About Oratorium "Shacharit"

by Ella Milch-Sheriff

Shacharit – Dawn (2018) The Israeli composer Ella Milch-Sheriff on her work Shacharit – Oratorio for soprano and baritone solo, mixed choir and chamber orchestra, whose German premiere will take place on December 17, 2020 in the Nikolaikirche in Potsdam.

The motivation to compose “Shacharit” came after years of listening and enjoying the beautiful liturgical works based on Christian prayers. It became clear to me that Israeli audiences – even the religious ones – love these works, mainly, of course, thanks to the magnificent music. The truth is that I became jealous and I thought why wouldn’t I try to compose a work based on texts from the Jewish prayer, a work that is easy and enjoyable to listen to, intended for the concert hall and not for the synagogue.

I am not the first Jewish composer who decided to do so. Many Jewish and Israeli composers based their works on Jewish liturgical texts but somehow, most of these works are not heard very often. Since I wanted to start from the beginning, I decided to go to the morning prayer and chose the common text that every religious person who gets up says in the morning: “I thank you, Lord, for returning my soul to me in compassion”. I found much in common between the Jewish prayer, which praises God in every way, and the Christian prayer, which does the same, in its own way.

The wonderful uniqueness in my eyes is the Hebrew language, the language of prayer and the Bible – rich, poetic and moving. There is no translation that can convey the beauty of the verse: “As a deer longs for the waterways” in the Hebrew language. I chose passages, sentences and words from the morning prayer and wrote a six-movements work. The choice is personal and unrelated to the religious significance of one sentence or another. I allowed myself to omit words and sentences, and this may change the original meaning of the text here and there. As stated, this is a personal work written by me, a secular Israeli Jewish composer. I hope that the listeners will accept with understanding and with a smile my personal interpretation of the “morning” prayer, which is intended, as mentioned, for the concert hall. The work was commissioned by The Israel Camerata Jerusalem and was premiered in Tel-Aviv in 2018.

The six Movements are:

  1. I thank Before You
  2. Many Openings and Many Cavities
  3. The Soul Which You Gave Me is Pure
  4. Opens the Eyes of the Blind
  5. As the Deer Pants for Streams of Water
  6. Praise the Lord, O my soul