Shir Hashirim for SATB a cappellaComposer note:
Shir Hashirim for SSAA a cappella
The cantillation melody of Shir Hashirim
, sung by the Jews of Georgia (Russia), was transcribed by Lazare Saminsky as part of his project in the 1920s to collect the music of the oriental Jews. My father, Lazar Weiner, loved this fragment and introduced it to me very early in my life. It has remained an abiding companion for many years and has graced my life on numerous occasions. At my marriage to Susan Davenny, Bethany Beardslee sang it during the ceremony. Later on I made arrangements of it for voice and guitar, then for voice, flute, bass clarinet and guitar, and finally versions for women’s voices and for mixed chorus.
The character of the melody suggests ancient origins. The tonality reflects very little of the modes we often associate with oriental or Middle Eastern music. The melismas are restrained and discreet, and the prevailing atmosphere of the music is quietly loving, pure and exalted.