Programme Notes for the Shabbat UK Service
at New West End Synagogue, LONDON
Parashat Lech Lecha – 12 November 2016
Tzadik Katamar – Louis Lewandowski
Often referred to as the father of Jewish music, Lewandowski was fortunate to be accepted into the Berlin Academy of Arts having received patronage of Alexander Mendelssohn, a cousin of the famed Felix Mendelssohn. In 1844, the Jewish community of Berlin invited him to organise and lead a choir, and so Louis Lewandowski became the first synagogue choirmaster. In 1864 he transferred to become choir leader of the Neue Synagoge in Berlin and in 1866 he received the title of “Royal Musical Director” by the German government. His most famous publications are “Kol Rinah”, an anthology of solos and duets (like Nusach); and “Todah Vezimrah” for Cantor, mixed chorus and organ. Lewandowski made numerous arrangements of Psalm 92, of which Tzadik Katamar comprises the final four verses. The arrangement we will sing this Shabbat is perhaps the most popular and recognisable by the cannonic theme in the choir for the second and fourth verse. Later in the service, the choir will also sing Shuvi Nafshi, a verse from Psalm 116, often sung at the beginning of the Yizkor service, where we ask to “be at peace once more”.
Ein Kamocha – Salomon Sulzer
A cantor and composer, Sulzer is also regarded as a founder of modern chazanut. His publication “Schir Zion” covered all sections of the service – the cantor’s recitative, choral passages and responses – containing music for the entire Jewish calendar. Sulzer’s setting of Ein Kamocha is the most popular tune in the United Synagogue and across most of Ashkenazi Jewry, despite not being included in the “Blue Book”, partly because the choral fanfare is a much better depiction of the Hebrew text. Other music by Sulzer also features prominently in our service, such as the introduction to Ashrei.
Lecha Adonai – Marcus Hast
Rev Hast was the Chazan of the Great Synagogue, Duke’s Place from 1871 to 1899. Like Sulzer, he composed many of his own pieces and published a set of works the “Avodat HaKodesh”, which were dedicated to the Right Honourable Lord Rothschild and the Lady Rothschild. The tempo marking in the “Blue Book” for Lecha Adonai is ‘Maestoso’ meaning majestic.
For the Fallen – Laurence Binyon
For the Fallen was written in honour of the casualties of the British Expeditionary Force, published in the Times on 21 September 1914 after the battles of Mons & the Marne. Today it is often read at remembrance ceremonies. A two minute silence is held after reading the words “We will remember them”. Edward Elgar also set it to music in a song cycle of Binyon poems entitled The Winnowing Fan.
Essah Einai – Charles Garland Verrinder
Verrinder was the first choir master and organist at West London Synagogue from when the synagogue opened, in 1840, until his death in 1890. There he, together with Charles Kensington Salaman, compiled a book “The Music Used in the service of West London Synagogue of British Jews”. The book was published in 1880 and included instructions for tempo not only in Italian but in English. Phrases like “Not too slow” provided advice for future choirmasters! Verrinder was a prolific composer. He composed a setting of Psalm 100 for the 100th birthday of Sir Moses Montefiore in 1884. His setting of Essah Einai is most popular sung even at synagogues without choir. The Sephardim also have a tradition to use the melody for Adon Olam.
Va’anachnu & Hodo Al Eretz – Felix Mendelssohn
Cultural appropriation is a very common characteristic in the Jewish religion and music is no exception. Va’anachnu is set to music from the oratorio Elijah (no. 19 – “Open the Heavens…”) and Hodo Al Eretz is taken from Hear my Prayer (Psalm 55). David M Davis, the first choirmaster at New West End Synagogue, chose to arrange Va’anachnu in the same key, but doubled the note lengths when he transcribed it for the “Blue Book”.
Havu Ladonai – Samuel Alman
Alman studied music at the Odessa and Kishnev conservatories, and following a brief period in the Russian army as a musician, he moved to London, where he obtained an ARCM at the Royal College of Music. His first position as a Synagogue Conductor began in 1906, at the Great Synagogue, Duke’s Place. In 1912, he composed the first Yiddish Grand Opera, which he based on a mythical story, set in the reign of King Ahaz. Alman produced the most recent version of the “Blue Book” in 1933 and added a few of his own compositions, including Havu.
Eitz Chayim Hi – Rabbi Geoffrey Shisler
Rabbi Shisler began his career as a trainee Chazan at the Jews College. His first post was as Cantor at the New Synagogue, Egerton Road. Having spent his career at a variety of communities, his last role was Rabbi of the New West End Synagogue until his retirement in 2014. In 2009, Rabbi Shisler compiled an anthology of his music “Shiru Lo Shir Chadash”, some of which arranged by Stephen Glass for choir. The choir begin in unison (all singing together), depicting a single “tree of life”. The Chazan then starts an ascending phrase, repeated at the conclusion of the piece “renewing our days as of old”.
Kedusha – Gustav Holst
This setting of the Kedusha is to the music of Jupiter – Bringer of Jollity from Gustav Holst’s planet suite. The music was adapted to fit the lyrics of a poem known by its opening first line “I vow to thee my country.” The poem, entitled Urbs Dei (City of God) was written by an Edwardian diplomat Sir Cecil Spring-Rice who died in 1918. The poem is about sacrifice for one’s nation and so it is being sung on this Shabbat, the Day after Armistice Day, when we remember all those of any faith or none who gave up their lives to protect both our physical borders but also our freedoms. It has been sung in Armistice Day services since the 1920’s. Holst wrote a four part harmony in 1926. The final line of the song comes from Chapter 3 of the Book of Proverbs: “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” We say this phrase when we put the Sefer Torah away.
L’dor Vador – Meir Finkelstien
Finkelstein studied for an ARCM degree in voice, composition and piano at Royal College of Music. Whilst studying, he was the Chazan at Golders Green Synagogue, Dunstan Road. He then moved to America, and started to compose both liturgical music and film scores. The film score influences can most certainly be heard in L’dor Vador.
Uv’yom HaShabbat & Ein Keloheinu – Zvi Talmon
Talmon studied composition and conducting at the Jerusalem Institute of Music. In 1965, he published an anthology of Shabbat music entitled “Rinat ha-Heikhal”. Uv’yom HaShabbat replicates the joy of the Sabbath as well as the tonalities of the Shabbat prayer mode. The Ein Keloheinu with treble soloist became popular in synagogues when mixed-choirs converted to male-only.