Today’s music features “Holy Ground,” a setting of a Woody Guthrie text by the Klezmatics’ Frank London. These lyrics, echoing Jewish mysticism, can be traced to the unusual collaborative relationship Woody had with his mother-in-law, Aliza Greenblatt, a prominent Yiddish poet who lived across from Guthrie and his family in Brooklyn in the 1940s. They often discussed their artistic projects and critiqued each other’s works, finding common ground in their shared love of culture and social justice, despite very different backgrounds. Their collaboration flourished in 1940s Brooklyn, where Jewish culture was interwoven with music, modern dance, poetry and anti-fascist, pro-labor activism. “The Heavens Are Telling” is a triumphal chorus from Haydn’s oratorio, The Creation, that received its first public performance in Vienna in 1779. Texts are taken from Genesis and from Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost. This was the first piece published with both German and English as original texts.
On another note, Rosh Hashana begins on Sunday night, so Shana Tova to everyone! I’ll be playing my annual marathon of services that night and Monday (and trying to find a little prayerfulness and renewal amidst trying not to miss my endless cues). Here’s an interesting thing to think about as we enter the Days of Awe: the Hebrew word “t’shuvah” means “returning” but it also means “atoning.” Both definitions are crucial for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and I think there’s a lot we can learn in Follen’s month of Return from how they intertwine. Maybe atonement is just returning to our true selves, and maybe coming back to home and community is partially a reckoning of what we need to do better in the future.