Report: Composers engage with the Psalms

The session with the Helfman Fellows on Tuesday, July 6, 2010 was intense yet full of laughs and shouts of wonder. Dr. Braun presented two movements from Ami Aloni’s Hallel, showing what can be done with a psalm with two very different moods, almost martial, the other consoling, and taking another in quite a reflective tone, in this creating chorus and verse for congregational participation. Michael Isaacson and the Fellows looked at how structure opens up directions for expression. Cantor Baron introduced some thoughts of Abraham Joshua Heschel on awe, reverence and faith, following this with several versions of Psalm 29 from the Torah Servie, Havu L’adonai: the traditional version, one by Ami Aloni and then Cantor Baron’s own composition. All very different. Finally, the Fellows presented works in progress. Dr. Isaacson challenged each composer to rethink what they had written to “write you own song” and to do so on the spot! Hard to do in front of all your friends and fellow composers! All in good spirit, but very intense.