title: Hashkivenu (Let Us Lie Down in Peace)

composer: Bernstein, Leonard

publisher: Boosey & Hawkes

catalogue number: M051467259

voicing: SATB div, T solo

accompaniment: organ

language: Hebrew

text: Friday evening synagogue liturgy

year of composition: 1945

timing: 6:30

recordings: Naxos (Leonard Bernstein: A Jewish Legacy)

level of difficulty: challenging

service: any evening service

description: This early work by Bernstein is a setting of the evening prayer for peace, commissioned by New York’s Park Avenue Synagogue. In ternary form, the outside sections in the Phrygian mode in flowing triple time, stand in sharp contrast with the highly syncopated Lydian middle section.

 

title: Kaddish (Sanctification)

composer: Rossi, Salamone

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 982046

voicing: SSATB

accompaniment: a cappella

language: Aramaic

text: liturgy

year of composition: 1622 (published)

timing: 3:00

recordings: Rossi

level of difficulty: moderate

service: Sabbath musaf service (Separdic or Italian rite)

description: Salamone Rossi, a Jewish composer working in the Gonzaga court in Mantua at the beginning of the seventeenth century, composed the only substantial collection of polyphonic music for the synagogue to appear before the nineteenth century. The “Kaddish” (or “doxology”) is set here in the joyous style of the balletto.

 

title: Kiddush (Sanctification)

composer: Kurt Weill

publisher: European American

catalogue number: EA 399-7

voicing: SATB div

accompaniment: piano (or organ)

language: Hebrew

text: Sabbath liturgy

year of composition: 1946

timing: 3:15

recordings: Jewish Composers in America

level of difficulty: moderate

service: Sabbath evening service

description: A rare liturgical gem from the pen of the great German-American composer. Like many of his works, “Kiddush” blends elements of jazz (the blues scale) with classical formalism. This setting of the blessing over the wine, commissioned by New York’s Park Avenue Synagogue, is dedicated to the composer’s father, Albert Weill, chief cantor in Dessau, Germany until 1919.

 

title: Kol Nidre (op. 39) ("All Vows" -- Yom Kippur Eve Service)

composer: Arnold Schoenberg

publisher: Boelke-Bomart

catalogue number: 20

voicing: SATB, narrator

accompaniment: large orchestra

language: Aramaic, Hebrew and English

text: Yom Kippur liturgy & Schoenberg

year of composition: 1938

timing: 11:00

recordings: Sony 44571

level of difficulty: moderate

service: Yom Kippur eve

description: This work is much more demanding on the orchestra than the chorus. It is based on the traditional Yom Kippur text and its Ashkenazic melody, but the composer consciously avoided any hint of sentimentality.

 

title: Ledor Vador (In Every Generaion)

composer: Meir Finkelstein (arranged by Joshua Jacobson)

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 992074

voicing: SATB (solo S or T)

accompaniment: piano or organ

language: Hebrew (or English)

text: synagogue liturgy

year of composition:

timing: 3:00

recordings: The Songs Live On

level of difficulty: easy to moderate

service: any morning service

description: A very sweet setting of the last paragraph of the Kedushah (Sanctification). The choir supports the cantor and sings the melodious refrain.

title: Mah Tovu (How Good Are Your Dwellings)

composer: Louis Lewandowski

publisher: Broude Brothers

catalogue number: CR-69

voicing: SATB, T (or bar) solo

accompaniment: organ (or piano)

timing:  3:00

language: Hebrew (alternate English)

text: liturgy

year of composition: circa 1882

recording: Majesty of Holiness (HZ-912)

level of difficulty: moderate

service: opening of any service

description: Louis Lewandowski was the first musician to serve the Jewish synagogue as a choirmaster serves a church. In 1864 the building in Berlin of the Oranienburgerstrasse Temple, which was equipped with an organ, offered Lewandowski the opportunity of creating an entire new service with organ accompaniment — a task never before undertaken. The culmination of his career came in 1882 with the publication of his magnum opus, Todah W’Simrah (Thanks and Song), a setting of the entire liturgical cycle for four-part choir, cantor and organ. “Mah Tovu” is the prayer recited upon first entering a synagogue. Its homophonic style, somewhat reminiscent of Mendelssohn, evokes the pomp and formality of worship in nineteenth-century Berlin. An orchestration is available from Transcontinental Publications.

 

title: Maoz Tsur (Fortress Rock) and Chanukah Candle Blessings

composer: traditional (arranged by Abraham Binder and Joshua Jacobson)

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 992017

voicing: SATB. Solo (any voice)

accompaniment: piano or organ (optional)

language: Hebrew and English

text: liturgy for Chanukah

year of composition: 1990 (re-arrangement)

timing: 2:05

recordings: Lights

level of difficulty: easy to moderate

service: Chanukah

description: A fairly straightforward setting of the traditional Ashkenazic melody for the three blessings of the Chanukah candles—the choir provides a wordless accompaniment to the soloist. The Maoz Tsur (again in the traditional Ashkenazic melody) is sung in homophony by the full chorus, with some lovely chromatic harmonies.

 

title: Maoz Tsur/ Fortress Rock

composer: Hugo Weisgall

publisher: Theodore Presser

catalogue number: 342-40014

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: a cappella

language: Hebrew (English alternate available)

text: Modecai Ben Yitzhak (Hanukkah hymn)

year of composition: 1957

timing: 1:05

recordings: Lights

level of difficulty: moderate

service: Chanukah

description: Weisgall’s setting (one of a group of “Three Hebraic Folksongs”) is based on an old Italian Jewish melody. Weisgall’s style is lean, terse, and elegant.

 

title: May the Words (Yih’yu le’rotzon)

composer: Hugo Weisgall

publisher: T. Presser

catalogue number: 312-40507

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: a cappella

language: Hebrew (English alternative text)

text: Psalm 19:14

year of composition: 1935 (revised 1950)

timing: 2:00

recordings: Naxos 8.559425

level of difficulty: challenging

service: any service

description: A beautifully crafted setting of the verse that ends the silent prayer in the Jewish liturgy. This slow meditation has some difficult but stunning enharmonic key changes.

title: Min Hametsar (From out of the Straits)

composer: Jacques Halévy

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 982073

voicing: SATB (TBB soli)

accompaniment: a cappella or organ

language: Hebrew

text: Psalm 118

year of composition: ca. 1818

timing: 7:11

recordings: The Majesty of Holiness

level of difficulty: moderate

service: Hallel (Festival Psalms)

description: The great opera composer wrote this setting when he was 18 years old for his father. It is a dramatic setting of the “Hallel” Psalm from the Festival liturgy.

title: Silent Devotion and Response (from "Sacred Service")

composer: Ernest Bloch

publisher: Broude Brothers

catalogue number: BB 179

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: a cappella (optional prelude for organ)

timing:  2:15

language: Hebrew (alternate English)

text: Psalm 19:14

year of composition: 1933

recordings: The entire Sacred Service can be heard on SONY SM2K47533.

level of difficulty: moderate

service: any

description: This octavo is a brief excerpt from Bloch’s magnum opus, “Sacred Service” (“Avodat Hakodesh”), one of the only truly great choral-orchestral settings of the Jewish liturgy. The brief prelude (“silent devotion”) for keyboard (actually a reduction of the orchestration) may easily be omitted. This neo-romantic work gives the chorus the opportunity to show off its blend and its ability to phrase expressively. The tempo is slow, the mood is contemplative and the mode is Dorian.

 

title: Sim Shalom (Grant Peace)

composer: Max Janowski

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 986022

voicing: SATB, T solo

accompaniment: organ or piano

language: Hebrew

text: liturgy

year of composition: 1968

timing: 5:00

recordings: The Songs Live On

level of difficulty: moderate

service: any morning service

description: Janowski had a rare gift for melody, and his melodies were modal, invoking the strains of traditional Eastern European synagogue music. The chorus must be able to sustain a long phrase and to sing comfortably in the upper range of their voices. A powerful and dramatic tenor soloist is called for.

title: Song of Praise

composer: Robert Starer

publisher: MMB

catalogue number: MMB 89001

voicing: mostly unison (some two-part), any combination of voices

accompaniment: piano (or harp, violin and cello)

timing: 4:40

language: Hebrew and English

text: from Psalm 92

year of composition: 1988

recordings: Jewish Composers in America

level of difficulty: easy

service: Friday evening

description: Robert Starer belongs to the generation of young Jewish musicians who fled Austria in the 1930s. After spending a decade in Jerusalem, Starer eventually settled in the United States. “Song of Praise” is one of Starer’s many works in which he alternates Hebrew and English lyrics. The writing is basically tonal (or modal), but frequent and unexpected modulations are common. The voicing is flexible enough so that this piece works equally well with all-male, all-female or mixed choirs, large or small. This is the first of four choruses in the Psalm suite, Mizmor L’David.

title: Tefillah (Prayer for the State of Israel)

composer: Burger, David

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 992018

voicing: SATB div

accompaniment: piano

language: Hebrew

text: liturgy, prayer for the State of Israel

year of composition: 1975

timing: 4:40

recordings: The Songs of Israel

level of difficulty: moderate, somewhat challenging

service: Sabbath morning, Israel Idependence Day

description: Burger’s music reflects his strongly emotion ties to the Jewish people. This prayer for peace in the State of Israel is lyrical, yet powerful. Not too difficult.

title: Tov Lehodos (It Is Good to Give Thanks)

composer: Franz Schubert

publisher: Broude Brothers

catalogue number: CR 43

voicing: SATB, baritone solo and SATB quartet

accompaniment: a cappella (optional organ)

language: Hebrew (alternate English)

text: Psalm 92

year of composition: 1828

timing: 4:15

recordings: Majesty of Holiness

level of difficulty: moderate

service: Friday evening

description: In 1828 Cantor Salomon Sulzer commissioned Schubert to compose a setting in Hebrew of the Sabbath Psalm for his renowned choir. The work, in ABA form, is in the style of the part songs of the early Romantic period.