‘Song of Songs’ – the Shir HaShirim

I think in every work of art there is something sacred – no matter what kind of discipline we are talking about.

Even more, it exists in many of our daily creative actions too. I am not thinking only of our rituals, but simply the act of making a wheel, lighting the fire, working the land, building temples, altars (tens of thousands of years ago or today), from Stonehenge to Sarmizegetusa, in all the Middle East, Greece and so on, there is something more than a simple, physical act, and the tiny part of divinity inside each of us drives us.

About Sacrality and a Première of The Song of Songs – Shir HaShirim

By composer and artistic coordinator: Laurențiu Ganea

‘The Silent Song’ – from the book Judah illustrated by Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874-1925)
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

One day, some time ago, I found a little book amongst my father’s hundreds of books. It was a translation from Shir HaShirim, The Song of Songs.

The book includes the original Hebrew text, the Septuagint, the Latin version and a good translation in Romanian.

At that moment, when I opened it, I decided to compose “something for the holiday”, taking two or maximum three months.

After several orchestral compositions this one would be the first one using text.

The decision was to use the Hebrew text, but I had no idea how to write in Hebrew. I started reading about this sacred text, learning, and asking scholars.

After I understood the basics of the book (in fact, it is a scroll), I started to mentally build the project.

It actually took twelve years to just compose the music. The result is a composition influenced by synagogal chants and authentic local folklore.

I worked on every syllable or groups of syllables, the spoken/sung text together with the played text of the ensemble. My intention was, from the beginning, to be close as possible to the original.

The ensemble is not playing a simple accompaniment role, but is a single one, a unit with vocal soloists.

According to the text, the one who created Shir HaShirim is King Solomon, making the text c.3000 years’ old.

I decided (for the sake of tradition) for the chamber ensemble to be realized by instruments mentioned in Bible or related to them.

So, there is a tenor as King Solomon, a soprano as Shulamit, a group of three wind instruments (flute, clarinet and bassoon), a harp and a group of three percussionists.

The whole composition is around 75-80 minutes long.

The first two chapters I presented in London in December 2010 after I lectured during an international conference at University of London.

The tenor was my good brother Christopher Norton-Welsh (with whom I spent many, many hours speaking about the Craft) and soprano was Robyn Allegra Parton.

I was surprised to learn from scholars – some of them good friends – that this was the first time a composer has used the complete Hebrew text to compose the music to the Song of Songs.

I simply thought it would be utterly inappropriate to cut or select something from the Bible text.

I was happy to see that twelve years of hard work has (modestly speaking) produced  a good result from several points of view: of the text (there co-exists several levels of meanings – the literary, a beautiful love poem, an allegory and I would say more levels), of the musical text that reflects the literary text and the sensations are created along the sacred and rational elements, was surprised to meet (I will not use the word “discover”) hidden elements in the text.

In Antiquity people knew maybe more about the transmitted knowledge through “simple” love poems.

It was spoken that Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs, are holy (or even more), so, the indications were and are clear: not to be used as simple, “romantic poetry”.

In the interest of the project, I visited places mentioned in the Song of Songs several times.

And the première I speak of in the title?…

On 25 March 2021, I finally completed the composition I started in 2009 – therefore, I am delighted to announce that on 23 August 2021 Song of Songs – Shir Hashirim premières during the 28th FITS Sibiu International Theatre Festival (20-29 August 2021).

Due to ongoing COVID restrictions there will also be live streaming of the event making it accessible worldwide.

For tickets to view the online event or to attend the concert in person, click on the links: 

https://sibfest.ro/en/spectacol/472

23 AUGUST, 2021 @ (19:00 CEST) / (18:00 GMT)  TICKETS

FITS Online: – Live Streamed – 1h 20min

Ticket Price: 20 RON
(eq. approx. – £3.50 GBP, $4.80 USD, 4 EURO)

23 AUGUST, 2021 @ (19:00 CEST) / (18:00 GMT)  TICKETS

 St. Joan Evangelical Church, Romania –  1h 20min

Ticket Price: 60/40 RON

Performance notes

Performed by: the Migdal Ensemble

Text: biblical, original in Hebrew

Composer, artistic coordination: Laurențiu Ganea

 

Ensemble members: Cristian Oroșanu – conductor, Irina Ionescu – soprano, Kristofer Lundin – tenor, Carla Maria Stoleru – flute, Emil Vișenescu – clarinet, Laurențiu Darie – bassoon, Maria Bîldea – harp, Sorin Rotaru vibraphone, Denisa Vlădoianu-Rotaru – triangle, tam-tam, Alexandru Stroe – timpani

The composition used the complete biblical text in Hebrew of The Song of Songs or, in original, Shir HaShirim.

Even though there are many compositions that use verses or separate chapters from this text, this is the first time a composer has used the complete Hebrew text.

The melodies and the structures are strongly influenced by old synagogal chants, Torah recitation and authentic local folklore.

 

Date of premiere: 23.08.2021

Original title: Cântarea Cântărilor – Shir Hashirim

 

For more information about FITS go to https://sibfest.ro/noutati/35

TV Interview 

Laurentiu’s TV interview about the Premiere of Song of Songs – (Romanian)

Shir Hashirim: A Modern Commentary on the Song of Songs

By: Leonard S. Kravitz (Author, Translator), Kerry M. Olitsky (Author), Kerry M. Olitzky (Translator)

Shir Hashirim, “The Song of Songs” is the fifth work in Kravitz and Olitzky’s series of modern commentaries on fundamental Jewish texts.

In this work, the authors juxtapose their own translation of this biblical text next to the original Hebrew.

Their line-by-line analysis, which draws upon classic commentaries such as Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Gersonides, as well and contemporary scholars and essays, examines how “The Song of Songs” can be read as a love story between God and the people Israel.

 

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