There’s just so much music here! And the beautiful thing is that music often speaks for itself. But there’s also so much to say about it – our worship music, what happens in rehearsals, how we work together to imagine the musical expression of ideas…And then there’s everything that happens outside of Follen but still connected, including my performances, my teaching, the musical lives of our community members, young and venerable. Each month, I’ll post my own ponderings, as well as the previous month’s Music Notes and service music selections from our Orders of Service. I’ll also provide information about my activities, with links, as well as any musical activity that musicians within the Follen community are participating in. To get a bigger dose of my life in music (as a concert artist, a director, a teacher, a writer, a researcher, an accordionist), you can go to my website (still a little bit under construction, but full of stuff already) at vivianmontgomery.org, and you can also check out the work of my ensemble, Eudaimonia, A Purposeful Period Band at eudaimonia-music.org.
Some favorite poetic references to music:
“So shall I join the choir invisible, whose music is the gladness of the world.” (George Eliot)
“I have learned not to fight the voices in my head, so I built them a chapel and made them my choir.” (Anonymous)
“Bird call and poet song
short bursts of sound
meet and mingle
become life in motion.“ (From an obscure poet named Nivek)
— Vivian Montgomery
Interim Director of Music
Musical selections from September 10 service:
Music for gathering – “Nigun” (D. Friedman)
Introit – Allegro from Concerto in D Major (J.S. Bach/Vivaldi)
Anthem – “Love Song” (L. Duncan)
Centering Hymn – Olam Chesed Yibaneh (Rabbi Menachem Creditor)
- Olam chesed yibaneh, yai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai (4x)
- We will build a world from love, yai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai (4x)
- Niftach delet libeinu, yai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai (4x)
- Open the door unto your heart, yai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai (4x)
Offertory Music – Locus Iste (A. Bruckner)
Benediction Response – “Unlock Your Mind” (G. Jackson/M. Staples)
Unlock your mind, then you’ll be free to clear your head, yeah, yeah.
Unlock your mind, don’t look back, you better look ahead instead.
Musical selections and notes from September 17 service:
Introit: “Return Again” (S. Carlebach)
Anthem: “Thou Knowest, Lord, the Secrets of Our Hearts” (H. Purcell)
Offertory: “I Will Give My Love an Apple” (Trad. Appalachian/J. Klimek)
Centering Hymn: “Open the Door Unto Your Heart” (R. Menachem Creditor)
Postlude (no benediction response this week): Fanfare in A flat Major (P. Manz)
In our music today, we recognize the coming of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, with “Return Again,” a beloved song by the charismatic wandering minstrel rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach. It starts with a “nigun”, a melody sung with simple syllables to stir the spirit (“ruach”) of collective singing. Imagine Carlebach in his poncho and embroidered hat, strumming his guitar and leading a throng of worshippers toward “teshuvah” (the Hebrew word for both “returning” and “repentance”).
Henry Purcell’s “Thou Knowest, Lord, the Secret of Our Hearts” is a long-standing choir favorite, a prayerful hymn from the Funeral Ode for Queen Mary. It speaks to our deepest and darkest interiors, and sets the text with evocative silences and the warm harmonies that are particular to Purcell’s special language.
“I Will Give My Love an Apple” is one version of the “I Gave My Love a Cherry” idea that uses door, lock, and key metaphors rather than the traditional floral images, so it fits nicely with our September theme of “Unlocked”. This setting features the lush unison singing of our men’s voices. Perhaps hearing them will encourage some of the men in the congregation to come sing with us. Bring your voice to the mix! Rehearsals are Tuesday 7:30-9:00and Sunday morning (when the choir is singing) at 9:00. Talk to Vivian if you’re considering joining – firstname.lastname@example.org
Musical selections and notes from September 24 service:
Introit: “Do Not Leave Your Cares At The Door” (Elizabeth Alexander)
Anthem: “How Lovely Are the Messengers” (Felix Mendelssohn, from Elijah) – Follen Adult Choir with Shaylor Lindsay, piano
Offertory: Notturno (E. Grieg)
Closing Hymn: 1022 Open the Window
Choir music for this service includes the boisterous “Do Not Leave Your Cares At The Door”, by UU composer Elizabeth Alexander (look her up in the hymnal to see what else we sing by her!), and Felix Mendelssohn’s serene praise of those who “preach us the gospel of peace” from his oratorio Elijah. We’re also introducing a new Caribbean-inspired hymn, “Open The Window, Let the Dove Fly In” – it’s by an old friend of my husband’s from North Carolina, and it’s in the teal hymnal (Singing the Journey) but we’ve made it a little easier to read by creating a one-page insert.
Musical selections and notes from October 1 service:
Prelude: Andante in D major (J.S. Bach)
Anthem: 9:30: “Live, Love, Share” (Laura Hawley) – Children’s Choir with Eli Intriligator, piano
Translation from Arabic: Thanks be to God, we sing, we sing, thanks be to God!
The full moon rose over us from the valley of Wada’, and it is incumbent upon us to show gratitude
For as long as anyone in existence calls out to [Allah]
11:30: “Schindler’s List” (J. Williams/E. Crocker) – Youth Choir with Shaylor Lindsay, piano
Offertory: “Who By Fire (L. Cohen) – Ben Horsburgh, Venice Mountain-Zona, & Isabella Scopetski, singers,
Closing Anthem: 9:30: “Give It Away” (Carol Murray) – Children’s Choir with Eli Intriligator, piano
11:30: “One Day” (Matisyahu/J. Comisar) – Youth Choir with Shaylor Lindsay, piano
Translation of Hashkivenu from Hebrew: Let us lie down in peace, O God, and wake us up to life renewed;
spread over us the shelter of Your peace.
Soloists: Lydia Rommel, Alisha Ghandi, Juliana Stern, Henry Walters, Lila Sandler, Hannah Markelz
Postlude: 9:30: “Odeon” (E. Nazareth)
11:30: “From Foreign Lands and Places” (R. Schumann)
It’s a joy to have my first worship adventure with the Children’s and Youth Choirs. And there’s a clarity to interconnections within music being sung by both choirs plus our trio of Ben, Venice & Isabella.
“Live, Love, Share” is by the Canadian composer Laura Hawley, written for children’s choirs to sing for welcoming Syrian refugees, and it has, in fact, often been sung by choirs made up of both Canadian and refugee children. It combines three melodies and texts: “Alhamdulillah” is what every Arabic speaking person will say in response to any statement of well-being, “Tala‘a ‘l-badru ‘alaynā” is the song of welcome sung to the Prophet Muhammed as he took refuge in Medina (Arabian Peninsula), and the English words state our need to understand, share, and have gratitude. “Give It Away” is a serene anthem of generosity – it’s lovely to hear the children sing of giving away love, kindness, and friendship, since it comes so easily to them.
The offertory at both services is Leonard Cohen’s haunting “Who By Fire?,” an updated interpretation of the darkest Yom Kippur text stating that all our fates, who shall live and who shall die, have already been written in the book of life. I feel that the refrain of “who shall I say is calling?” points to the New Year’s pressing message that, while our ultimate fates might be decided, it is us as individuals who are responsible for all else that brings about a life well lived.
The Youth Choir’s songs provide bookends for considering loss, memory, reckoning, and hope through Jewish experience: “Schindler’s List” paints pictures of the shtetl through ancient melodies and words, enshrouded by knowledge of the Holocaust’s horrors, while “One Day” grapples with current-day conflict and bloodshed while expressing belief that we’ll find peace somehow, one day. It’s by the Orthodox ska rapper Matisyahu, and folds in the opening phrases of Hashkivenu, the evening prayer that asks to be given shelter and to be guarded in our comings and goings. I hope that these beautiful young singers will be provided such protection in the coming year, and wake each morning to life renewed.