Shabbat Nusaḥ S'fard
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In response to American Jewry’s emerging interest in Sephardi, Near Eastern, and other non-Ashkenazi musics in the late 1960s and early 1970s, prompted in part by the discovery of world Jewish music traditions that accompanied pride in Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War—which ignited the beginning of heightened awareness of the variety of Jewish cultures—and in part by the new level of exposure in America during that time frame to non-Western musics in general, Emanuel Rosenberg (a.k.a. Earl Rogers) began compiling Sephardi melodies and chants for the kabbalati shabbat (welcoming the Sabbath) and Sabbath eve services. He then stylized and arranged these for contemporary American Reform and some Conservative synagogue renditions, with organ accompaniment that would not, of course, be found in any actual Sephardi synagogues, all of which must be considered orthodox, and he published them as a single service.
The title of Rosenberg’s service can be misleading, since the designation nusaḥ s’fard generally refers to a particular variant rite in terms of liturgical text, not music, in the context of its adoption by certain Ashkenazi traditions. Also, the term nusaḥ (nusaḥ hat’filla) is used colloquially in Ashkenazi cantorial circles of eastern European orientation or tradition to denote the complex canonized network of prayer modes, modalities, and motifs that are established for specific sections of the liturgy and specific liturgical calendar occasions; it would not be used in a similar way in the Sephardi world to refer to its modes or melodies. This service, however, focuses on Sephardi musical material but follows the Ashkenazi rite and order of prayers. It also contains some elements that are neither Sephardi nor Ashkenazi, but are part of a wider, non-Ashkenazi traditional repertoire known as mizraḥit—i.e., “eastern” in the sense of Near Eastern communities or communal traditions. Yet Rosenberg’s principal purpose was to introduce American Ashkenazi congregations to interesting aspects of Sephardi liturgical music within stylistic boundaries that they would find acceptable for worship. From artistic as well as ethnomusicological standpoints, the effort succeeds admirably.
The four prayer settings excerpted and recorded by the Milken Archive for this volume are:
L’kha dodi, the kabbalistic text from the kabbalat shabbat service (for comments on the text and its history, see notes to Charles Davidson's . . . And David Danced Before the Lord). The melodic version Rosenberg arranged is one of the oldest and most widely familiar traditional Western, or “Amsterdam,” Sephardi l’kha dodi tunes. The same tune, in an alternate version, is the basis of Samuel Adler’s setting of this text, which is also included in this volume; and it appears in Herman Berlinski’s Sabbath eve service, Avodat Shabbat, in Volume VII of this series. Rosenberg has harmonized it simply in order to give transparency to the identity of the tune, both in the strophes and in the refrain.
Yih’yu l’ratzon….(May the words of my mouth and devotions of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord….). This supplication is recited silently by worshippers to conclude their silent recitation of the amida (see the notes to Hugo Weisgall's Four Choral Etudes), which is not repeated aloud by the cantor or other prayer leader at evening services. In many Conservative and other traditional Sabbath eve services, however, as well as in Reform worship where the amida does not occur in full as a separate, silently recited set of prayers (although some of its components occur vocally in the service), it is customary in many congregations for the cantor, or cantor and choir, to intone these words as a musical meditation. This setting incorporates a solo chant whose contemplative mood fits the occasion.
Kiddush, the prayer that is recited on Sabbath eve over a cup of wine to acknowledge God’s gift of the holy day and His designation of Jews as a “holy people.” Choral responses would have been possible, but Rosenberg chose to set the material of the Sephardi chant for solo cantor and organ accompaniment.
Adon olam, the concluding hymn (Lord of the world). The rhythmic character of this version is particularly engaging and is reinforced by pulsating gestures in the organ part.