Here are my program notes for Akhat Sha’alti (One Thing I Ask). (Posted the Youtube link to the premiere performance in last post, below, about the month of Elul.)
Akhat sha’alti (One thing I ask)
For SATB Chorus and Percussion Ensemble
(ossia SATB a capella)
Commissioned by the Nancy A. Smith Distinguished Visitor Series
Coastal Carolina University
Psalm 27, verse 4: One thing I asked of the Holy Living Essence, this I will seek: that I may dwell in the House of the Holy One all the days of my life.
It is traditional to read Psalm 27 every year in preparation for the season of teshuvah or return which begins with the Jewish New Year. The simplicity of verse 4 always holds my attention and gives me strength throughout the year.
In this composition, I hope to convey how it may feel to sit with awareness of the Holy Presence. The first movement focuses on the word akhat, which means one: one request, one God, one holy Essence creating and pervading the universe in every moment. In repeating and overlapping that word, the chorus creates a texture to hold and embrace us in that intention.
It is understood that Hebrew is a holy language, and that the words themselves contain the essential meaning they represent. The second movement plays with the sounds of the words otah avakesh (this I will request). I felt more extroverted energy in these words, and the chorus sings them with joy, conveying a spirit that builds in excitement as the movement progresses. A sustained melody of the entire text holds the central core, while otah avakesh dances around it.
The last movement, shivti b’vet HaShem (that I may sit in the House of the Holy One), returns to a state of calm, integrating the joyous connection with an inner peace, which radiates throughout.