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Titles I-M   Recommended Jewish Choral Music

title: I Have a Little Dreydel

composer: Michael Gelbart (arranger Matthew Lazar)

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 982002

voicing: SATB, T solo

accompaniment: piano (optional bass and drum set)

timing:  3:00

language: English

text: Michael Gelbart

year of arrangement: 1989

recordings: LIGHTS (HZ-901)

level of difficulty: moderate

description: Originally written in Yiddish, Michael Gelbart’s “I Have a Little Dreydel” has proven to be a popular children’s song for Chanukah. In English translation it has captivated several generations of American children, as well. Utilizing the styles of 1950s rock-’n’-roll, this lighthearted arrangement conveys the joyous aura of the Festival of Lights. After a deceptively simple a cappella introduction by the choir, the piano boldly enters in 12/8 rhythms. The soloist carries the melody for the most part, while the chorus enjoys the sounds of “doo-wop.”


title: I Never Saw Another Butterfly

composer: Charles Davidson

publisher: Ashbourne Music

catalogue number:

voicing: SSA (children’s choir), S soli, narrator

accompaniment: piano (or orchestra)

language: English

text: children from Terezin

year of composition: 1968

timing: 39:20

recordings: Music Masters 70492C

level of difficulty: moderate

description: Davidson has created a moving an uplifting suite out of poems written between 1941 and 1944 by children who were imprisoned in the Terezin concentration camp. Most of these children were murdered in the Auschwitz death camp, but through Davidson’s composition their voices live on, a moving testament to the faith and optimism of young children under oppression.


title: In the Beginning

composer: Copland, Aaron

publisher: Boosey and Hawkes

catalogue number: 028035C

voicing: satb div (mezzo soprano solo)

accompaniment: a cappella

language: English

text: Genesis 1

year of composition: 1947

timing: 17:00

recordings: (Angel EMI 66787)

level of difficulty: challenging

description: Written for a symposium at Harvard University more than fifty years ago, this work by America’s greatest composer tells the story of the beginnings of the world in a uniquely American idiom. The scales and rhythms are challenging. And it’s no mean feat to keep pitch without accompaniment for seventeen minutes.


title: Joshua

composer: Modest Musorgsky                                                                   

publisher: G. Schirmer

catalogue number: 5534

voicing: SATB, MS and B soli

accompaniment: orchestra (or piano)

language: Russian

text: Bible (reworked by the composer)

year of composition: 1874-7

timing: 5:00

recordings: RCA 61354

level of difficulty: moderate

description: This little oratorio, based on the exploits of the Hebrew warrior, packs a powerful dramatic punch. The opening theme is actually based on a Hassidic niggun that the Russian master heard in his neighborhood. If you can’t find a performing edition, look for the music in Musorgsky’s collected works.


title: Judas Maccabaeus       

composer: George Frederic Handel                                                        

publisher: Kalmus

catalogue number: 6206

voicing: SATB (SATB soli)

accompaniment: orchestra

language: English

text: Thomas Morell

year of composition: 1746

timing: 2 hours and 50 minutes

recordings: Hyperion 66641

level of difficulty: moderate

description: Handel composed many of his “Old Testament” oratorios with the Jewish audience of London in mind. Judas Maccabaeus is especially appropriate for Chanukah. Individual numbers (such as “See The Conquering Hero” and “Hallelujah Amen”) can be excerpted and performed effectively with piano. Other highly effective “Old Testament” oratorios by Handel include Saul and Israel in Egypt.


title: K'Ayal Ta'arog (Psalm 42)

composer: Page, Nick

publisher:Boosey & Hawkes

catalogue number: 48022670

voicing: satb; optional solos (any part(

accompaniment: piano and 4 percussion instruments (can be payed by singers)

language: Hebrew and English

text: Psalm 42

year of composition: 1967

timing: 4:10

recordings: Lots on YouTube

level of difficulty: easy

description: The piano and percussion establish a driving quasi-minimalist pulse, against which the singers declaim a simple lovely melody, at first in call and response, then in canon and with drones.


title: Kabbalat Shabbat (Friday Evening Service)

composer: Ben-Haim, Paul

publisher: IMP (distributed in the USA by Theodore Presser)

catalogue number: Presser 512-00007 (IMP 328)

voicing: satb; solo S and baritone or tenor

accompaniment  chamber orchestra

language: Hebrew

text: Friday evening synagogue liturgy

year of composition: 1967

timing: 40:00


level of difficulty: moderate

description: A setting of the Friday evening synagogue liturgy according to the American Reform Jewish ritual. Commissioned by the National Federation of Temple Youth, the work is not difficult for a good high school choir.


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

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

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

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

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


title: Lord Is My Shepherd, The (Psalm 23)

composer: Herbert Fromm

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number:

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: organ with optional flute

language: English

text: Psalm 23

year of composition:

timing: 4:00

recordings: Zamir – From Boston to Berlin

level of difficulty: moderate

description: An appropriately pastorale setting of the Psalm text, slow and homophonic.


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

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

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

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

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: Mi Zeh Yemallel (Who can Tell)

composer: Joshua Jacobson

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 992016

voicing: satb (div) (baritone solo)

accompaniment: tof (Middle-eastern hand drum), tambourine

language: Hebrew (alternate English)

text: traditional

year of composition: 1988

timing: 2:30

recordings: Lights

level of difficulty: moderate

description: This robust and exotic composition is based on a traditional Chanukah song from Tetuan, Morocco. The chorus is divisi into many sections. While the parts are not difficult, the divisi requires significant independence from each singer.


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

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: Mizmorei Tehillim (Psalm Songs)

composer: Tzvi Avni

publisher: Transcontinental Music Publications

catalogue number: 991377-12

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: a cappella

timing: 6:25

language: Hebrew (alternate English)

text: from Psalms 47, 48, 150

year of composition: 1967

recordings:  Zamir 25 (HZ-907)

level of difficulty: moderate to challenging

description: This three-movement work was commissioned for the 1967 Zimriyah International Choral Festival in Israel. Its texts reflect both the uniqueness of the host nation, and the joy a foreigner experiences when coming to the Holy Land. This is one of the last works from Avni’s “Mediterranean” style period, incorporating the rhythms and modes of the Middle East. The first movement is set in a lively 5/4 meter. The second movement evokes the Palestrina ideal in its polyphonic texture made up of independent, lyrical, flowing lines. The finale returns to the mood of the opening: joyous homophony in mixed meters. This colorful work is very rewarding for more advanced choirs.


title: Moadim (Festivals)

composer: Mordecai Seter

publisher: IMI

catalogue number: 120

voicing: SSAATTBB

accompaniment: a cappella

language: Hebrew

text: liturgy

year of composition: 1946

timing: 13:10

recordings: MII-CD-25

level of difficulty: challenging

description: Seter bases his compositions on traditional Jewish melodies, and treats them in a style reminiscent of Bartok. (First movement: Tsur Yeshuati, based on a hymn for Sukkot, 5:46. Second movement: Ha Lakhma Anya, based on the Passover Haggadah, 4:45. Third Movement: Kol Tsahola, based on a Sabbath hymn, 2:19)

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