Kumi ori (Arise, shine), for SATB chorus and chamber orchestra (2021) | 3′

Commissioned by the Aspen Choral Society under the direction of Paul Dankers, in loving memory of Patricia “Pat” Smith.

Program Note

Kumi Ori (Arise, Shine) was commissioned in 2021 by the Aspen Choral Society under the direction of Paul Dankers, in loving memory of Patricia “Pat” Smith. The chorus wanted, as part of their annual performance of Handel’s Messiah, to have three of the movements of the Handel composition replaced in performance by newly composed movements; in each case, these new pieces were to be choral movements replacing solo or instrumental movements of the Handel. I was intrigued, honored, and a little bit daunted in taking on this task, but then began studying the Handel and grew fascinated with the idea of writing new pieces that would fit smoothly into the Ilow of the Messiah, and yet be true to my own musical voice. And since I am Jewish and write many compositions in Hebrew, I decided to compose pieces that would use Hebrew texts that are composed in English in the Messiah.

This piece is composed to replace the “Pastoral Symphony” movement of the Handel. The “Pastoral Symphony” comes after the great choral movement “For unto us a child is born,” and my piece is written so as to respond directly to the motifs and energy of “For unto us,” beginning with sixteenth-note figures taken from that movement, but in a new, more distant key, and shifts between different tonalities, and rhythmic meters. When the chorus enters, it is singing a long lyrical line against the continuing energy of the accompaniment, and on the text Kumi Ori (Arise, Shine), from Isaiah Chapter 60, one that was also part of the movement “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion.” The end of the movement eventually becomes more serene, leading to the following recitative and next part of the narrative in the Handel.

The premiere of this and its companion movements will be in December 2021, as part of the Aspen Choral Society’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. While they are written to fit into the context of the Handel, they can of course also be performed separately as independent pieces. With their themes of light emerging from darkness, the new pieces are also suitable for Chanukah performance.

—Gerald Cohen

Transliterated text, and translation

(Isaiah 60:1)

Kumi ori ki va orech, uchvod Adonai alayich zarach.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned over you.

To purchase scores and parts, contact Gerald Cohen.