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Time

I. S'liḥot–Ashrei 03:50
II. Hatzi Kaddish 06:28
III. L'khu n'rann'na–hann'shama lakh 02:47
IV. El Melekh Yoshev–Adonai, Adonai 04:33
V. Sh'ma kolenu–al ta'azvenu 03:28
VI. Tavo l'fahnekh–ashamnu–shomer yisra'el–kaddish salem 06:52
 

Liner Notes

The Hebrew word s’liḥot refers to the collective penitential liturgy, the daily recitation of which commences prior to Rosh Hashana and continues through Yom Kippur. The s’liot are generally recited just prior to dawn as vigils (ashmurot), preceding shaharit, or the morning service. In Ashkenazi custom (outside specifically Hassidic circles and some communities in Israel), the first such recitation has come to take the form of a formal service, beginning at or just after midnight on the Saturday night—technically, Sunday morning—prior to Rosh Hashana. It thus serves as an inauguration of the penitential season. (If Rosh Hashana falls on a Monday or Tuesday, that service is held on the previous Saturday midnight.) In common parlance, this inaugural service is often called simply s’liḥot, although its proper title is either “the First s’liḥot” or “s’liḥot for the First Day [of s’liḥot recitations],” since it actually marks the first of the series of those daily predawn recitations in spiritual preparation for the High Holy Days and their focus on repentance and renewal. A full discussion of this service from traditional perspectives, as well as the history of the s’liḥot liturgy, will be found in the explanatory notes in Volume 3, which includes a complete “first s’liḥot” service according to Orthodox and traditional practice.

Charles Davidson’s 1966 The Hush of Midnight could not be more divergent in its musical reinterpretation, illustrating the broad range of styles and approaches to synagogue music that has characterized the composite American Jewish experience. In this modern adaptation of the s’liḥot service—which includes only a small portion of the s’liḥot liturgy, along with new verse by the 20th-century poet Ruth Brin (1921–2009)—the composer reveals aesthetic originality and explores late-1960s popular music trends and sensibilities, all within the scope of a unified service. “A combination of traditional cantorial chant with the musical vernacular of our day,” is how Davidson has described the work.

The Hush of Midnight is marked by the well-crafted employment of melodic repetition and rhythm, elements of cantorial intonation, reference to the traditionally prescribed prayer modes, and a musical flexibility that mirrors the fluctuating accentuation of the Hebrew texts. Its overall style falls under the umbrella of “folk rock” music, although Davidson has characterized it as “a rock-cantorial prayer experience.”

At the time of its conception, Davidson referred to this work as “a service for our time,” calling for an “assembly youthful in spirit,” cantor or cantorial solo, guitars, piano, and drums. “The poignant cries of past suffering and the suggestion of bodies swaying in prayer do not lurk unabashedly in the background,” he has explained. “They proclaim themselves over the beating of drums and the throbbing electric guitars.”

Davidson’s objective in this work was to transform a collection of the s’liḥot that, when combined with Brin’s reflective poetry, would produce a unified prayer experience that reflects the tone of the midnight service. “Above all, it is a service designed for participation,” he underscores, “with the intent of trying to establish a dialogue between man and his Creator.”


 

Lyrics

Sung in English and Hebrew
Poetry by Ruth F. Brin (in italics) 

I. S'LIḤOT–ASHREI

S'liḥot
In darkening shade
Lies city street
In deepening shadow
Wood and meadow,
And barren and shallow
Our thoughts tonight

Through blackened window
Through tight closed door
No wind can wander
No light can enter,
Empty our hearts
And fallow and blight

Now do we ask of Thee
Deep in Thy universe
Far in Thy wanderings
Maker so merciful,
Open Thy cloudbanks
To moon full and bright

Let moonlight
Illumine us,
Night winds
Come brushing us,
Breath of Thy presence
Be felt in our souls.

Ashrei
Psalms 42: 5; 144: 15

Those who dwell in Your house find happiness, and continue forever to praise You.
Happy is the people whose life is so blessed, happy is the nation whose God is the Lord.

II. ḤATZI KADDISH

CANTOR:
This is the hall, this the hush, this is the hour
I rise to praise the Lord of all the living
And the lonely dead.

CONGREGATION:
I rise to praise:
I raise my voice
I lift my head
Despite the sick
Despite the dead
Despite the cries
Of pain, I rise
To praise my Lord
I praise the Lord
Whom all men praise
With separate song,
He made the earth,
The sky, the throng
Of those who raise
In prayerful Phrase
Their souls to Him.

CANTOR:
This holy hour, this hush, this lull
I yield to Him whose glory is beyond all praise
And bless his name

CONGREGATION:
I rise to praise:
I rasie my voice
I lift my head
Despite the sic
k

CANTOR:
And bless His name

CONGREGATION:
Despite the dead
Despite the cries
Of pain, I rise
To praise my Lord.

CANTOR:
And bless His name

CONGREGATION:
And bless His name and say Amen.

atzi kaddish
May God's great name be even more exalted and sanctified in the world that He created according to His own will; and may He fully establish His kingdom in your lifetime, in your own days, and in the life of all those of the House of Israel—soon, indeed without delay. Those praying here signal assent and say amen.

May His great name be worshiped forever, for all time, for all eternity.

Worshiped, praised, glorified, exalted, elevated, adored, uplifted, and acclaimed be the name of the Holy One, praised be He—over and beyond all the words of worship and song, praise and consolation ever before uttered in this world. Those praying here signal assent and say amen.

Southern Journey
Before the wind shakes the bronze leaves from the oaks
While the maple is aflame and the poplar is still gold,
We give thanks to Thee.

Flocks of birds take to the flyways of the continent,
Down the great river valleys and along the seacoast;
We give thanks to Thee.

They fly above the changing scenes of autumn
Toward the warm lands of cypress and orange-grove.

Sometimes we long to fly with them, to escape,
To send our souls away on a southern journey.

Lord God, who gave warbler, mallard and wren
The strength to migrate, the sense to know the way,
Give us strength to survive the cold seasons of our lives.

Help us through prayer and ritual and Thine appointed days
To return even from the strange journeys of the soul
That take us to far countries of pretended peace.

We give thanks unto Thee, Oh Lord, for making us part of earth,
To wonder at its creatures, to exult in all its beauty.

We give thanks unto Thee for making us part of heaven,
To see beyond the changing beauties of this fair earth,
To praise Thee and bless Thee, Who art Creator of all.

III. L'KHU N'RANN'NA–HANN'SHAMA LAKH

CANTOR:
Come then, let us sing to God! Let us joyfully shout to that Rock, our protector.
We will greet Him first with thanksgiving, then chant sweet melodies to Him.
Righteousness and judgment are the foundations of Your throne; loving-kindness and truth precede Your presence.
We will share secrets together and with deep feeling visit the House of the Lord.
The oceans are His; He made them; and it was His hands that created the continents.

CONGREGATION:
I pray Him bring me to repentance,
But I bring myself to sorrow,
And the wish for death.

Then I, who cannot touch, am touched;
And I , who cannot form, am formed;
And I, who cannot find, I am found.

CANTOR:
In His hands are the souls of all that live and the spirit that permeates the flesh of
all mankind. The soul is Yours, and the body—Yours. Have compassion, then, on
the fruit of Your labor. 
The soul is Yours, and the body—Yours.
Lord, act for the sake of Your name.

CONGREGATION:
I pray Him grant me forgiveness,
But I grant myself pity,
And the sweetness of despair.

Then I, who cannot touch, am touched;
And I, who cannot form, am formed;
And I, who cannot find, am found.

CANTOR:
We have come depending on Your name, Lord;
Act for the sake of Your name, for the honor of Your name.
For we know that name to be “God, gracious and merciful.”
For Your name’s sake, O Lord, forgive us then the multitude of our
transgressions.

CONGREGATION:
I lie in darkness, praying,
And the shadow covers me, and the wind cools me.

Then I, who cannot touch, am touched;
And I , who cannot form, am formed;
And I, who cannot find, I am found.

IV. EL MELEKH YOSHEV–ADONAI, ADONAI

CONGREGATION:
In the fall, in the fall,
When the leaves are red as blood,
When the butterflies are dust,
We repent us of our sins.

El melekh yoshev
God, King, You occupy a throne built on mercy. Your deeds reflect Your loving-kindness. You forgive Your people's iniquities—putting each aside, one by one. You expand forgiveness for the sinner and pardon for the transgressor. Your righteousness extends to all creatures of flesh and spirit; You do not assign a full measure of punishment to those who err. God, You taught us that when in need of atonement, we are to recite Your thirteen attributes of mercy. Thus, today we ask You to remember us for our well-being. Remember: take note of Your covenant with us, which enumerates those thirteen attributes. You revealed all this to Your humble servant Moses centuries ago, as is recorded in Scripture: “And the Lord had descended in a cloud; He stood with Moses there and proclaimed the Lord's name. The Lord passed before Moses and said” …

Adonai adonai
The Lord, the Lord, God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, trusting in loving-kindess
and truth; preserving His grace for thousands, forgiving iniquity and
transgression, and cleansing from sin.
Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your own

Mi she'ana l'avraham—hu ya'anenu
May He who answered our father Abraham on Mount Moriah, answer us!

V. SH'MA KOLENU–AL TA'AZVENU

CANTOR:
Hear our voice, O Lord, our God, have compassion and mercy on us. Accept our prayers with tenderness, with goodwill.

CONGREGATION:
The shofar calls: Tekiah
Arise! Awake! Come from your beds, your homes
To the blast that calls you,
The siren that warns you:
Seek shelter for your spirit.
Enter now the opening gates

CANTOR:
Turn us, O Lord, toward You, that we may return to You in repentance.

CONGREGATION:
The ram’s horn cries: Shevarim
Worship in truth, pray together
In confidence and in trust
Determined that promises shall be kept
Oaths fulfilled, words spoken thoughtfully
In honor and in truth.

CANTOR:
Don’t cast us away from Your presence and Your holy spirit—don’t remove it from our midst. 

CONGREGATION:
The shrill notes tremble: Teruah
Listen to the cries of the ancient martyrs,
Sense the unbearable silence of the dead,
Contemplate in reverence and awe
All those who died “Kiddush ha Shem.”

CANTOR:
Don’t cast us away at the time of old age; don’t abandon us as our strength ebbs away from us. 

CONGREGATION:
The shofar blasts: Tekiah gadolah
Remember! Recall the ages of our people,
Dwell on your own life in the year that has passed,
Call up from the darkness the mistakes, the errors,
The evil deeds that you must deal with now.

CANTOR:
Give ear to our words, understand our thoughts. Let the words of our mouths and our hearts’ meditations find favor with You, Lord, our rock, our liberator.

CONGREGATION:
Three times the great horn blows: Tekiah, shevarim, teruah
Return to God Who made you,
Arise to prayer, awake to memory, achieve repentance
Return to God Who loves you,
Now while the days of awe are passing,
Before the closing of the gates.

Al ta'azvenu
Don’t forsake us, Lord, our God; do not distance yourself from us. [Give us a sign of good things to come. Let our enemies observe it, and be embarrassed. You are our help, our comfort; we wait on You, O Lord; Lord, our God, we wait for Your response.]

VI. TAVO L'FANEKHA–ASHAMNU–SHOMER YISRA'EL–KADDISH SHALEM

Tavo l'fanekha
Our God, God of our fathers, let our prayer come before You. Do not hide Yourself from our supplications. We are not so brazen or so without self-knowledge as to plead before You, Lord, our God and God of our fathers, that we are guiltless or without sin. For in reality both our ancestors and we were and are culpable—sinful.

Ashmanu
We have trespassed the boundaries of the Law. We have betrayed; we have robbed; we have slandered and defamed; we have sinned beyond sin; we have become wicked; we have become violent; we have imputed mendacity to others; we have given improper counsel; we have spoken falsehoods; we have mocked our fellows; we have been rebellious; we have rejected good counsel; we have been disloyal; we have been base and vile; we have behaved like criminals; we have become aggressive; we have been stiff-necked; we have become corrupt; we have erred; we have caused others to err.

[We have turned our backs on Your commandments and on Your sure judgments, to no avail. Though You have been just in all that has transpired in our lives—Your deeds are framed in truthfulness—we nevertheless have embraced wickedness.]

Autumn has come. How shall I celebrate this solemn term?
I think: according to the custom of the warm.
Knowing no more than he of wings and flight
I will crawl upward to some unscaled height
And wrapped in silk secretions there, not knowing
Whether bright wings, all cramped and hid, are growing,
Whether I’ll live, emerge and change, or die,
Like an old leaf next spring, crumbling and dry,
I’ll wait, like that green caterpillar there
Wrapped tight in threads of self-secreted prayer.

Shomer yisra'el
Guardian of Israel, safeguard the remnants of Israel and let them not be abandoned and lost, those that declare: “Listen, O Israel …”

Guardian of Israel, safeguard the remnant of that singular people and let them not be abandoned and lost, those who declare the unity of Your name—The Lord is our God, the Lord is One!

Guardian of a holy nation, safeguard the remnant of that holy people, and let them not be abandoned and lost, those who three times daily declare Your threefold holiness.

[You who are placated by prayers for mercy and moved by supplications, be accepting of the prayers and supplications of an impoverished generation; for there is none but You to help.]

Kaddish shalem (“Hassidic kaddish”)
Magnified and sanctified be His great name throughout the world which He hath created according to His will. And great is His glorious Creation! And may His kingdom come during our lives and days, and during the life of all the House of Israel. May His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as in heaven. Speedily, soon, and let us say amen.

May His great name be worshiped. O worshiped be His holy name, forever and to all eternity.  

Worshiped and praised, and glorified and exalted and extolled, and honored and magnified and lauded be the name of the Holy One, praised be He. Though He be beyond all worship and songs and praises and consolations that can be uttered in this world, and let us say amen.

May the supplications and petitions of all Israel be accepted before our Father in heaven. Will all present here assent by saying amen.

May there be abundant peace for us and for all Israel; and those praying here signal assent and say amen.

May He who establishes peace in His high place establish peace for us and for all Israel; and those praying here signal assent and say amen.


 

Credits

Composer: Charles Davidson

Length: 27:58
Genre: Liturgical

Performers: Ray Edgar, Cantor;  Zamir Chorale, Stanley Sperber, conductor

Additional Credits:

Publisher: Ashbourne Music
Translations:
Liturgical texts translated by Rabbi Morton M. Leifman

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