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And yet the light returns was composed for the Western Wind Ensemble, in response to their commission for a new piece appropriate for Chanukah, with an emphasis on the theme of light. I chose a text of Rami Shapiro, from his poem “Chanukah” from Accidental Grace; Rami graciously allowed me to rework the text to create a poem for this musical setting.  The word “light” is passed around the chorus at the beginning and end of the piece, building chords of shifting colors. The overall structure is A-B-A; with the outside sections in long-phrased melodies focusing on the return of light, and the middle section, more agitated, on the forces in life that “threaten to smother our light.”

And yet the light returns was commissioned for The Western Wind Vocal Ensemble by Francine M. Gordon, through the Zamir Choral Foundation’s Mandell Rosen Fund for New Music.  It was given its premiere in New York City in December 2019.

—Gerald Cohen

Text, by Rami Shapiro and Gerald Cohen

And yet the light returns
From within or from without,
At the moment of greatest dark,
light returns.

Time and events flow beyond our control,
sweeping us swiftly on a surging tide.
Our fears, our distress, threaten to smother our light,
leaving us alone with our demons and the dark.

And yet—
From an inner vision or an oft-told tale,
from an act of will or the strong arm of a friend,
from a heartfelt cry or a lover’s kiss—light returns.

Premiere: December 2019, Western Wind Ensemble, New York, NY

AboutPerformances

Program Note: I felt my legs were praying

We strive to use our words, our songs, our bodies—our whole being—to work for a better and more just world.  When Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma in 1965, they exemplified religious leaders who hear the voice of the prophets and the Psalms as an explicit call to action.  In this composition, I combine the words of Rabbi Heschel after the march—most famously remembered in the phrase “I felt my legs were praying”—with a verse from Psalm 35, which also speaks of one’s very body exclaiming praise, and praise of a God who protects the poor from those who would oppress them.

I thank the John Leopold and Martha Dellheim Endowment Fund and the H.L. Miller Cantorial School of the Jewish Theological Seminary, who commissioned this piece for its premiere performance, by the Voces Novae chorus of Louisville, KY, at the May 2019 Cantors Assembly convention in Louisville.  Gratitude also to Dr. Susannah Heschel, for permission to use the words of her father in this composition.

—Gerald Cohen

TEXT:

From Psalm 35 and the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Kol atzmotai tomarna Adonai mi chamocha!
matzil ani meychazak mimenu, v’ani v’evyon migozlo.

[All of my bones exclaim: Adonai, who is like You!
saving the weak from the powerful, the needy from those who would prey on them.]

And yet our legs uttered songs—
The march from Selma was a protest, a prayer.
Even without words, our march was worship,
I felt my legs were praying!

Premiere: May 2019  Voces Novae chorus and students of the H.L. Miller Cantorial School; Cantors Assembly convention, Louisville, KY

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Program Note:

The text of Miryam Han’via (“Miriam the Prophet”) was written by Leila Gal Berner in 1987, as one of the early efforts to include Miriam in our contemporary liturgy, in this case as a parallel to “Eliyahu Hanavi” as sung at Havdalah. It has since then become a widely used song, sung to same melody as is most traditionally used for “Eliyahu Hanavi.” In 2001, I was asked to write several melodies for The Open Door, a new Haggadah published by the Reform movement, and decided to write a new melody for “Miryam Han’via.”

When I was asked by the Zamir Choral Foundation to choose one of my melodies for a new choral arrangement for a Comminuty Sing of the 2019 North American Jewish Choral Festival, I was delighted to write this arrangement of “Miryam Ha’nvia,” adding a new niggun melody (heard at the very beginning, and then throughout the piece) as a way to expand on the original melody.

The piece was commissioned for HaZamir: the International Jewish Teen Choir by Hynda Feit, in memory of her mother, Muriel R. Schwartz, through the Mandell Rosen Fund for New Music, a program of the Zamir Choral Foundation. Miryam Han’via will receive its concert premiere by HaZamir in March 2020 at David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center.

—Gerald Cohen

Transliterated text, and translation:

text by Rabbi Leila Gal Berner
Miriam ha-n’vi’a oz v’zimra b’yada.
Miriam tirkod itanu l’hagdil zimrat olam.
Miriam tirkod itanu l’taken et ha-olam.
Bimheyra v’yameynu hi t’vi’einu el mey ha-y’shua.

Miriam the prophet, strength and song in her hand.
Miriam, dance with us in order to increase the song of the world.
Miriam, dance with us in order to repair the world.
Soon she will bring us to the waters of redemption.

Premiere: March 2020: HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir, David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, NY

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Pitchu Li is a setting of a portion of Psalm 118, a text that is sung in Hallel—the joyous set of Psalms sung on most Jewish holidays. I am so delighted to be writing another piece to be given its premiere by the wonderful young singers of HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir, an organization that has given a powerful and joyful experience of Jewish music to several thousand teens over the course of their high school years. The piece was Commissioned for HaZamir through The Jeanne and Irwin Mandell Fund for New Music, and was given its premiere at David Geffen Hall in New York City in March 2019.

Pitchu Li (Psalm 118: 19-24)

Pitchu li shaarei tsedek, avo vam odeh Ya,
Ze hasha-ar ladonai, tsadikim yavo-u vo.
Od’cha ki anitani, vat’hi li lishua,
Even ma-assu habonim, hai’ta l’rosh pina.
Me’et Adonai haita zot, hi niflat b’eneinu,
Ze hayom asa Adonai, nagila v’nism’cha vo.

Translation:
Open for me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them to thank Adonai.
This is the gateway to Adonai; through it the righteous shall enter.
I will offer thanks to You, for You answered me, and You were my rescuer.
The stone the builders rejected has become the keystone.
This is Adonai’s doing; how wondrous it is in our sight.
This is the day that Adonai has made; we shall celebrate and rejoice in it!

Premiere: March 2019HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir, David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, NY
June 2019: American Conference of Cantors convention, Atlanta, GA
July 2019: HaZamir Choir, North American Jewish Choral Festival, Stamford, CT

Premiere of Pitchu Li: Hazamir, the International Jewish Teen Choir, Scott Stein, cond.; Gerald Cohen, piano

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Chanukah Lights was written as an piece for treble voices (with optional piano) for the chorus of the PEARLS Elementary School in Yonkers, NY, and was first performed by them there in December 2005. A simple melody floats over harmonies set up by the other voices, as the choir sings of the warmth of being together for the Chanukah holiday. The refrain takes the word “light” and builds a gentle rocking figure in 5/4 meter. In 2019, I arranged the piece for mixed choir a cappella (divided SSAATTB).

Text, by Gerald Cohen:

The candles are gently glowing,
spreading peace, spreading light.
Our family gathers together,
sharing joy this Chanukah night.
Light, light,
bring joy each night!

 

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Program Note:

Yedid Nefesh (“Beloved of my soul”) is a setting of a poem attributed to Eleazar Azikri, a mystical Jewish poet and scholar of the 16th century.  The poem has become popularly sung at various times in the Jewish liturgy, but especially at the beginning of Shabbat. Its language expresses the relation between the individual and the divine as one of longing and of delight, using the imagery of a lover as its prime metaphor.  The poem has been set to many different melodies; this piece is based on a beautiful and delicate Sephardic melody, which I originally found in Yitzhak Levy’s Anthology of Judeo-Spanish Liturgy.

I had used the melody before in an instrumental piece from 2007, and have long wanted to write a choral setting. I am honored to have written this piece for the 2019 North American Jewish Choral Festival.  It was commissioned by the Zamir Choral Foundation, through the Jeanne and Irwin Mandell Fund for New Music, as part of my receiving—along with my wonderful colleagues Benjie-Ellen Schiller and Steve Cohen—the Festival’s Hallel V’Zimrah Award.

—Gerald Cohen

Transliterated text, and translation:

Attributed to Eleazar Azkiri (16th Century)

Yedid nefesh, av harachaman, m’shoch avdach el r’tzonach.
Yarutz avdach k’mo ayal, yishtachave el mul hadarach.
Yeerav lo y’didutach, minofet tsuf v’chol taam.

Hadur na’e ziv haolam, nafshi cholat ahavatach.
Ana El na r’fa na lah, b’harot lah no’am zivach,
Az titchazek v’titrape, v’hayta lah shifchat olam.

Vatik yehemu rachamecha v’chus na al ben ohavach.
Ki ze kamah nichsof nichsaf, lirot b’tiferet uzach.
Ana Eli, machmad libi, chusha na v’al titalam.

Higale na ufros chaviv alai, et sukkat sh’lomach
Ta’ir eretz mik’vodach, nagila v’nism’cha bach.
Maher ahuv, ki va mo’ed, v’choneni kimei olam.

Translation adapted from Siddur Chaveirim Kol Yisraeil (K’tav, 2000)

Soul-mate, Merciful Parent, draw Your servant to do Your will.
Your servant will run like a ram, will bow down before Your splendor.
For Your love is tastier than nectar or any imaginable delight.

Pleasing in Splendor, Light of the World, my soul is love-sick for You.
Please, God, heal her with the pleasure of Your light.
Then she will be strengthened and healed and will be Your hand-maiden forever.

Ancient One, let Your mercies be aroused. Pity Your beloved child,
who has so longed to see the beauty of Your power.
Pray, my God, my heart’s desire, hurry, please, and do not hide.

Reveal Yourself, Beloved, spread over me Your canopy of peace.
Let the land be lit up with Your glory, let us rejoice and revel in You.
Come quickly, my Love, the time has come. Show me Your grace as of old.

Premiere: July 2019: North American Jewish Choral Festival, Stamford, CT

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Oseh Shalom was commissioned by Temple Sholom, Greenwich, CT for Cantor Asa
Fradkin and Sasson: The Temple Sholom Teen Choir, in celebration of its centennial.  I
had never written a choral setting of this very familiar text, and delighted in having the
opportunity for Cantor Fradkin, this dedicated teen choir, and this occasion. In this
setting, I chose to expand upon the traditional Hebrew text, making it both more
personal and more universal: where the original text asks for peace “for us and for all
Yisrael,” the text here speaks of peace “within myself, for us and for all Yisrael, and all
who dwell on earth, and all of the world/universe.” The simple, but wide-ranging
melody is first heard in Hebrew in the solo voice, then in the full choir, before the choir
begins a contrasting section, with the text in English. Finally, the original melody
returns, bringing us to a peaceful conclusion. The premiere of the piece was at Temple
Sholom in May, 2016.

TEXT:
Oseh shalom bimromav,
Hu yaaseh shalom b’kirbi,
Aleinu v’al kol Yisrael,
V’al kol yoshvei tevel,
V’al kol haolam,
V’imru amen.

O You who makes peace in the heavens,
Make peace within myself,
For us and all Yisrael,
And all who dwell on earth,
And all our precious world,
And all our wondrous world,
And let us say amen.

—Arrangement for solo voice and piano (2020)
—Arrangement for chorus with string quartet: To purchase score and parts, contact Gerald Cohen: gerald@nullgeraldcohenmusic.com

Premiere: May 2016:  The Temple Sholom Teen Choir, Cantor Asa Fradkin, solo, Gerald Cohen, conductor; Greenwch, CT
January 2017: Shir Chadash: The Brooklyn Jewish Community Chorus, Cantor Natasha Hirschhorn, solo, Rachel Brook, conductor; Brooklyn, NY
May 2017: Gerald Cohen Vocal Ensemble, Cantor Asa Fradkin, solo; Scarsdale, NY
January 2018: Colorado Hebrew Chorale, Cantor Asa Fradkin, solo, Carol Kozak Ward, conductor; Denver, CO
January 2020: H.L. Miller Cantorial School Choir, Jewish Theological Seminary; Jacob Agar, Arielle Green, and Jacob Greenberg, soloists; Cantor Natasha Hirschhorn, conductor; New York, NY

thumbnail of Oseh Shalom score sample
Click here for sample of “Oseh Shalom” score (pdf)

To purchase score and parts, contact Gerald Cohen: gerald@nullgeraldcohenmusic.com
PDF version of score and parts: $2.50 a copy (minimum 6 copies)

For printed version of score and parts: contact Gerald Cohen for information.
For perusal version of score, contact Gerald Cohen.

Excerpt of “Oseh Shalom” performed by vocal ensemble conducted by Gerald Cohen.

Oseh Shalom: performance at Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, NY ,  January 2020
H.L. Miller Cantorial School Choir; Jacob Agar, Arielle Green, and Jacob Greenberg, soloists; Cantor Natasha Hirschhorn, conductor

Oseh Shalom: premiere at Temple Sholom, Greenwich, CT, May 2016
The Temple Sholom Teen Choir, Cantor Asa Fradkin, solo, Gerald Cohen, conductor

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Collection of solo vocal works
Including: Hariu  Ladonai (Psalm 100), Y’varech’cha, Ad Matai (Psalm 82), Libavtini Achoti Chala, V’haarev Na, Dayeinu

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Note:  All versions/arrangements are published by composer Gerald Cohen.
Please contact gerald@nullgeraldcohenmusic.com to purchase scores or for other inquiries.

Adonai Ro’i was originally written, on the loss of a dear friend, as a solo a cappella melody.  I am a cantor, and a dear friend and congregant died of cancer at the age of 42 in 1989.  Her husband asked me to sing at her funeral, and I decided to write a setting of Psalm 23, which is traditionally sung at Jewish funerals and memorial services.  This was indeed one of those cases of a piece of music just writing itself, in the course of perhaps 30 minutes, as I was filled with the emotions of my friend’s death.

As I started singing the piece at other services, I received a very strong response to it, and decided to make a piano accompaniment.  This was published in 1995, and soon was used by cantors all over the country, as well as in churches and other services and concerts.  It is a very curious thing for a composer:  I write many pieces of music of all kinds, and it is hard to know exactly why one particular piece captures people’s emotions so strongly, but that is what happened with this particular piece.

I was soon asked by the Zamir Chorale of Boston to write a version for SATB chorus, and that version has also been widely performed.  I have also arranged it for solo voice and orchestra, and chorus and orchestra; these versions have been performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the San Diego Symphony.

I just have to assume that the piece somehow taps into the strong emotions that I felt as I was writing it (I had also lost my father about 8 years before, so I am sure that loss is present as well), and that this then communicates itself to performers, listeners, and mourners.  In 2003, I had the sad but powerful experience of singing the piece at my mother’s funeral.

I am grateful that this piece has become a way for so many to express deep and delicate feelings.  I hope that, if it is a piece that is meaningful to you, that you will feel free to contact me about your experience with it.

I have arranged Adonai Ro’i for many different vocal and instrumental ensembles; a selection of those are listed here.  Please contact me with questions about these or other arrangements:

SOLO VOICE OR UNISON CHORUS
Solo voice or unison chorus with piano
Solo voice or unison chorus with piano and obbligato instrument (Flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, etc.)
Solo voice or unison chorus with string quartet
Solo voice or unison chorus with piano trio (vn/vc/pno)
Solo voice or unison chorus with orchestra
Solo voice or unison chorus with string orchestra

SATB, SSA, etc.
SATB chorus with piano
SATB chorus with orchestra or string orchestra
SSA chorus with piano
Two voices, a cappella

INSTRUMENTAL VERSIONS
Solo instrument with piano
Two clarinets and piano
Clarinet, viola and piano

Adonai Ro’i has somewhat of a different performance history from many of my compositions, as it is used, probably every day, by cantors all over the world at funerals and memorial services.

A few of its most significant concert performances are listed here:
November 2010: American Conference of Cantors, Lauren Bandman, cond., Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, Rome, Italy
December 2004: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Meyer, cond., with the Children’s Festival Chorus, Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh PA
October 2002: Usdan Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY (premiere of version for SATB with orchestra)
March 2000: Marin Cosman, soprano; San Diego Symphony, Jung-Ho Pak, cond., (premiere of version for solo voice with orchestra)
1997: Featured in the film, The Jew in the Lotus, with Gerald Cohen, baritone
May 1994: Syracuse Children’s Chorus, Barbara Tagg, cond. (premiere of unison chorus version)

thumbnail of Adonai Ro’i (solo & piano) score sample      thumbnail of Adonai Ro’i (SATB & piano) score sample     thumbnail of Adonai Ro’i (SATB & Orchestra) score sample

Solo score sample                             SATB score sample                             SATB with orchestra score sample

To purchase, contact Gerald Cohen: gerald@nullgeraldcohenmusic.com

Prices vary depending on arrangement.
Solo version also available in transposed keys.
For instrumental version without voice, see Sea of Reeds page

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

by Eric Haines Hebrew liturgy provides blessings for every major event in the Jewish life cycle. Blessings for children, weddings, the Kaddish, the Kol Nidre and the Song of Solomon have inspired composers to write works that deserve a place on the concert stage. The Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival ended its three-concert season on Tuesday […]

Sheila Steinman Wallace

by Sheila Steinman Wallace In one of the most cohesive and moving concerts I have heard from this community chorus, Voces Novae presented “Choral Portraits: Gerald Cohen, Eleanor Daley and Eric Whitacre” on Sunday, March 7. … Gerald Cohen’s “Adonai Ro’i” (Psalm 23) has long been a personal favorite. The chorus and soloist Sarah Nettleton […]