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Mosaics
from the Middle East

PROGRAM

Mosaics From The Middle East Program

VOX shines a light on the humanity of two distinct middle east cultures. With music taken from both the Arab and Jewish traditions, this concert explores the shared human experiences of motherhood, prayer, grief, and a wish for peace, through hauntingly beautiful melodies and lyrics from poets such as Nathan Yonatan and Mohja Kahf. 

 

The concert features new commissions by Craig Taubman – musician and founder of the Pico Union Project – entitled “Shalom Aleichem” (peace be upon you), and Alex T. Favazza, Jr. with lyrics by Palestinian American Reneen Sfeir.

For a printable pdf version of the program, please click HERE.

PROGRAM NOTES

By Emily Sung

Opening note Mosaics from the Middle East is an exploration of Arab and Jewish music representing Israel, Palestine, Syria, and Jordan, as well as music of the Jewish diaspora in Spain, Canada, and the United States, and American settings of Arabic texts and music. The program is organized into six sections: Prayer, Mother and Child, Nature, Love, Grief, and Peace/Healing. These selections describe powerful, shared human experiences through songs of devotion, ecstasy, thanksgiving, suffering, war, and human and divine love. Today’s concert is intended to honor Arab and Jewish cultures and their diasporas in the West. This vision was conceived more than a year before October 7, 2023, and the choice to go through with this concert was not easy. In an unfinished poem written at the dawn of the Arab Spring and the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Syrian American poet Mohja Kahf wrote: “The earth is big enough for all of us!” We, too, long for recognition that the earth is big enough for all of us. --- Prayer “Haddathani Qalbi” (My Heart Told Me About God) is a Sufi meditation by the Syrian soprano, conductor, and composer Ghada Harb, arranged for SSA choir with optional cello and nay (a flutelike wind instrument) by the Syrian harpist and composer Safana Bakleh. Harb and Bakleh, co-founders of the all-female Gardenia Choir, created “Haddathani Qalbi” as part of Women Who Adored God, an album based on poetry by Sufi women who were marginalized throughout Islamic history. The title “Haddathani Qalbi” comes from the phrase “Haddathani Qalbi ‘an Rabbi,” or “My heart told me about God,” which expresses a core belief in Sufi mysticism: that no medium, cleric, or institution is needed to communicate directly with God. The text of “Haddathani Qalbi” consists of two words, “Allah” and “heh,” which signify God and the sound of a sigh directed to a higher spirit. In Dhikr, a form of Sufi ritual prayer, one of the ninety-nine names of God can be extended to fill more than an hour of song through repetition and ornamentation. Through this process, “Haddathani Qalbi” brings us through the ascending stages of Sufism: doubt, love, hope, yearning, fear, intoxication or ecstasy, absence, and companionship. Each stage is intertwined with the next, bringing the soul out of the body and into connection with the divine. The music of “Haddathani Qalbi” is based on hijazi (melodic minor mode, also called the Arabic scale). The opening incorporates nahawand (natural minor). The ending mixes in elements of kurd (the Phrygian mode, with a lowered second scale degree), which expresses meditativeness, quietness, and relief. “Haddathani Qalbi” can also be performed with darweesh, a dancer wearing a long white skirt who ascends through the stages of Sufism through a spinning dance called mawlawi. (Notes from an interview with Safana Bakleh, Jan. 26, 2024.) “Mizmor Shir” is a setting of Psalm 92 by Srul Irving Glick (1934-2002), the celebrated Canadian Jewish composer. Glick, who spent most of his career based in Toronto, has been honored for his choral and instrumental contributions to Jewish music. His notable works include liturgical music, orchestral works, Yiddish folk song arrangements, and Holocaust-inspired music, including the song cycle …I never saw another butterfly…, which sets children’s poetry from the Terezín concentration camp. “Mizmor Shir” is the first work in Psalm Trilogy, Glick’s setting of three psalms for treble choir and piano or string orchestra. The trilogy, which also includes Psalm 47 (“Lam’natzeiach Livnei Korach Mizmor”) and Psalm 23 (“The Lord Is My Shepherd”) was commissioned by the Toronto Children’s Chorus in 1998 under the direction of Jean Ashworth Bartle. Since Psalm 92 celebrates the Sabbath day, “Mizmor Shir” begins with an optional solo by seven sopranos symbolizing the seventh day of creation. The work alternates between Hebrew and English in peaceful, prayerful homophony. Glick dedicated “Mizmor Shir” to his mother, Ida (Chaika) Glick, who was born in Bessarabia in 1901 and died in Toronto in 1997. (Notes from the score.) Mother and Child “Yamo: A Syrian Tribute to All Mothers” is a song about motherhood based on an Armenian melody, with lyrics by the Syrian actor and singer-songwriter Duraid Lahham. In the Arab world, the simple refrain and plaintive minor melody has made “Yamo” into a famous song popularly performed on Mother’s Day. This version, arranged for choir by the Palestinian Jordanian composer Shireen Abu-Khader (b. 1972), preserves the simplicity of the original folk melody with SSAA harmony, percussion, and piano or guitar. Most of the arrangement is set fairly low or mid-range in the voice, enabling the choir to use more chest voice in their color. The title, “Yamo,” comes from a Syrian Arabic derivative of the word for mother from the dialect of Al-Sham (Damascus). Shireen Abu-Khader writes, “Not only does Yamo carry the beautiful meaning of motherhood, but it also holds depth in the verses that move from the physical to the spiritual. The first verse approaches motherhood in carrying a child in her womb, an internal and personal feeling that is felt only between mother and child; it is theirs to hold and keep. The second verse speaks of the mother’s sacrifice in the physical world: the mother who works, feeds and keeps her children warm. The last verse moves to the spiritual plea of the child to their mother to forgive them for all their wrongdoings. The child also asks God to bless their mother and keep her safe. Because the Arabic language is gendered, mother can take other meanings, such as one’s country (the Egyptians would say, ‘Egypt is the mother of the world’). It also automatically carries adjectives of strength, persistence, endurance, compassion, and hope. In the Arabic language, the word mother represents a powerful symbol.” (Notes from the score.) “Durme” (Sleep) is a Ladino folk lullaby arranged for treble choir by Laura Hassler, an American choir director and founder of the nonprofit Musicians Without Borders. Ladino, also known as Judeo-Spanish, is a thousand-year-old language that developed from Old Castilian Spanish and became known as the language of the Sephardic Jews after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. “Durme” was famously recorded by Miriam Baruch in 1943 and archived in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was also later arranged for choir by the influential American composer Alice Parker. The text describes a mother soothing her child to sleep with the words of Sh’ma Yisrael, an ancient Jewish prayer recited at morning and night which includes fundamental statements of Jewish belief, references to important symbols of Judaism like tefillin and mezuzah, and exhortations to remember the Lord’s commandments and the Exodus from Egypt. Hassler’s choral arrangement sets the haunting melody of “Durme” in B minor. In tonight’s performance, the first verse will be performed in unison, and the second verse will be performed in parts. (Background information on Ladino and the “Durme” melody from The Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America and the Women’s Chorus of Dallas.) Nature “Badru Tam” (The Full Moon) is a meditation on the beauty of natural landscapes by the Palestinian composer Abdel Hamid Hamam (b. 1943). Hamam, whose career has been based in Jordan, was born in Lydda, immigrated to Damascus, and later studied in Vienna, Paris, and the United Kingdom. “Badru Tam” is a setting of muwashah poetry by Muhammad ibn Ubada al-Qazzaz, an 11th century Arabic poet who lived in the Andalusian city of Almería on the Iberian Peninsula. The muwashah, which is both a poetic and a musical form, features a strophic structure with a rhyming refrain. In “Badru Tam,” a two-part treble choir sings a simple, largely stepwise D minor melody in canon. There are three verses, set in short, rhymed phrases in old standard Arabic, which describe a landscape brought to life by the moon, the sun, and the musky scent of blossoms. The refrain, by contrast, consists of ornamented repetitions of “ya layl” (O night) – a phrase that is often used in Arabic song to extend and improvise upon the music, thereby showing off the singer’s voice. (Information from the score and from an interview with Suzanne Wali, USC Master Lecturer in Arabic, Jan. 23, 2024.) “Mayim, Mayim” (Water, Water) is a popular Hebrew folk song by Emanuel Amiran-Pugashov (1909-1993), a prolific Israeli composer and music teacher of Russian descent. Born in Warsaw, Amiran received his early music education in Moscow, later emigrating to Palestine and pursuing further musical studies in London. After the founding of Israel and the formation of the Israeli Army, Amiran served as the First Officer for music and later as the central inspector for music education in the Israeli Ministry of Education. With an output comprising more than six hundred songs, Amiran is credited as one of the composers who developed the “typical Israeli folksong.” “Mayim, Mayim,” one of his most well-known tunes, celebrates the life-giving miracle of water. The song has also achieved fame as a popular folk dance that is traditionally performed up-tempo in a joyful circle. This arrangement for treble choir, piano, and violins was written in 1996 by the American choir director Valerie Shields (b. 1951) during her tenure as the assistant director of the Northwest Girlchoir. The original melody is set in D minor in the alto line with a soprano descant above. (Information from ECS Publishing and Grove Music Online, “Amiran-Pugashov, Emanuel.”) Love “Lamma Bada Yatathanna” (As She Swayed) is a setting of one of the most famous Arabic muwashahat of the last one thousand years. The text was written by the Andalusian poet Lisan Al-Din Ibn Al-Khatib (1313-1374), and the music was written in 1850 by the Egyptian composer and singer Mohamed Abdel Rahim Al-Masloub (1793-1928). This version was arranged for choir by the Palestinian Jordanian composer Shireen Abu-Khader (b. 1972), who is known for her work composing, publishing, and lifting up the music of the Levant region. Abu-Khader writes, “The muwashah is written as per special rhymes and rhythms and incorporates both colloquial and classical Arabic. This type of poem is written to be sung… The word muwashah originated from the word wishah, an Arabic word for a scarf embroidered with precious stones. The muwashah was also likened to jewelry worn by women, consisting of two earrings made of pearls and precious stones that were connected while being positioned inversely… The word muwashah could also be interpreted as ‘veiled,’ due to the veiled or hidden mystery of who is singing to whom: is it man to woman, woman to man, man to man, man to God, woman to landscape? The possibilities are endless, and the interpretation of the lyrics is left to the discretion of the listener.” As in “Badru Tam,” each couplet ends with ornamented repetitions of “ya layl” (O night) – a phrase that is often used in Arabic song to extend and improvise upon the music, thereby showing off the singer’s voice. (Notes from the score and from an interview with Suzanne Wali, USC Master Lecturer in Arabic, Jan. 23, 2024.) Five Hebrew Love Songs is a choral song cycle by American composer Eric Whitacre (b. 1970) setting original poetry by his former wife, Hila Plitmann, who was born and raised in Jerusalem. This version, arranged for treble choir, violin, and piano, was commissioned by the Efroni Choir in Israel. Whitacre writes, “Each of the songs captures a moment that Hila and I shared together. “Kalá Kallá” (which means ‘light bride’) was a pun I came up with while she was first teaching me Hebrew. The bells at the beginning of “Eyze Shelleg” are the exact pitches that awakened us each morning in Germany as they rang from a nearby cathedral.” Today’s performance features three out of five pieces in Five Hebrew Love Songs. No. 1, “Temuná” (A picture), is one of the shortest songs in the set at only twenty measures. The violin and choir perform a coy duet, sketching a wistful vignette without ever firmly establishing a single mode or key. No. 2, “Kalá kallá” (Light bride), features two alternating themes: a languid, almost melancholy melody on the title words of the poem, and a joyful, up-tempo mixed-meter dance with tambourine. Almost the entire song is in unison. Finally, No. 5, “Rakút” (Tenderness), combines percussive effects in the alto line with sinuous, ornamented melodies in the soprano line. Borrowing the same harmonic language as “Temuná,” this closing song hints at multiple modes (Lydian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian or natural minor). The opening violin melody returns in the final bars of the piece. (Notes from the score.) Grief “My People Are Rising” is a setting of an eponymous poem by the Syrian American poet Mohja Kahf, with music by the American composer Carol Barnett (b.1949). Kahf’s original unfinished poem, which was shortened and adapted with permission for this work, was written in 2011 at the dawn of the Arab Spring and the beginning of civil war in Syria. Kahf writes about a massive, earth-shaking uprising of Kurds, Assyrians, Arabs, Qajars, Christians, Alawites, and Druze, who were met with armed and lethal oppression. In her notes, Barnett writes that Kahf’s poetry “spoke so viscerally of the tragic events in Syria that it was impossible for me to imagine setting it with Western harmonies. And so began an exploration of Arabic music, with its quarter-tone scales, its lack of vertical chordal structure, its abundantly ornamented heterophony.” Barnett’s setting is largely monophonic, with the soprano and alto lines often singing in unison or else echoing each other in canon. The work is scored with an elaborately ornamented violin solo and improvised percussion on the doumbek, an Egyptian drum. (Notes from the score.) “Ahuv Sheli” (My Beloved) is a setting of a Hebrew poem by Sharon Farber (b.1965), an Israeli composer of film, television, and concert music. Farber studied film scoring and composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and is based in Los Angeles. The text of “Ahuv Sheli” was written by the Israeli poet Nathan Yonatan (1923-2004), whose son Lior was killed in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Yonatan’s poem expresses this devastating loss in three stanzas, each addressing his son with the title words, “my beloved,” and closing with the words, “a sorrowful dream of beauty and a smile that will never fade.” Farber writes that these words particularly moved her: “Much like Nathan Yonatan’s way of showing feelings without being melodramatic, I have tried to deal with this phrase in a unique way at the end of each verse; twice in a delicate, self-reflected way, but then eventually, the author is crying out his pain, and the music cries with him. Yet, he immediately quiets down to the final statement, knowing that his son will not come back, slowly ending the same way it started, with the simple, yet painful words, “ahuv sheli – my beloved.” “Ahuv sheli” is scored for four-part treble choir with clarinet, bassoon, violin, cello, and piano. (Notes from the score.) “Even When God Is Silent” is one of the most well-known contemporary Holocaust memorial choral works, commissioned for the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. The piece was written by Michael Horvit (b.1932), an American composer and longtime professor of composition and theory at the University of Houston. Horvit, who is known for his instrumental works and Jewish liturgical compositions, chose a now-famous poem found written on the wall of a basement in Germany by someone hiding from the Gestapo: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. / I believe in love even when feeling it not. I believe in God even when God is silent.” Horvit set this poem for a cappella choir in simple four-part harmony, allowing the power of the text to speak for itself. In today’s performance, VOX Femina will perform an alternate ending that is set lower in the voice, closing with the choir singing in unison. Peace/Healing “Bes Inshafat bi Jamal” (But How Beautifully It Healed) is an Arabic choral work originally scored for mixed choir with piano and optional horn by American composer Alex T. Favazza, Jr., Director of Choral Studies at Southwest Baptist University. The version that will be performed today is for four-part treble choir with piano and cello and was commissioned by VOX Femina Los Angeles. Favazza sets an original poem by Raneen Sfeir, a Palestinian American musician. The text uses a combination of colloquial and modern standard Arabic to describe healing and regrowth. Describing the original version with horn, Favazza writes, “When I was forming the concept for the piece, I asked Raneen to write a poem in Arabic that captured the theme of new beginnings, redemption, and healing. At this time in our people’s history, we need respect and unity more than ever. I wanted to capture the spirit of regeneration and reconciliation. The opening aeolian horn solo over piano pedal paints a feeling of mystery and prepares the ear for the A section where ‘fire burns yesterday.’ The two themes of this section are passed from part to part using a minor chromatic mediant relationship. The piece culminates with the text ‘how beautifully it healed’ in a sweet major theme that alternates between tenor and bass, horn and piano, and soprano and alto. The final section brings back the horn introduction and the A themes, but this time, in a major chromatic mediant relationship. The work ends with a declamatory choral tag: ‘but let us proceed with love,’ which is written to inspire and invigorate the audience to consider life as a passionate work of love.” (Notes from the score.) “Oseh Shalom” (He Who Makes Peace) is one of the most well-known prayers in Jewish liturgy set to music by Nurit Hirsh (b.1942), an Israeli composer and conductor who has written more than a thousand Hebrew songs as well as music for theater, television, and children. This version was arranged for choir, clarinet, piano, and solo singer by the American conductor and scholar Joshua Jacobson (b.1948). The text of “Oseh Shalom” comes from the final line of the Kaddish, an Aramaic prayer from the 13th century that praises the goodness and holiness of God. The mourner’s Kaddish is the most well-known form of this prayer, but the Kaddish is a common part of all traditional Jewish prayer services and is used as a transitional prayer separating sections of the service. The text of “Oseh Shalom” expresses the belief that God will bring peace to Israel and is often performed with a joyful, up-tempo melody. Hirsh’s iconic setting of “Oseh Shalom” has been arranged for choir by many composers. Jacobson’s version opens with an adagio vocal solo with clarinet and piano, then moves into a lively vivace when the choir enters. “Shalom Aleichem” (Peace Be Unto You) is a new work by American composer Craig Taubman (b.1958), commissioned by VOX Femina Los Angeles for this concert. A Tennessee native, Taubman is known for his music for film and television, his Jewish contemporary music, and his prolific output of educational Jewish music for children, as well as his work on the Pico Union Project, a multifaith cultural arts center in downtown Los Angeles. Shalom aleichem / Salam alaikum is a traditional greeting in both Hebrew and Arabic that means, “Peace be unto you.” In Arabic, this greeting is often informally shortened simply to “Salam.” In Hebrew, “Shalom aleichem” constitutes the opening words of a longer prayer that is traditionally sung on Friday nights at the beginning of Shabbat. Taubman’s setting of this Hebrew prayer is for vocal soloist, treble choir, and piano. The middle section features a spoken dialogue that refers to the English and Arabic translation of the Hebrew prayer, followed by a trio of soloists singing English, Hebrew, and Arabic versions of the text concurrently. “Shalom Aleichem” concludes with an a cappella choral diminuendo blessing the name of God.

Click HERE for a printable pdf version of these notes!

Emily Sung is an Assistant Professor of Practice at the USC Thornton School of Music, where she teaches courses in choral literature, conducting, and choral development and co-directs SUARA Southeast Asian Choir with Yu Hang Tan.

 

Sung previously served as the Director of the Chamber Choir and Choral Society at the University of Pennsylvania, the Associate Director of Choral Activities at Princeton University, and the Assistant Chorus Master at Opera Philadelphia, where she helped prepare choruses for the company’s groundbreaking Festival O and numerous main stage productions. Sung also previously served as the Assistant to the Music Director of the Pennsylvania Ballet, the director of the Singing City Children’s Choir, the music director of Opera Philadelphia’s Teen Voices of the City Ensemble (T-VOCE), a singer and co-conductor of the Chestnut Street Singers, and a member of the Temple University conducting faculty.

 

Sung earned her DMA in choral music at the University of Southern California, her MM choral conducting at Westminster Choir College, and her bachelor’s in history at Princeton University, where her research focused on American legal history.

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Mosaics from the Middle East
February 25, 2024 – 4 PM

The Ebell of Los Angeles
Lisa Edwards, collaborative pianist

Prayer

Haddathani Qalbi

Ghada Harb/arr. Safana Bakleh

Sonia Ohan, dancer

Leah Metzler, cello

Mike Nelson, clarinet

Sidney Hopson, percussion

Mizmor Shir

Srul Glick

Michelle Shin, Mona Tian, violin

Kiara Ana, viola, Leah Metzler, cello

Mother and Child

Yamo

Michelle Shin, violin, Kiara Ana, viola,

Leah Metzler, cello, Sidney Hopson, percussion

Arr. Shireen Abu-Khader

 Lyrics: Duraid Lahham

Durme

Arr. Laura Hassler

Musicians Without Borders

Nature

Badru Tam

Mayim, Mayim

Abdel Hamid Hamam

Lyrics: Obada Al-Qazzaz

E. Amiran

Arr. Valerie Shields

Michelle Shin, Mona Tian, violin

Love

Lamma Bada Yatathanna

Arr. Shireen Abu-Khader

Lyrics: Lisan Al Din Ibn Al-Khatib

Sidney Hopson, doumbek

From Five Hebrew Love Songs

I. Temuná (A picture)

II. Kalá kallá (Light bride)

V.  Rakút (Tenderness)

Eric Whitacre

Lyrics: Hila Plitmann

Intermission

Grief

My People Are Rising

Carol Barnett

Lyrics: Mohja Kahf

Michelle Shin, violin,

Sidney Hopson, doumbek

Ahuv Sheli (My Beloved)

Sharon Faber

Lyrics: Nathan Yonatam

Bethany Encina, soloist

Michelle Shin, violin, Kiara Ana, viola,

Leah Metzler, cello, Mike Nelson, clarinet

Even when God is Silent

Michael Horvit

Peace/Healing

Bes Inshafat bi Jamal

Alex T. Favazza Jr

Lyrics: Raneen Sfeir

Leah Metzler, cello

Premiere performance

Commissioned by VOX Femina Los Angeles

Oseh Shalom

Diane Rose, soloist

Mike Nelson, clarinet

Shalom Aleichem

Nurit Hirsh

                  Arr. Josh Jacobson

Craig Taubman

Arr. Benjamin Fingerhut

Brianna Estrada, Shannon Fish, soloists

Mustafa Zeno, Lesili Beard, Spoken word solo

Premiere performance

Commissioned by VOX Femina Los Angeles

Texts

For a printable pdf version of all texts and translations, click HERE.

Haddathani Qalbi
Ghada Harb
arr. Safana Bakleh

There are only two words in this piece: 'al-lah and heh (God and a sound of a call).

Mizmor Shir
Srul Glick

A Psalm, a song for the Sabbath day. How good it is to give thanks to You O Lord. How good it is to sing praises to Your name, O most high. How good it is to sing praises to Your kindness O Lord, To sing and play on the ten-stringed lute and the harp.

Yamo
Arr. Shireen Abu-Khader
Lyrics: Duraid Lahham

You bore me in your womb for nine months Endured so much pain to bring me to life I gave you a hard time while you raised me Alas, all that effort has proven futile. Yamo Yamo, Supreme mother of all beloveds, Yamo Yamo Yamo, Supreme mother of all compassionates, Yamo How many times have you gotten cold to keep me warm? How many times have you abstained from food to feed me? How many socks have you patched for me? And all that good has not reflected in me. No matter what I do, I can never pay you back. It is only God’s grace that befits you Hold me in your heart and forgive me May God grant you longevity And keep you safe.

Durme
Arr. Laura Hassler
Musicians Without Borders

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Sleep my child, without pain or sadness. Sleep to the words of Sh’ma Israel.

Badru Tam
Abdel Hamid Hamam
Lyrics: Obada Al-Qazaz

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The full moon, the sun at dawn, the twigs in full bloom, the scent of musk. The moon is full indeed, the sun has risen indeed, the twigs have blossomed indeed, the musk is scentful indeed. It is not the fault of those who see the beloved to fall for them, but alas they will be struck with separation.

Mayim, Mayim
Arr. Shireen Abu-Khader
Lyrics: Duraid Lahham

You will draw water with joy from the wells of redemption.

Lamma Bada Yatathanna
Arr. Shireen Abu-Khader
Lyrics: Lisan Al Din Ibn Al-Khatib

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As she swayed O night, O my eyes, My love, the beautiful one, seduces me, O night, O my eyes, I am enraptured by a glimpse, O night, O my eyes, My beloved’s beauty is a tender branch caught by the breeze O night, O my eyes, O my destiny, O my perplexity Who can comfort me in my misery, in my lamenting and suffering for love But the queen of all beauties

From Five Hebrew Love Songs
Eric Whitaker
Lyrics: Hila Plitmann

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I. Temuná (A picture) A picture is engraved in my heart; Moving between light and darkness: A sort of silence envelopes your body, And your hair falls upon your face just so. II. Kalá kallá (Light bride) Light bride She is all mine, And lightly She will kiss me! V. Rakút (Tenderness) He was full of tenderness; She was very hard. And as much as she tried to stay thus, Simply, and with no good reason, He took her into himself, And set her down In the softest, softest place.

My People are Rising
Carol Barnett
Lyrics: Mohja Kahf

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My people are rising; my people are rising, with olive branches and song, they are waking; the earth underneath their marching is shaking. My people are rising! They are no longer crouching; they are no longer stooping; and they are not hungry for bread alone. … My people are rising; they are shaking off what has bound them, and their bonds scatter like moths. … My Sanameyn, my Jeezah, my Inkhel are rising, bless them; My Banyas is rising and my Homs is rising; bless them. My Duma is marching in the streets and my Latakia is marching; bless them. My Qamishlo, My Idlib…my Hama is marching; bless them. … I see them mustering unarmed, Kurd and Assyrian and Arab and Ghajar, bless them. Christian and Alawite and Druze, bless them, Sunni and Shia and Ismailia, bless them; tribe and tent and house and clan, bless them. … My people are rising. A blessing on my people. They stand before tanks unarmed and they fall under bullets while calling, "The earth is big enough for all of us! Let us have a little of it too! The earth is big!" And as they bleed out on the cement in the street where they played as children, their blood mixes with rain and runs off into the big, big earth for which they longed. And the young Horani said, as he lay dying that March day in Daraa City, "It is worth it to have lived these last moments free." I hear his words, and his blood runs into the soil of my dark, dark heart, like the rain of this springtime in Syria.

Ahuv Sheli (My Beloved)
Sharon Farber
Lyrics: Nathan Yonatan

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My beloved Where did he go, where Like an illuminating cloud of morning. There, between sand and sea Rose, in the heart of my boy’s stillness A sorrowful dream of beauty And a smile that will never fade. My beloved The light and shadows In the dimness of the evening’s star. His smile, bitter The anguishing pain that never stops, my boy, A sorrowful dream of beauty And a smile that will never fade. My beloved Weeping has no words– A lonely tree in the wind. I wish I could, like ashes, embrace my boy with love A sad dream of beauty And a smile that will never fade.

Even When God Is Silent
Michael Horvit

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I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when feeling it not. I believe in God even when God is silent.

Bes Inshafat bi Jamal
Alex T. Favazza
Lyrics: Raneen Sfeir

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Fire burns and erases yesterday. A seed grows and writes tomorrow. Fire scarred the earth, but how beautifully it healed. Storms may come but let us proceed with love.

Oseh Shalom
Nurit Hirsh
Arr. Josh Jacobson

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God who makes peace in the heavens, Will make peace for us, And for all the people of Israel And for all the inhabitants of the world. And say, “Amen.”

Shalom Aleichem
(Peace be with you)

Craig Taubman
Arr. Benjamin Fingerhut

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Welcome, ministering angels. Angels of the Most High, from the supreme King of Kings, The Holy one. Blessed be God. Enter in peace, Angels of peace. Angels of the Most High, from the supreme King of Kings, The Holy one. Blessed be God. Bless me with peace, Angels of peace. Angels of the Most High, from the supreme King of Kings, The Holy one. Blessed be God. Go in peace, Angels of peace. Angels of the Most High, from the supreme King of Kings, The Holy one. Blessed be God.

Craig Taubman

For over 40 years, Craig Taubman has established himself as a unique voice in family entertainment, earning the attention of critics and fans worldwide. Craig’s music has been described as spiritual, uplifting, and inspiring, and recognized with numerous honors, including the coveted Parents Choice Gold Award. He has performed in respected venues around the world, as well as three special engagements at the White House. Craig’s compositions have been featured in television and film composing music for Paramount, New Line Cinema, Showtime, HBO, Fox, PBS, and Disney.

A natural “connector”, Craig is passionate about building community by bringing diverse groups and people together in search of a common good. He is the force behind Hallelu and Big Jewish Tent and the producer of Jewels of Elul and the Celebrate Series – compilation projects that have featured the music and words of
thousands of people in both print and music.

In 2013, Craig and his wife Louise purchased the original home of Sinai Temple in the Pico Union neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles. Inspired by the history, location, and spiritual energy of the historic building, together they created the non-profit Pico Union Project, a community center dedicated to doing good and
being a force of goodness.

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Alex T. Favazza, Jr.

Dr. Alex T. Favazza, Jr. is Head of the Division of the Arts at Southwest Baptist University where he also serves as Director of Choral Studies and conducts the SBU Chorale, Chamber Singers and University Singers. Before joining the SBU faculty, Dr. Favazza was Director of Choral Activities at the University of New Hampshire and Conductor of New Hampshire’s oldest choral society, Rockingham Choral Society. As an active guest clinician, Dr. Favazza has conducted honor choir performances in Maine, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Florida as well as led composition masterclasses in the U.S. and Indonesia, presented at conferences in New England, and lectured at universities across the United States. Dr. Favazza holds a Ph.D. in Music Education specializing in Choral Conducting from Florida State University, M.M. in Choral Conducting from the University of Southern Mississippi, and B.M. in Vocal Music Education from Middle Tennessee State University.

Raneen Sfeir

Raneen Sfeir Moldoveanu, a Palestinian American musician, holds a Bachelor's degree in Choral Music Education from Florida State University and is currently pursuing a Graduate degree in Music Therapy at New York University. Passionate about the profound impact of music on physiological, psychological, and spiritual well-being, Raneen sees music as a powerful tool for resistance and collective care in the face of oppression. Her dedication to this transformative potential led her to transition from directing choral programs in Florida public schools to the pursuit of psychotherapeutic music therapy. Raneen's poetry is inspired by the enduring legacy of her ancestors, who tended to olive groves and cared for the land over centuries. Her words reflect the scars of historical erasure and loss while weaving in a vision of healing and hope for a more beautiful future. Emphasizing the preciousness of our planet, she echoes the sentiments of indigenous communities, reminding us all that the lands sustaining us deserve not only honor and respect but, above all, boundless love

Tabitha Fronk

Tabitha Fronk

Tabitha is an artist, a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Board-Certified Registered Art Therapist, Art Therapy Certified Supervisor, and Certified Child Life Specialist.  She received her BA in Fine Arts and Women’s Studies from Bennington College, and her MA in Art Therapy from Concordia University.  For over twenty five years, Tabitha has worked primarily with people recovering from grief, trauma, depression, anxiety and addictions.  She has received training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention, Mindful Self Compassion, Trauma-Informed Art Therapy, and working with Highly Sensitive People (aka Sensory Processing Sensitivity).  Tabitha maintains a private art psychotherapy office in Culver City.  She has also facilitated the completion of numerous large-scale collaborative painted and mosaic murals, on permanent display in the US and Canada.  

 

Tabitha’s professional affiliations include: Society for American Mosaic Artists, Women’s Association for Addiction Treatment, Los Angeles Group Psychotherapy Association, Los Angeles LGBTQ Psychotherapy Association, and California Association of Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors.

To read Tabitha's essay, "Mosaics as Art Therapy," click HERE.

Acknowledgments

The Ebell of Los Angeles: Stacy Brightman, Meredyth Deighton, and Dakota Fitzsimmons

Video & Audio: Walter Park, Susanna Cervantes, and Brandon Hallam

Graphic Design: Kate Jordan

Proofreader: Laurie Fox

Music Librarian: Michele Mulidor

Intern: Melina Durre

Special Thanks to Lo Sprague and The Guibord Center, Mustafa Zeno, Dr. Cari Earnhart, and Leah Metzler.

We are so grateful to Tabitha Fronk for coordinating the collaborative art project this afternoon.

Thank you to all our volunteers this afternoon who are ushering, assisting with Will Call, and making this concert a stellar experience for our audience, and to all the friends and family members who volunteer their services to support VOX throughout the year.

"This concert is supported, in part, by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the LA County Department of Arts and Culture as part of the LA County Performing Arts Recovery Grant

VOX also receives  generous support from the following organizations:

California Arts Council, Chorus America, The City of Culver City, The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The City of West Hollywood, The Confidence Foundation, Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, and The Perenchio Foundation.

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