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Psalmistry, a word defined in the dictionary as “the singing of Psalms,” is a complete overhaul of a work written in 1971, titled Family Torah Service. The revision, accomplished in 1979, retained only two of the Psalm texts from the earlier work; and even these were modified. Musical materials from the 1971 work were used, but only as points of departure. Not only was the instrumentation completely new, but the musical content was drastically altered and expanded in virtually every way. In effect, it became a new composition.
Nevertheless, one significant vestige of the earlier work remains: the occasional utilization of familiar and/or traditional synagogue chant fragments and liturgical melodies, treated unconventionally. These are so stylized and abstracted that, for the most part, their synagogue music association may not be apparent. For me, however, these motives and tunes acted as catalysts to the creative process. By the same token, they should have meaning—as unifying elements—for the listening process.
Originally, the music was written to be performed by vocal soloists, with occasional full choral sections. In the most recent revision in 1999, however, which is reflected in this recording, that equation has been reversed, so that now the chorus predominates. The first performance of the full original version was given in October 1980 at Merkin Hall in New York City.
Following this recording of the Psalmistry selections, Timothy Koch directed the first live public performance of the revised version with the South Carolina Symphonic Society in October 2001 at the Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. That concert included additional selections from the work.