Tekeeyah is the Hebrew word for sounding a long tone on the shofar (horn of a ram or other kosher animal).
I believe our time calls for an awakening to our true essence as human beings. How do we wake up to who we really are? How do we hear and connect to our deepest truth, to what we know to be real? How can we listen to the call of our own soul, our own essence, and return to our connection with the Infinite? And how can we find the courage to act from that deep place of truth for the good of humanity and life on this now fragile planet?
In the Jewish tradition, the shofar, the horn of a ram or other kosher animal, is sounded to wake up the soul. The raw animal sound reaches inside, rousing us from our slumber of complacency and breaking walls of separation. In this concerto, the shofar calls to all of humanity.
The shofar calls us.
It calls us before we are born.
It calls us to enter the world.
It is our touchstone as we move through life’s challenges.
It helps break through walls we construct around our essence.
Those protective walls may be the very ones that keep us from our true knowing.
The shofar calls us to return.
With energy released from the effort of hiding, we dance our truth.
On Rosh Hashannah (Jewish New Year), the shofar is sounded in three distinct patterns: tekeeyah, a long tone; shevarim, three shorter tones; and teruah, at least nine staccato notes. Tekeeyah g’dolah, a very long tekeeyah, concludes the sequence of blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashannah, and is sounded again at the end of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), concluding 10 days of teshuvah (return or repentance). For Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), the shofar may be sounded with mournful, quiet tones and louder, aching cries. All of these sounds are part of the fabric of this composition.
Three sections mark discreet shifts in the process of awakening. In the first section, a call, quiet whispers in the shofar and winds join with harmonic glissandi in the strings to evoke a time before we were born. A series of gentle string harmonies accompanies the soul in its journey into the world. Here the shofar sounds in quiet, embodied tones, which become more intense as the music progresses. In the second section, breaking walls, the entire orchestra serves a wake-up call, with both solo trombone and shofar blasts contributing to the alarm. As the walls collapse and dissolve, a calm follows, with lyrical trombone solos and later, gently pulsing shofar calls. In the last section, dance of truth, a joyful 9/8 dance rhythm led by the solo trombone culminates in a climax of traditional shofar blasts.
I began work on Tekeeyah (a call) as a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire, in Spring, 2008. The composition evolved in collaboration with Haim Avitsur, soloist for premiere performances and recording. It was composed for a specific shofar, the horn of an African anteloupe, on loan to Mr. Avitsur from the Lemberger family of New York.
Tekeeyah (a call) was commissioned by Lilly Stern and Bruce Filler, and Bill and Linda Stern, in loving memory of their parents, Jadzia and Ben Stern, and by a consortium of the following orchestras: Wilmington (NC) Symphony Orchestra, Steven Errante, Conductor; Brevard Philharmonic, Donald Portnoy, Music Director and Conductor; University of South Carolina Symphony, Donald Portnoy, Music Director and Conductor; Western Piedmont Symphony, John Gordon Ross, Music Director and Conductor; and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Neal Gittleman, Music Director and Conductor.
“Shofars, Environmentalism, and Oversexed Cicadas,” Eileen Reynolds
“A Concerto for Ancient Hebrew Ram’s Horn,” Rahel Musleah
“Composer’s work employs rarely-used shofar,” John Staton
“Shofar’s sound blasts the soul,” Otis Taylor, Jr.