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CD Volume II: The Shabbat Experience

To listen to a sample of each track, click below.
To read a review of the CD,  click here.

Track 01: EIN KAMOCHA – Salomon Sulzer




Sulzer’s setting of the Ein Kamocha text is probably more widely sung than any other. Even congregations without a cantor or choir are likely to sing a variation of this composition. In North America, the practice evolved to leave Sulzer’s composition at the words “Av harachamim,” continuing instead with Dunajewsky’s melody (see track 2). On this recording, we hear an arrangement based on Sulzer’s original music.



Track 02: EIN KAMOCHA – Abraham Dunajewsky




The opening section of Dunajewsky’s setting of the Ein Kamocha text is not widely known except in synagogues that have a strong classical choral tradition. The “Av harachamim” section is sung, however, albeit freely and in unison and is often “tagged” on to the first part of Sulzer’s Ein Kamocha. In this reharmonised version, the cantor’s phrase “tivneh chomot y’rushalayim” – “rebuild the walls of Jerusalem” is given a more climactic treatment than in the original composition. The piece ends with a feeling of wonderment at the words “Adon olamim” – “Master of worlds”.



Track 03: EIN KAMOCHA – Stephen Glass




This original setting was written for a teenager who was making his debut with the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir as part of a Youth Shabbat service. The piece subsequently became a fixture in the Congregation’s repertoire. The music is “through-composed” and has a number of distinct harmonic shifts. After the first choral passage, the cantor enters at the words “Av harachamim” – “Father of compassion” with an impassioned plea to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, leading to a positive affirmation of God’s eminence.



Track 04: EIN KAMOCHA – Samuel Kavetsky




This lesser-known composition has the same opening structure as Sulzer’s setting: two solo declamatory phrases, the first followed by a simple choral response, the second by a more melodic passage. A simple fugal entry in a minor key begins the melodic “Av harachamim” section, first for choir only and then with a different setting for cantor and choir.



Track 05: EIN KAMOCHA – Giuseppe Verdi/Samuel Naumbourg/



This setting combines the music of three composers. Stephen Glass first encountered the music used for the “Ein Kamocha” and “kuma Hashem” sections – taken from Act I of Verdi’s “Otello” – when he played it as part of a wedding procession in the late 1980′s. Stephen then sought an “Av harachamim” composition that would maintain the elegance of the opening music and found it in Naumbourg’s setting. Completing the composition is Stephen’s music for “vay’hi binso’a” and “baruch shenatan”.







This is an abridged version of Zim’s famous setting of the Prayer for the State of Israel, composed on the occasion of Israel’s 40th Anniversary. Written originally for solo voice and piano accompaniment, it has become a standard of the cantorial concert repertoire, due largely to its popular refrain.



Track 07: ROFEI ELYON – Paul Zim




This piece is sung every Shabbat at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim. Following prayers for the Government of Canada, the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces, the congregation is invited to pray for those who are unwell. This is a gentle arrangement with Zim’s tender melody set against a warm harmonic backing.



Track 08: EITZ CHAYIM HI – Nissan Blumenthal




Though relatively few of Blumenthal’s compositions were published, this stately setting appears in the “The Voice of Prayer and Praise,” the famed “Blue Book” of the United Synagogue in the UK, in an arrangement by Samuel Alman. The opening section of this composition is quite popular, probably due to the ascending minor scale heard on the words “eitz chayim hi,” “d’racheha” and “chadeish yameinu,” evoking the melody of both the Leoni Yigdal and the Hatikvah.


This composition allows for a fascinating study of the influence of the age of recording on synagogue practice. In almost all congregations in North America, a variant of Blumenthal’s composition is sung in the version made famous by Samuel Malavasky on his 1961 album “Sabbath with the Malavsky Family.” The popularity of the Malavsky adaptation has relegated the complete version of Blumenthal’s supremely elegant composition to relative obscurity. In this recording, we hear the Hashiveinu melody as it was originally composed and the written reprise of the opening melody for the final words.

Track 09: UVNUCHO YOMAR: Jacob Rosemarin




Affectionately known as the “Angels” Uvnucho Yomar, this composition may be the most beloved setting for the return of the Torah to the ark in Shaar Hashomayim’s repertoire. Although hardly participatory in nature, this piece always elicits a strong “choral” response from the congregation, particularly at the words “ki lekach tov.” A striking choral introduction leads immediately to a soaring solo line with an unmistakeable operatic quality. The music for “d’racheha darchei no’am” is especially fitting: “its ways are ways of pleasantness” and the “shalom” that follows has a distinct quality. Perhaps the plaintive appeal at “hashiveinu Hashem eilecha” – “bring us back to you Hashem” is the source of the “Angels” designation.



Track 10: UVNUCHO YOMAR I: Louis Lewandowski




This is one of Lewandowski’s most famous compositions. Scored originally for soloist, mixed-voice choir and organ, in this arrangement, the organ texture is replaced by choral accompaniment. The “hashiveinu” section is sung in unison in many congregations. In this version, made famous by Cantor Naftali Herstik, the cantor delicately reprises the entire “hashiveinu” section with an entrancing choral backing.



Track 11: UVNUCHO YOMAR II: Louis Lewandowski




Lewandowski set the “Uvnucho Yomar” text to music many times. This lesser-known composition contains a number of operatic elements. After an opening which contains many Lewandowski trademarks, the choir leads us through the words of “ba’avur David avdecha” – “for the sake of David, Your servant,” finally stopping on the dominant, priming the listener for the sweeping melody introduced at “ki lekach tov” – “for I have given you a good teaching.” The choir makes a heartfelt plea at “chadeish yameinu k’kedem” – “renew our days as of old,” before the cantor brings the piece to a thoughtful and gentle close.



Track 12: KI LEKACH TOV: Sholom Secunda




After an opening declamatory solo and a choral treatment of “eitz chayim hi,” the cantor intones “d’racheha darchei no’am” – “its ways are ways of pleasantness” leading to a climactic “shalom.” A poignant “hashiveinu” for choir leads to a plaintive line for the cantor: “chadeish yameinu k’kedem” – “renew our days as of old”.



Track 13: EITZ CHAYIM HI: Samuel Naumbourg




Unusually, the main theme of this piece (heard at the opening and then again at “hashiveinu”) is given to the basses. Notable musical moments include the serenity of “v’chol n’tivoteha shalom” – “all its paths are peace,” as well as the soaring solo lines over the choir’s repeat of the “chadeish yameinu” melody.



Track 14: KI LEKACH TOV: Zavel Zilberts




This composition appears in the volume of compositions collected by Cantor David Putterman of the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City. The original organ introduction is reproduced by the choir. After a series of lyrical phrases, a powerful sense of yearning is expressed at the words “chadeish yameinu k’kedem” before a wistful conclusion.



Track 15: EITZ CHAYIM HI I: Geoffrey Shisler




At Shaar Hashomayim, particular care is taken concerning the timing and pacing of the service. By having many settings of the same text with different durations, a satisfying service can be created that is mindful of the length of the weekly Torah portion or the various liturgical demands of the Jewish calendar.


This setting of the “eitz chayim hi” text is the shortest in Congregation Shaar Hashomayim’s repertoire, but it is in no way a superficial treatment of the text. A unison opening with a strong “devotional” quality, leads to a sequential melody starting at “d’racheha” and some thoughtful harmonic word painting for the word “shalom” – “peace”. After a simple but heartfelt ”hashiveinu,” the “chadeish yameinu” repeats the “d’racheha” melody.

Track 16: EITZ CHAYIM HI II: Geoffrey Shisler




This piece is a perfect example of how a simple melody can be further elevated by an imaginative harmonisation and effective arrangement. Lush chords and careful word painting combine to support an extraordinarily beautiful melodic line, creating an intense mood of serenity.



Track 17: EITZ CHAYIM HI: Tanchum Portnoy




“Eitz chayim hi” was composed in 1973 and appeared on the album “Tanchumim” a year later, sung by Shlomo Carlebach. This is one of the most widely sung settings of the “eitz chayim hi” text, although every synagogue has it its own particular version, both in terms of variations of the actual melody and of word placement. The reason for its popularity stems from the fact that it is eminently singable, being constructed from a sequence built around the circle of fifths.






Track 18: UVNUCHO YOMAR: Gershon Ephros




After an opening recitative for solo voice with choral accompaniment, the choir sings a melody at “kohanecha” that will be heard again at “eitz chayim hi.” The mood throughout is restful and contemplative.



Track 19: UVNUCHO YOMAR: Josef (Yossele) Rosenblatt




Rosenblatt’s composition contains a number of diverse elements: a lyrical melody at “uvnucho yomar” that reappears at “hashiveinu”; a more urgent and dramatic call and response between cantor and choir begins at “shuva Hashem” and is heard again at “chadeish yameinu”; two additional themes (“kohanecha” and “ki lekach tov”), both with a strong classical and operatic flavour; an introspective setting of the words “shalom”; a final Cantorial cadenza utilizing the “falsetto” register for which Rosenblatt was so famous.


Sunday, July 14, 2024 8 Tammuz 5784