“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing has come…
Arise, my love!”
Song of Songs, 2:11-12
In these weeks leading to Passover, the verses from Shir haShirim, the Song of Songs, perfectly capture the awakening of nature and human spirit after a long winter. Indeed, on Sunday, April 7, we shall sing, and we shall sing of love!
But today I would like to tell you a little about the story behind the music. This summer, together with my creative partner Dr. Julia Zavadsky (who will be joining us for this concert with her excellent choir from Philadelphia), I was looking for a variety of choral music about love that would reflect the breadth of Jewish music at large and the music of Israel, in particular. With such an inspiring theme, our proverbial cup was soon overflowing with the most gorgeous musical settings of love poetry in different languages. At the same time, we were hoping to find some compositions that would reflect a larger idea of building bridges between various communities, as well as for a way to express through music the biblical commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Julia had mentioned a Palestinian Israeli musician, a world famous oud player, Wisam Gibran, who is a prolific composer, and an educator dedicated to building musical bridges of understanding between Arabs and Jews, specifically as a founding director and conductor of the Arab Jewish Youth Orchestra in Israel since 2002. Wisam writes: “As a Palestinian living in Israel, I see a major challenge in developing a musical language and identity, through which I can deal with the complexity of the conflict…The spirit of my musical language is based on openness and mutual listening. It relies on the assumption that the individual identity is formed and is not inherited, that it comes from the future and not the past.”
Wisam’s compelling words and unique vision had inspired us to commission him to create a choral composition, based on Arab love poetry in the original Arabic and English translation, that would help us affirm that music – and love – need no translation! (By the way, you can get a small taste of Wisam’s mesmerizing oud playing here:
Wisam was extremely receptive to our request. Many hours, phone calls, emails and other creative overseas collaborations, “That Love” based on the poetry of Khalil Gibran (no relation to the composer), finally came to be. The musical language of the piece created for a double choir weaves together Wisam’s passion for the unique sound of the oud and echos of Arab love songs with the intricate contra-point and pure harmonies reminiscent of his composition studies in Moscow, as well as the influences of the Western school of musical writing.
On Sunday, April 7, in addition to the World Premiere of “That Love,” you can hear some of the most beautiful songs of love from around the Jewish world. From the shtetl in the Pale to exotic Florence, from familiar sounds of beloved folk songs to gems from the contemporary classical repertoire, from Israeli pop songs to eternally inspiring verses from the Song of Songs, you will come away inspired both by the iconic works of Jewish composers and the newly created choral settings based on Jewish texts.
I hope you will join us for this concert of three choirs – bringing together passionate singers of all ages, musical backgrounds and Jewish denominations – as we celebrate the power of love and music to bring immense beauty and healing to our broken world.
Hazzan Natasha J. Hirschhorn
All You Need is Ahavah: Songs of Love from the Jewish World
Sunday, April 7 at 4pm
Ansche Chesed, 251 west 100th street
The Annual Concert with Shirei Chesed Community Chorus and H.L. Miller Cantorial School Choir, Hazzan N. Hirschhorn, Artistic Director, and Nashirah: the Jewish Chorale of Greater Philadelphia, Dr. Julia Zavadsky, Artistic Director.
With Elizabeth Rodgers and Soyeon Bin, piano, David Steinberg and Lavinia Pavlish, violins, Anna Heflin, viola, and Lanny Paykin, cello
(With a second performance on Sunday, May 19, 3pm at Field Auditorium-Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia)