Titles S-Z   Recommended Jewish Choral Music

title: Sacred Service (Avodath Hakodesh)

composer: Bloch, Ernest

publisher: Broude Brothers

catalogue number:

voicing: SATB (div), solo baritone

accompaniment: orchestra

language: Hebrew (optional English)

text: Sabbath morning liturgy

year of composition: 1933

timing: 50 minutes

recordings: SONY SM2K47533

level of difficulty: challenging

description: It took Bloch four years to complete his Sacred Service (Avodat Ha-kodesh). Although it was commissioned to be based on the Sabbath morning liturgy, this grand work, with its universal themes, its post-romantic organic conception, scored for large orchestra, chorus, and baritone soloist, is more appropriate for the concert stage than for the synagogue bimah. Bloch himself considered it more a sacred Hebrew oratorio than a Jewish liturgical service.

 

title: Sa’enu (Carry Us to the Desert)

composer: folk (arranged by Charles Davidson)

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 990744

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: a cappella

language: Hebrew (English alternative text)

text: Alexander Penn

year of composition: 1965 (arrangement) (song c. 1927)

timing: 3:35

recordings:

level of difficulty: moderate

description: This is a magical arrangement of a popular Israeli song. Generally the sopranos carry the melody, which is based on a Bedouin folk song, while the lower parts weave a bell-like accompaniment.

 

title: Samachti (I Was Glad)

composer: Charles Osborne

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 991488

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: piano (or orchestra)

language: Hebrew

text: Psalm 122

year of composition: c. 1995

timing: 2:11

recordings: Jewish Composers in America

level of difficulty: easy to moderate

description: This lyrical setting of the Jerusalem pilgrims’ Psalm is in strophic form, with the second strophe adding an ingratiating descant countermelody.

 

title: Sanctus

composer: Bernstein, Leonard

publisher: Boosey

catalogue number: G Schirmer 11973

voicing: SATB div

accompaniment: piano (optional bongos)

language: Hebrew, Latin, English

text: Isaiah 6, Psalm 118

year of composition: 1973

timing: 4:30

recordings: Sony 63089

level of difficulty: challenging

description: This excerpt from Bernstein’s theatre piece, MASS, is a wonderful choice for an interfaith concert or service. It includes the “Sanctification” in English, Latin and Hebrew. Moderate difficulty. Full of joyous Bernstein rhythms.

 

title: Service Sacré

composer: Darius Milhaud

publisher: Salabert

catalogue number: EAS15270A

voicing: SATB div, baritone solo

accompaniment: orchestra (or organ or piano)

language: Hebrew (alternate French)

text: liturgy

year of composition: 1947

timing: 56:00

recordings: Naxos

level of difficulty: moderate

description: In this most charming setting of the Jewish Sabbath liturgy, Milhaud subconsciously evokes the synagogue melodies of his childhood. This work is not as through-composed as Bloch’s more famous setting; various sections can be added or omitted.

 

title: Seven Sephardic Love Songs (Don Amadi, Esta Rakhel, Nani Nani, Durme, Por que Llorax, Di me Rozina, Morenica)

composer: Yehezkel Braun (arranged by Joshua Jacobson)

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 982024, 982025, 982012, 982022, 982013, 982023, 982021

voicing: SATB, SAA, and TB (S solo)

accompaniment: piano

language: Ladino

text: folk

year of composition: 1981

timing: 17:00

recordings: Sepharad 92 (HZ-903)

level of difficulty: moderate

description: In 1981 Israeli composer Yehezkel Braun composed “Seven Sephardic Romances,” a song cycle for soprano and piano. This work was based on love songs from the ancient traditions of Jews who lived in Spain prior to the sixteenth century. The Ladino language is a jargon combining elements of Castilian Spanish and Hebrew, with the former predominating. In 1990 Joshua Jacobson arranged the entire cycle for mixed chorus. Each number could be performed separately, or the conductor could create his/her own suite.

 

title: Sevivon (Hanukah Spinning Toy)

composer: folk (arranged by Steven Barnett)

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 991293

voicing: satb (div)

accompaniment: a cappella

language: Hebrew

text: folk

year of composition: 1981 (arranged)

timing: 1:30

recordings: Lights

level of difficulty: moderate

description: This traditional Ashkenazic folksong is about the “sevivon” or “dreydel,” a children’s spinning toy for Chanukah. Barnett’s engaging setting utilizes snappy rhythms and jazz harmonies, but is not too difficult to learn.

 

 

title: Shavu'ot (Festival Commemorating the Revelation on Mount Sinai)

composer: Joshua Jacobson

publisher: Transcontinental Music Publications

catalogue number: 991455

voicing: SATB (divisi)

accompaniment: a cappella

timing:  4:45

language: Hebrew

text: Exodus 20 and a hymn by the eleventh-century German Rabbi Meir Ben Yitzhak

year of composition: 1991

recordings: Seasons of Our Joy (HZ-908)

level of difficulty: moderate, somewhat challenging

description: The holiday of Shavu'ot celebrates the first harvest of Spring and commemorates the giving of the Decalogue at Mt. Sinai. This composition is an attempt to convey some of the mystery surrounding the theophany, the revelation of the Lord’s presence. The text of the Ten Commandments is preceded and followed by verses from an eleventh-century hymn that is chanted in the synagogue on Shavu'ot. Traditional Ashkenazic melodies for both texts have been utilized in this composition. The antiphonal effects of this piece work best if the choir abandons the stage and surrounds the audience on opposite sides of the hall. The aleatoric sections are meant to simulate a deep reverberation, as if the voices were being echoed in an extremely resonant chamber. This piece is most effective performed by a large choir performing in a reverberant venue.

 

title: Shedemati (My Field)

composer: Yedidyah Admon (arranged by Joshua Jacobson)

publisher: earthsongs

catalogue number:

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: piano (four hands), tof (middle-eastern drum)

language: Hebrew

text: Yitzhak Shenhar

year of composition: 1927

timing: 4:00

recordings: The Songs of Israel

level of difficulty: moderate

description: A farmer expresses his love for his land in this song from the early Jewish pioneers to the land of Israel. The melodies and harmonies are exotically modal.

 

title: Shir Hashirim (Cantici Canticorum Caput III) (Song of Songs, Chapter 3)

composer: Yehezkel Braun

publisher: Transcontinental Music Publications

catalogue number: 992035-25

voicing: SATB, solo soprano

accompaniment: a cappella

timing: 13:00

language: Hebrew (alternate English)

text: Song of Songs, chapter 3

year of composition: 1973

recordings: The Songs Live On

level of difficulty: moderate, somewhat challenging

description: Yehezkel Braun’s fascination with chanting is evident in many of his compositions, including this one. Braun’s textures are frequently woven of chant-like lines, soaked in colorful modalities and seeming to float above any sense of terrestrial meter. This six-movement work is a setting of the entire third chapter of the Biblical Song of Songs. It is a beautiful evocation of amorous dreams, the lively dancing of lovers, and the splendor of King Solomon’s court.

 

title: Shir LaShalom (Song for Peace)

composer: Yair Rosenbloom (arranged by Joshua Jacobson)

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 991450

voicing: SATB, solo alto or baritone

accompaniment: piano (optional drum set and bass)

language: Hebrew

text: Yaacov Rothblith

year of composition: 1969, arranged in 1993

timing: 2:49

recordings: The Songs of Israel

level of difficulty: moderate

description: An arrangement of the “Song for Peace” that was sung by Israeli prime minister Yizhak Rabin just before he was assassinated. It is part of medley, joined with “Al Kol Eileh,” a song acknowledging that our life encompasses both the good times and the bad.

 

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

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

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: Simona MiDimona (Simona from the Town of Dimona)

composer: Shlomo Weissfish (arranged by Joshua Jacobson)

publisher: earthsongs

catalogue number:

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: piano, tof (middle-eastern drum)

language: Hebrew

text: Chaim Shalmoni

year of composition: c. 1960 (arranged in 1998)

timing: 2:25

recordings: The Songs of Israel

level of difficulty: moderate

description: A vivacious song from Israel, in which a young man expresses his ardent love for Simona, the dark beauty of the desert.

 

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

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: Souls on Fire

composer: Charles Osborne

publisher: ZC Music

catalogue number:

voicing: SATB (SATB soli, narrators)

accompaniment: orchestra

language: English and Hebrew

text: Aryeh Finkelstein

year of composition: 1998

timing: 75 minutes

recordings: ZC Music 9001

level of difficulty: challenging

description: Osborne’s oratorio was inspired by Elie Wiesel’s book of the same title, chronicling the lives of the Hassidic masters. The work is characterized by a remarkable variety of expression. But lurking beneath the surface is a reminder of the anguish of the Holocaust. Portions of this work (notably “Shalom Aleykhem”) can be excerpted and performed with piano accompaniment.

 

title: Survivor from Warsaw, A

composer: Arnold Schoenberg

publisher: Boelke-Bomart

catalogue number:

voicing: TB unison, narrator

accompaniment: large orchestra

language: English, German, Hebrew

text: Schoenberg & Deuteronomy 6

year of composition: 1947

timing: 6:30

recordings: Sony 44571

level of difficulty: difficult

description: A devastating setting of the composer’s own text describing a round-up of Jewish prisoners in the Warsaw ghetto during the Second World War. The male chorus sings a twelve-tone row in unison at the end of this miniature oratorio.

 

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

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: Tikun Chatsot (Midnight Vigil)

composer: Mordecai Seter

publisher: IMI

catalogue number:

voicing: 3 choirs, tenor solo

accompaniment: large orchestra

language: Hebrew

text: Mordecai Tabib, based on traditional texts

year of composition: 1961

timing: 32:00

recordings: Capriccio 10-368

level of difficulty: challenging

description: A huge oratorio based on mystical visions that come to a worshipper who prays through the night. A synthesis of Yemenite Jewish melodies with Bartokian techniques.

 

title: Tikvateinu (Hatikvah Hanoshanah) (Our Ancient Hope)

composer: David Burger

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 982031

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: piano

language: Hebrew

text: N. H. Imber

year of composition: 1978

timing: 5:00

recordings: The Songs Live On, Seasons of Our Joy

level of difficulty: moderate

description: Burger’s setting of Imber’s 1878 poem should not be confused with the national anthem of the State of Israel. Although the lyrics are similar, Burger’s music is original, in a captivating emotional style, influenced by the popular American folk revival of the 1960s.

 

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

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.

 

title: Tsen Brider (Ten Brothers) (The Jewish Death Song)

composer: Martin Rosenberg (arranger: Joshua Jacobson)

publisher: Transcontinental Music Publications

catalogue number: 991433-12

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: piano

timing:  4:30

language: Yiddish

text: Martin Rosenberg

year of composition: 1942

recordings: Hear Our Voices (HZ-909)

level of difficulty: moderate

description: Martin Rosenberg, a conductor and educator in pre-war Poland and Germany, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1939 and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he was brutally tortured. As soon as he recovered, he organized and conducted a clandestine chorus of prisoners. When it became known that the Jewish prisoners of Sachsenhausen were to be transferred to the death camp at Auschwitz, Rosenberg composed this gruesome parody on an old Yiddish folksong called “Tsen Brider.” In Rosenberg’s version, which he called a “Jewish Requiem,” the ten brothers are murdered, one after the other, in the gas chambers. This rearrangement of “Tsen Brider” for mixed chorus conveys the horror and irony of this Holocaust lament in a musical language that is simple and direct.

 

title: Uri Tsiyon (Arise, O Zion)

composer: Moshe Wilensky

publisher: Transcontinental Music Publications

catalogue number: 992019

voicing: SATB

accompaniment: a cappella

timing:  2:30

language: Hebrew

text: Isaiah 52:1

year of composition: 1959

recordings: The Songs of Israel

level of difficulty: moderate

description: One of the favorite themes of the “enlightened” Jews of the nineteenth century and the Zionist Jews of the early twentieth century was that of the Jewish people awakening from centuries of slumber to begin a new life. The words of the ancient prophet Isaiah (“Awake, O Zion! Clothe yourself in splendor… arise, shake off the dust, sit on your throne, Jerusalem!”) were exceedingly relevant to this modern audience. Moshe Wilenski’s setting of these lyrics captures the excitement of this renaissance. “Uri Tsiyon” is based on the Mixolydian mode and is replete with the syncopated rhythms of the horah dance. There is a great deal of variety in this little piece: homophony and polyphony, dynamic changes, modulations. A rousing way to end or begin a concert program.

 

title: Zol Shoyn Kumen Di Ge’uleh (May Our Redemption Come Soon)

composer: Abraham Cook (arranged by Joshua Jacobson)

publisher: Transcontinental

catalogue number: 991435 (SA version is 993109)

voicing: SATB divisi (or SA) with solo (any voice)

accompaniment: piano

language: Yiddish

text: Shmerke Kaczerginski

year of composition:

timing: 3:40

recordings: Hear Our Voices

level of difficulty: easy to moderate

description: Kaczerginski created this song as a vehicle to raise the morale of the Holocaust survivors he met in the DP camps after the Second World War. It has a wonderful refrain for audience participation.

 

title: Zol Zain Sholom (Let There Be Peace)

composer: folk (arranged by Joshua Jacobson)                              

publisher: World Music Press

catalogue number: 24 (24A for SA chorus)

voicing: SATB or SA, solo any voice

accompaniment: piano

language: Yiddish (or English)

text: folk

year of composition:

timing:

recordings: An Hour in the Garden of Eden, The Monster and the Nightingale

level of difficulty: easy

description: A joyous Yiddish call-and-response song from Eastern Europe