In his article "How Music Articulates Liturgical Structure, Meaning, and Perception: The Kaddish" published in the recent volume of the Journal of Synagogue Music (vol. 47 no. 1), Dr. Boaz Tarsi writes the following about [Eastern] Ashkenazi prayer modes for the Chatzi Kaddish:

A significant number of versions of the Hatzi kaddish introduce unique musical material that is neither appropriated afterward nor introduced beforehand. The unique musical content of these renditions of the Kaddish, therefore, is not found anywhere else in the liturgy. Among these are Ma’ariv for the Three Festivals, every Kaddish recited during a Torah service [...], the Hatzi kaddish for High Holiday Musaf, the Minhah service for Yom Kippur, and a few others.

And in the footnote there (no. 19) he elaborates:

Some of these (e.g., Kaddish for High Holiday Torah services and Yom Kippur Minhah, not to mention [...] Yom Kippur Katan) are almost all but forgotten, because within the current practice in the American service they would take on a musical setting not traditionally prescribed for them, in all likelihood using the music for Shabbat Ma’ariv Kaddish, as described below.

I'm one of those American ignorami, but would like to step up my game by learning and preserving-by-using this rich heritage of ours. Can someone help me find the traditional tunes for these parts of the service?

I am not looking for random melodies set to these pieces, nor straight recitatives ("nusach"), even if those tunes may be thematically appropriate. Similarly, I am not looking for tunes from Sefardic or other non-Ashkenazi Jewish heritages. Rather, I'm looking for classical traditional settings (I accept there may be some variants) from roughly the same cantorial milieu as Dr. Tarsi referred to.


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I'm going to assume you know most of the traditional half kaddish tunes, like those on Shabbat and weekdays, Arvit on the High Holidays, as well as those after Yishtabach and before Musaf (including Tal/Geshem), Selichot, and Ne'ilah, as these are all quite readily available on YouTube. Here are the ones most commonly missing:

  • Half Kaddish following the Torah reading on Festivals - Baer #825 (also Lewandowski #85) - Audio here, here, here, here, and used anomalously at maariv here.

  • Half Kaddish following the Torah reading on High Holidays - Baer #1153 (preceded by Sultzer #341) - Audio here, here, here and a variation. I found another tune here and here for this kaddish but don't know its origin.

  • For the Half Kaddish during Festival Arvit service, there is Baer #758 (audio here and beginning at 4:52 here). However, in my experience the more widespread tune for that Kaddish among knowledgeable cantors is not from Baer but rather this tune (whose provenance I don't think is known): audio here, here, here, here, here, here. However, the tune from Baer appears to have been adapted by Mombach (#126) for the Half Kaddish following the Torah reading on Festivals (hear it here, here or here) instead of the tune above. Baer also provides an alternate tune (#759, also Lewandowski #67) audio here and beginning at 1:25 here. Can't really go wrong here. (At 3:07 here hear Beer use Baer's latter tune for the first half of kaddish and the former tune for the latter half; I think he just goofed since the sheet music turns a page there.)

  • Half Kaddish at Mincha of Yom Kippur (including Yom Kippur Katan) - Baer #1455 (and #236) (cf. Sultzer #497 and here) - Audio beginning at 1:53 here and 0:24 here; a variant is sung at the beginning of this recording. (Many chazzanim readily admit to not knowing what to do here and end up reusing the kaddish from musaf or occasionally the kaddish from after Torah reading or even worse use Shabbat Mincha nusach. I suspect this confusion is due to Mincha often being given to a less trained cantor.)

While we're discussing commonly ignored cantorial kaddish practices, it's worth pointing out that many are familiar with the famous "Chassidic Kaddish" commonly sang for the full kaddish on High Holidays. What people are generally unaware of is that is derived from a tune for full kaddish on Festivals (Baer #821 and audio here). The practice of singing the full kaddish in celebration on festivals is actually mentioned in Shulchan Aruch, though most people miss it. In the Laws of Hoshana Rabba (OC 664:1) the Rama mentions the special prayer practices of the day, including "and say the kaddish after musaf with the Festival tune". Similarly, Maaseh Rav (#207) records that the Vilna Gaon would sometimes insist on singing the kaddish after musaf on Rosh Hashana as a tribute to Rosh Hashana's festive nature, subtly implying again that celebratory full kaddish is essentially a Festival practice even as we sometimes borrow it to other quasi-festive contexts. So you should definitely sing it on Festivals beyond the basic Sabbath tune, but if the famous tunes above are too High Holiday-esque for your setting, consider these two (unprovenanced, by me) tunes which market themselves as traditional Festival full kaddish tunes.

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    Thanks for this reference! And I appreciate you posting this now - gives me half a year to work on my hatzi kaddish for YK mincha...
    – Joel K
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 7:35
  • @JoelK You know the others already? I'm impressed. Your shul must have some impressive chazzanim. The timing now was to give people time to prepare for the approaching Festivals. Please share it with other leaders: Ba'alei Tfilla and Kriah tinyurl.com/HalfKaddish
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 12:49
  • Nope. But I've davened mincha on YK for the last few years, and not the other tefillot listed. Having said that, the second tune you note for festival arvit is pretty well known in the UK.
    – Joel K
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 12:52
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    It's definitely the case that some of these are more well known nowadays than others (בע״ה they should all be familiar to all again soon בב״א), but I still thought it worth putting them together here. It's amazing that all this info is free but it was so scattered and disorganized that it was practically useless. It took me many many hours to track these down and put 'em together in one place in a way that's hopefully more accessible. Again, please share
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 13:03
  • here's a chazzan singing after hoshana rabba youtu.be/3zjt_tW05A8?t=1306 (presumably that's another yom tov tune? his yom tov recordings are behind a paywall)
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 20:24

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