March 15, 2007
New crop of albums grows in the Jewish music world
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"I cannot imagine that they didn't know it ... that I'm Israeli and born in Israel," she said. "My guess is that they were aware of it. When Joe Jennings [Chanticleer's musical director] got in touch with me and proposed the commission, I said to him, you realize that I am Jewish and Israeli; anything that I write would be from my perspective. And he said, 'We know that and we assume that anyone writing this work will bring their own perspective to it.'"
Ran felt no inner conflict about accepting the assignment.
"I thought it was a very intriguing challenge, lending my perspective as a Jew to a portion of the Mass," she said. "I asked which portion of the Mass I would be choosing from and he told me, 'Actually we've already assigned you a portion, the Credo.'"
The nearest Jewish equivalent to the Credo's statement of the principles of faith, Ran decided, would be Maimonides' "Ani Ma'amim."
"I realized that 'Ani Ma'amim' would be a perfect text," she said. "I decided that I would be setting the Maimonides text and that it would be in Hebrew. That seemed to be a good point of departure for me in terms of the text of this work. I also made it clear that although one can do this kind of setting with an eye to emphasizing the common elements -- in fact my Credo does begin in Latin, using the words that articulate the belief in one God, maker of the earth and all things in it -- one could approach it as that successfully. But I made it clear from the beginning that it would be through my lens as a Jew.
"So in the second part of my section, there actually I decided early on that I wanted the piece to probe into the meaning of faith, especially in the face of very great adversity. So there are several texts that are related to the Holocaust. This is the way in which this is personalized for me."
The real fun -- and part of the challenge -- was writing for a vocal group as talented and varied as Chanticleer.
"I try to approach each project with the thought of the uniqueness of the ensemble," Ran explained. "With Chanticleer, I was so thrilled at the thought of writing for them. They are so extraordinary. I asked for the vocal ranges of the singers and the way they go above and below their ranges and mesh together. The type of singing that they do is so strongly centered around Renaissance music, which gives it a special quality, very different from the usual SATB [soprano-alto-tenor-bass]."
Both composer and commissioners are delighted with the results.
As Ran said, "It was challenging but also stimulating."
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