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Mystical Procession 07:11
 

Liner Notes

Ofer Ben-Amot’s The Organ Book of Psalms is a collection of four solo organ pieces either based on or inspired by the biblical Hebrew Psalms. Its overall order is modeled on that of the Torah service in synagogue worship. It opens with A Mystical Procession, followed by Pastoral Invocation, The O Anthem, and T’ru’a, a recessional fanfare.

A Mystical Procession is based on an old Amsterdam Sephardi (also known as Amsterdam Portuguese) Shabbat melody for Psalm 29. This liturgical treasure is still in use for regular Shabbat services at such Western Sephardi congregations such as Shearith Israel in New York City (the “Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue”) and Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia. It is sung principally for the procession following the reading of the Torah and the return of the Torah scroll(s) to the ark.

The slowly paced melody moves between the Phrygian and Mixolydian modes. Its perceptibly plaintive tone can be interpreted in that processional function as poetically symbolizing a feeling of regret at relinquishing visible and palpable connection with the sacred scroll(s), however temporarily, through their return to their enclosed repose. This provides an interesting contrast to most Ashkenazi traditions, in which the same Psalm is usually sung to a joyous, even triumphant tune. 

The mystical nature of Psalm 29 is expressed in part through its eighteen-fold repetition of God’s quadrilateral name. The text addresses God’s manifestation through nature. Throughout the Psalm one encounters God’s rulings and actions vis-à-vis four elements: water, fire, earth, and air. The majestic yet doleful melody is set in this piece to a series of variations corresponding to the eleven verses of the Psalm. Each variation offers a musical idea or an incidence of tone painting intended to match and express the content of the respective verse. 

By: Neil W. Levin

 

Credits

Composer: Ofer Ben-Amots

Length: 07:11
Genre: Liturgical

Performers: Juergen Essle, Organ

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