About

they burn, the fires of the night: lamentations from the ashes was commissioned by The Defiant Requiem Foundation. The piece is primarily inspired by Menachem Z. Rosensaft’s fierce and heartrending poetry, from his book Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen. Rosensaft, son of Holocaust survivors, was born in the DP camp in Bergen-Belsen after World War II, and his poems powerfully impart the intense emotions in his personal story and the larger terror of the Holocaust.

Menachem Rosensaft and I worked together to select the poems from his collection, and an order that would create a dramatic and musical shape to the entire work. My composition aims to bring out the impassioned message of the poetry with the emotions beyond words that music strives to achieve. I hope that these songs will give the audience a visceral and deeply felt vision of one family’s experience in that terrible time—and the need to remember, and continue to retell, the story of all of the victims and survivors.

they burn, the fires of the night: lamentations from the ashes is for mezzo-soprano, baritone, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. It was given its premiere in October 2023 in New York City, by The Defiant Requiem Foundation. 

The piece consists of eight songs:

  1. Prologue: “Mommy, are we going to live or die” (Mezzo)
  2. Psalm 23 at Auschwitz (Duet)
  3. A Refusal to Forgive the Death, by Gas, of a Child in Birkenau (Baritone)
  4. Knit Doll at Bergen-Belsen (Mezzo)
  5. Ne’ilah (Baritone)
  6. The Second Generation (Duet)
  7. blessed is the soul (Mezzo)
  8. they burn, the fires of the night (Baritone)

Score

Text

Poems by Menachem Rosensaft, from Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen.

Click here for complete texts.

Performances

Premiere with featured vocal performers mezzo soprano Leah Wool and baritone David Kravitz, October 25, 2023 at Hebrew Union College. View the program book here.

Press

About

Adonai, where shall I find you? (Ya ana emtza’acha?) was commissioned for the Colorado Hebrew Chorale by Carol Kozak Ward, Founder and Artistic Director of the Chorale, in memory of her mother Joanne L. Kozak. The text, part of a larger poem by Yehuda Halevi (c. 1075-1141), one of the greatest Jewish poets and philosophers of Medieval Spain, speaks of the mystery of and our relation to the divine: that God is both unknowable, and in every atom of the universe; and that by being open to that mystery, we can encounter the wonder of the divine presence.

I originally wrote the basic setting (using the English translation here) as an a cappella melody to be sung as part of the Yom Kippur service, and was very pleased in this composition to expand the melody into a larger choral piece including both English and Hebrew. I was also delighted to write a new composition for Carol Kozak Ward and her chorus; I have known Carol since I was accompanist for her Connecticut Hebrew Chorale during my college years. My Virst commissioned piece, Libavtini Achoti Chala, was written for that chorus in 1983.

—Gerald Cohen

Score

Text and Translation


Adonai, where shall I find You?
High and hidden is Your place.
And where shall I not find You?
The world is full of Your glory.

I sought Your closeness,
I called to You with all my heart,
And going out to meet You
I found you coming toward me.

—Yehuda Halevi (c.1075–1141)
Translation from Siddur Lev Shalem, published by the Rabbinical Assembly

Performances

Premiere on February 4, 2024 by the Colorado Hebrew Chorale conducted by Carol Kozak Ward.

Premiere (virtual) by Anne Slovin, soprano, and Andrew Voelker, piano October 5, 2021 at Indiana University.
Video of this performance at:
https://touchmenot.indiana.edu/gallery/cohen-music.html

Program note by composer Gerald Cohen

“Lo Vashamayim Hi” (It is not in the heavens) was composed in 2021 for the Noli Me Tangere project of the Center for Religion and the Human, Indiana University, Bloomington.

The prompt for the project begins as follows:
“Noli me tangere—“touch me not” (or “Do not hold/grasp me” in the Greek). The words from John 20:17, spoken by Jesus to Mary Magdalene after her discovery of the empty tomb, take on curious resonances in the epoch of COVID-19, with its prohibitions on touching and imperatives around social distancing. We wish to ask how we might consider noli me tangere in this moment—this long moment being shaped by the pandemic.”

The project leaders then encouraged all participants to use the prompt of the text to act as a jumping-off point to explore whatever felt significant to them in the words and their resonances.

As a composer and cantor, I am quite steeped in the Hebrew Bible, and much less so in the New Testament. It has been fascinating for me to use the prompt of this project as an impetus to explore new texts. When I learned that the Greek of “noli me tangere” could perhaps be better translated as “do not cling to me,” the words suddenly resonated with me quite deeply, and also created connections in my mind with both Jewish and Christian and mystical traditions—of God being truly within each one of us—and with Buddhist ideas of non-attachment.

After an exploration of many texts, including several of the non-canonical Gnostic Gospels, and poems of Rilke and Tagore, I found myself drawn back to a favorite text from the most familiar part of my own religious tradition—the Torah. In Deuteronomy, Chap. 30, Moses instructs the people: “It is not in the heavens, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to the heavens and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?’…. But the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.” This saying is also echoed by Jesus, presumably referring directly to the text from Deuteronomy, in both the canonic and the gnostic gospels. The first two sections of the piece, relating the quest to find the divine in the heavens or beyond the sea, are heard as dramatic, energetic outpourings; these then resolve into the gentle extended meditation of “But the thing is very close to you…”.

Text: Deuteronomy 30:12-14
Lo vashamayim hi leimor:
“Mi ya’aleh lanu hashamaymah v’yikacheha lanu v’yashmi’enu otah v’na’asenah?”
V’lo me’ever layam hi leimor:
“Mi ya’avor lanu el ever hayam v’yikacheha lanu v’yashmi’enu otah v’na’asenah?”
Ki karov eilecha hadavar me’od, beficha uvilvavcha la’asoto.


It is not in the heavens, that you should say:
“Who will go up for us to the heavens and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?”
And it is not beyond the sea, that you should say:
“Who will cross over for us beyond the sea and take it for us and let us hear it, that we may do it?”
But the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.

Countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and pianist Ronny Michael Greenberg performed the premiere September 2022 in San Francisco.

Program note by composer Gerald Cohen
The narration of the life of King David is one of the masterpieces of narration in the Hebrew Bible, with David presented as a complex and flawed human being, and with much emotional subtlety in the development of him and those around him. This scene comes at the climax of the story in II Samuel, of his son’s Avshalom’s revolt against him. David, on hearing of the victory against the rebellion, and the death of his son, is stricken with grief, and can do nothing but cry out “Avshalom, my son, my son! Would that I had died instead of you!”

This lament has had many musical settings, both solo and choral, over several centuries. In my setting, I decided to expand upon this famous line, and to include the dramatic context of the scene leading to David’s outcry.  The aria itself, of David’s outburst, is based on the melody to which the Book of Samuel is chanted in the synagogue when it it part of a biblical reading. However, that basic melody is really used as a taking-off place for ever more wild melismas as David expresses his anguish, and then moving to a final quiet desolate lament.

The composition was composed for countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and pianist Ronny Michael Greeenberg, and given its premiere in San Francisco in September 2022.

Text and Translation:

SCENE:
V’David yoshev bein sh’nei hash’arim, vayelech hatzofe el gag hashaar el hachoma, vayisa et einav vayar, v’hine ish ratz l’vado.
Vayikra hatzofe vayaged lamelech, vayomer hamelech: “Im l’vado b’sora b’fiv.”
V’hine hakushi ba vayomer hakushi: “Yitbaser adoni hamelech ki sh’fatcha Adonai hayom miyad kol hakamim alecha.”
Vayomer hamelech el hakushi: “Hashalom lanaar l’Avshalom?” Vayomer hakushi: “Yihyu chanaar oyvey adoni hamelech, v’chol asher kamu alecha l’ra-ah.”
Vayirgaz hamelech, vayaal al aliyot hashaar vayevk, v’cho amar b’lechto:

ARIA:
“B’ni Avshalom, b’ni v’ni Avshalom! Mi yiten muti ani tachtecha, Avshalom, b’ni v’ni!”
V’hamelech laat et panav, vayizak hamelech kol gadol: B’ni Avshalom, Avshalom, b’ni v’ni!”

SCENE:
And David was sitting between the gates, and the lookout went up on the roof of the gate on the wall, and he raised his eyes and saw, and, look, a man was running alone.
And the lookout called and told the king, and the king said, “If he’s alone, there are tidings in his mouth.”
And, look, the Cushite had come and the Cushite said, “Let my lord the king receive these tidings—that the Lord has done for you justice against all who rose against you.”
And the king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the lad Avshalom?” And the Cushite said, “May the enemies of my lord the king be like the lad, and all who have risen against you for evil!”
And the king was shaken.  And he went up to the upper room over the gate and he wept, and thus he said as he went:

ARIA:
“My son, Avshalom! My son, my son, Avshalom! Would that I had died instead of you! Avshalom, my son, my son!”
And the king covered his face, and the king cried out in a loud voice, “My son, Avshalom! Avshalom, my son, my son!”

Text by E. Louise Beach

World Premiere of Amid the Alien Corn, Reaching for the Heavens: The Music of Composer Gerald Cohen, May 24, 2022, The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, NY. Ilana Davidson, soprano; Heather Johnson, mezzo-soprano; Alexandra Joan, piano.

Program Note

Amid the Alien Corn (Ruth and Naomi) is the setting of a poetic canticle by E. Louise Beach, based on the first chapter of the biblical Book of Ruth. Naomi is returning to the land of Judah after living in Moab, having left Judah 10 years before because of a famine there. In that time she has seen her two sons marry Moabite women, and then experienced the death of her husband and both sons. She plans to return to Judah alone, but her daughter-in-law Ruth expresses her love and loyalty for Naomi and her people, and persists in her requests to leave her native land and accompany Naomi to Judah.

E. Louise Beach, in her poem, expands on the spare biblical text, deepening the emotional relationship between the two women as they experience this crucial moment in their lives. As a composer, I cherished the opportunity to create, in this short dramatic and lyrical scene, vocal characters for these two strong and empathetic women.

Amid the Alien Corn (Ruth and Naomi) was commissioned by E. Louise Beach, and dedicated to her mother, and to her daughters.

—Gerald Cohen

SA with piano: $2.50
SATB with piano: $3.00

About

Dayeinu is the central song of joy and gratitude from the Passover Seder celebration. My setting of Dayeinu, an exuberant dance, is from the Passover cantata V’higad’ta L’vincha (“And you shall tell your child”) that was composed in 1996 for the Syracuse Children’s Chorus, Barbara Tagg, founder and director, and was commissioned by the Chorus as part of the “Commissioning Music/USA” program  of Meet The Composer and the National Endowment for the Arts, with support from the Helen F. Whitaker Fund.  The larger composition is based on selections from the Haggadah, the central text of the Passover celebration.  One of the most significant themes of the Haggadah, emphasized in my choices of text for the piece, is that we all must experience the story of the deliverance from slavery as if we ourselves had lived through it; we must then tell our children that story so as to pass it down, vividly, from one generation to the next.  A recording on CD of the original version for three-part treble chorus with the Syracuse Children’s Chorus, Barbara Tagg, conductor, appears on the album Generations: Music of Gerald Cohen (CRI 879). —Gerald Cohen

Note: Dayeinu, and the entire V’higad’ta L’vincha, are available in versions both for treble chorus and for SATB chorus.  Either version can be performed either in a full score version with clarinet, cello and piano; or in the piano reduction. 

Score

Text

Kama maalot tovot lamakom aleinu!
Ilu hotsianu mimitsrayim, Dayeinu!
Ilu kara lanu et hayam, Dayeinu!
Ilu sipeik tsorkeinu bamidbar arbayim shana, Dayeinu!
Ilu keirvanu lifnei har sinai, Dayeinu! 
Ilu natan lanu et hatorah, Dayeinu!
Ilu hichnu l’erets yisraeil, Dayeinu!

How many acts of kindness God has performed for us!
If God had brought us out of Egypt, Dayeinu!  (it would have been enough for us!)
If God had split the sea for us, Dayeinu!  
If God had sustained us in the wilderness for forty years, Dayeinu!  
If God had brought us before Mount Sinai, Dayeinu!  
If God had given us the Torah, Dayeinu!  
If God had led us to the land of Israel, Dayeinu!  

Arrangements

Dayeinu, and the entire V’higad’ta L’vincha, are available in versions both for treble chorus and for SATB chorus.  Either version can be performed either in a full score version with clarinet, cello and piano; or in the piano reduction. 

Dayeinu is also the final movement of the instrumental piece Sea of Reeds, in its several arrangements.

Listen/Watch

SA Version
(From Sea of Reeds—clarinet duo and piano)

Performances

Selected:

Premiere: April 1997  – Syracuse Children’s Chorus, Barbara Tagg, cond.; Syracuse, NY
May 1998 – Juilliard Pre-College Chorus, Rebecca Scott, cond.; New York, NY (SSA version)
April 2006 – Princeton Pro Musica, Frances Slade, cond., Lawrenceville, NJ (SATB version)
April 2010 – Choirs of Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College, Joyce Rosenzweig, cond. (SATB version)
May 2010 – Concerto Della Donna, Iwan Edwards, cond.; Montreal, Québec (SSA version)
April 2016 – HaZamir, the International Jewish High School Choir, Joel Caplan, cond., New York, NY (SATB version, “Dayeinu” movement) See video of this performance at Carnegie Hall

Press

The Louisville Courier-Journal

by Andrew Adler For Frank A. Heller III, every concert describes a small journey of inner space. Voces Novae, the chorus he trains and nurtures season after season, looks first to the spirit present within each of its singers, and by extension his audiences. It’s no exaggeration to call Heller’s perspective a pan-theistic, summoning faiths […]

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 […]

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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










AboutArrangementsPerformancesScoreAudioVideoPress

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 […]


AboutArrangementsPerformancesScoreAudioVideoPhotosPressTestimonials

Four songs on Poems of Linda Pastan
Premiered by Adelaide Muir, soprano, Kent Conrad, piano