'Horns of Hanukkah' brings the French horn to the Jewish Festival of Lights

Janice Rothman of Vaughan created "Horns of Hanukkah" to bring her favourite instrument together with the Jewish Festival of Lights.

It's a celebration of Judaism and the music that is 'part of our souls,' Janice Rothman says

Janice Rothman, the organizer of 'Horns for Hanukkah,' says music has a strong significance in Jewish culture. (Janice Rothman)

As Hanukkah begins Tuesday evening and continues for the next eight nights, the Jewish holiday may conjure up images of candles, latkes and dreidels.

However, French horns might not be an image that comes to mind.

But Janice Rothman of Vaughan is hoping to draw a link between the Jewish holiday and the instrument.

Rothman is the organizer of "Horns of Hanukkah," which brings together a group of horn players who will play at the Har Zion Temple in Thornhill this Friday.

Alternative to 'Tubachristmas'

Rothman, who has been playing the horn since Grade 7, got the idea after seeing a Facebook post about a "Horns for Hanukkah" performance in Pennsylvania last year.

"It was supposed to be a French horn version of something else that happens down there called Tubachristmas. It's just the idea of people getting together and making music," Rothman told CBC Toronto. 

The Facebook group that started the idea in the U.S. encouraged people to do it in other cities, so Rothman decided to organize one to get the Toronto-area horn community together.

"I just thought it would be a fun thing to start up here."

It's just the idea of people getting together and making music.- Janice Rothman, organizer of "Horns for Hanukkah"

'Gorgeous tone and sound'

Rothman says her favourite part about the French horn is the wide range and gorgeous tone and sound.

"When we get a group like this together, we can have people who are playing the low — almost into Tuba territory," she said. "We have people who can be playing up high — almost to the range of trumpets. So we can cover a lot of parts and bring it together as a nice sound."

When Rothman put out the call for French horn players, she said she received responses from friends, and not all of them were Jewish. She was also fortunate to get a venue.

"We needed a place to play and the rabbi at the Har Zion Synagogue where we're going to be playing, also happens to be a horn player. I met him last year in a community band situation. So he gave us the venue to play in."

Significance to Judaism

Rothman says Hanukkah is a great reason for French horn players to get together and play.

"Music has always been very important in the Jewish tradition," said Rothman. "It's very important in synagogue. Every synagogue has a cantor, and they lead us in singing most of the service.  So the music is ... a part of our souls."

With files from Metro Morning