This composition was inspired during a retreat at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, outside Beaufort, South Carolina. The Penn Center was originally established in 1862 by Quakers who came to South Carolina to educate former slaves. During a walk through the woods, I discovered a sacred circle overlooking the marsh. There was a tree with steps leading up to a platform upon which a preacher might stand. There were a few benches in a semi-circle to seat worshipers. As I looked out over the marsh, I was overcome with the awesome beauty of creation, and a melody emerged from my soul with the words, “My goodness, gracious, Lord….”
When David Neches asked me to write a composition for his chorus at Congregation Children of Israel, I began to play with this melody and words, and sought similar expressions of awe from the Hebrew scriptures. Those included in this composition are: Ribono shel olam, ruler of the universe; ahavat olam, eternal and all-encompassing love; el rahum v’hanun, compassionate and gracious God; koneh shamayim va’aretz, owner of heaven and earth. I also turned to the first line of Shir HaShirim, Song of Songs, which beautifully expresses a feeling of intimacy with the Creator and Creation:
Yishakeini min’shikot pihu, ki tovim dodecha miyayin.
Kiss me with kisses from Your mouth, for Your love is sweeter than wine.
“My goodness, gracious, Lord” is an expression I have heard growing up in the South. In the context of this composition, I hope to reveal the reverent nature of these words.
— Meira Warshauer