The most melodic, happy Yigdal I know, and my favorite. Like so many other Sephardic liturgical songs it is bursting with joy and energy. The hymn enumerates the thirteen principles of faith as elucidated by the great Jewish Medieval philosopher, Moses Maimonides, who lived in Spain and in Egypt, and spoke Arabic and Spanish as well as Hebrew and Aramaic. I inserted a Suffi song from Pakistan, Yule Qalandar Lal, to enhance the joy and remind us all of the golden age when Jews and Muslims flourished side by side.
Eternal love! Such words should, surely, elicit joy. They dont, somehow. They dont because God has had a curious way of showing love to us; they dont because the love is always attached to laws, rules, obligations and they tend to elicit other emotions than joy; they dont because it is hard for us to understand love, to accept love, to feel love, especially from God. This is a sad love song, a bit melancholy, not without hope but with the understanding that love comes attached to many other emotions, such as longing, yearn in and heartbreak.
The twin sister of Veshamru. Yismechu and Veshamru are kind of the before and after prayers for Shabbat - keep the Sabbath - and you shall be happy. Always a happy prayer - why change the mood? I wanted something simple in the refrain, something any congregation could sing, and something a bit more sophisticated, demanding, in the verses, something a Cantor or a soloist could appreciate, dig into. So many times, catchy melodies become very popular in a synagogue and if they are not interesting enough, the poor cantors, the emissaries of the public, are asked to sing these melodies over and over, committing themselves to a life of never-ending musical boredom.
Blessed are you, Adonai, who causes evening to be evening. The prayer is all about Gods will, Gods order. I let the time signatures, therefore, take their own course. My time signature for this song is 4/4; Gods time goes from 4/4 to 2/4 to 5/4, according to Gods will. I am curious about a religion that celebrates darkness and the coming of night. I wanted the song to reflect that curiosity. I am ambivalent about Gods order, Gods will. I wanted the piece to reflect that ambivalence. I wanted every chord, every change to be true to the melancholy that the approaching night brings with it.
Psalm 150; Halleluyah
The most direct, simple and joyous of psalms. The final psalm. Praise God with song and dance, with every instrument - and make a joyful sound. Let every soul praise God. I hope the music stays out of the way and allows the joy to come through, undisturbed by cleverness and contrivance.
The words, which are from the morning prayers, are a quotation from Isaiah:
Fashioner of light, creator of darkness, maker of Peace and creator of All. Except that Isaiah refers to God as ...Maker of Peace and creator of Evil. It is one of the darkest allusions we have in liturgy. Ours is a total God, a
complete God, a perplexing god. I wanted my music to preserve the ambiguity of the prayer, and its beauty.
We thank you, we confess to you, our God. Gratitude is at the heart of any true religious practice. If it isnt - we pay for it, eventually, and not through divine retribution - through the lives we end up leading. But gratitude isnt always easy to come by and in the tortured relationship of the Jewish people, the God strugglers, gratitude sometimes could even seem unwarranted. Gratitude for what? For exile? Humiliation? Hatred? Persecution? And, yet, we must be grateful at least three times daily and an extra portion on Shabbat. Even though we cant always understand why - we must be grateful. I love it! This very conflict is at the heart of our faith and one of its true strengths. I hope the music conveys some of the complexities of this pivotal prayer.
The Wedding Suite
I wanted the music, which traces the ceremony from the vows of betrothal, through the wedding vows, the 7 blessings - the Sheva Brachot, and ending with the Threefold benediction, to grow and blossom vocally, harmonically and rhythmically. I wanted the music to take us through the many emotions and moods of the betrothed couple, from commitment to hesitance to excitement to ecstasy to the calm after the storm. From the intimate to the public and back to the very intimate at the end.
Such a happy prayer for the coming of the Sabbath. Actually sung both on Shabbat evening, as well as during the Shabbat. Nothing complicated about this prayer. Nothing complicated about the music.
Lay us down, oh God, for the sake of peace, and raise us up again for the sake of life. A meditation, a mantra of calm and peace and love, with very lovely requests - spread over us your shelter of peace and guard our comings and our goings. I wrote the music for womens voices; voices of softness and passion, of calm and beauty, of strength and comfort.