing with mental wellness issues.
“Clean the attic, clear the mind, use the silence, stop the ride,” he sang.