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Shiru Ladonai, a unified kabbalat shabbat (welcoming the Sabbath) and Sabbath eve service with the subtitle Sing to God, was commissioned in 1970 by Cantor David Putterman and the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York as part of its internationally celebrated program of commissioning and premiering new liturgical music on an annual basis. From the outset, Kingsley’s artistic concept embraced the juxtaposition of a relatively traditional melodic approach, with attention to established prayer modes, against what he viewed as the “color potential” of synthesized orchestration. Unlike Shabbat for Today, this piece was composed specifically for organ and Moog synthesizer. The Moog was used to accompany all movements. But his inspiration to compose the work, as he freely commented later, came from his love of the poetry contained in the liturgy rather than from any personal attraction to formalized religious observance or ritual.
For the Milken Archive, Kingsley recorded the orchestration using his own synthesizers. That required some reorchestration to remove some of the muddy effects of simply transferring the orchestral realization from the earlier technology of the 1970s; and some of the harmonies had to be given wider space.
The premiere at the Park Avenue Synagogue’s Twenty-sixth Annual Service of New Liturgical Music, in May 1970, marked the first-ever usage of the Moog synthesizer for an entire service in any synagogue, as well as its first appearance at all in connection with worship in a Conservative congregation. That landmark was prominently noted on the program booklet. “I don’t consider it a ‘jazz’ or ‘rock’ service at all,” Kingsley has explained. “I think it’s very traditional, except that all of the accompaniment is played by synthesizers.” Indeed, immediately following that premiere, Cantor Putterman, who had just sung the solo part, remarked to Kingsley: “Gershon, it’s a wonderful composition! But do you think we could do it without the Moog?”