The Chichester Psalms is a choral work by Leonard Bernstein for boy treble or countertenor, solo quartet, choir and orchestra (3 trumpets in B, 3 trombones, timpani, percussion (5 players), 2 harps, and strings). A reduction written by the composer pared down the orchestral performance forces to organ, harp and percussion. Bernstein stated explicitly in his writing that the part for countertenor may be sung by either an actual countertenor or a boy soprano, but never by a woman. This was to reinforce the liturgical meaning of the passage sung, perhaps to suggest that the 23rd Psalm, a "Psalm of David" from the Hebrew Bible, was to be heard as if sung by the boy David himself. The text was arranged by Bernstein from the psalms in the original Hebrew. Part 1 uses psalms 100 and 108, Part 2 uses 2 and 23 and Part 3 uses 131 and 133. It was commissioned for the 1965 Southern Cathedrals' Festival at Chichester Cathedral by the cathedral's organist, John Birch, and the Dean, Walter Hussey. However, the world premiere took place in the Philharmonic Hall, New York in early 1965 with the composer conducting, followed by the performance in the Chichester Festival in July that year, conducted by John Birch.Chichester Cathedral
The Chichester Psalms was Bernstein's first composition after his Third Symphony (Kaddish). They are his two most overtly Jewish works. While both works have a chorus singing texts in Hebrew, the Kaddish Symphony has been described as a work often at the edge of despair, while the Chichester Psalms is affirmative and at times serene.Third Symphony (Kaddish) The Psalms and the first movement in particular are noted among performers for their musical difficulty, with the opening section of the first movement often considered one of the hardest passages for choral tenors ever written, owing to the range of the piece, its rhythmic complexity and the consistent presence of the strange and difficult-to-maintain interval of a major 7th between the tenor and bass (see illustration). The seventh interval figures prominently due to its numerological importance in the judeo-christian tradition; also the first movement is written in the 7/4 meter, and the third in 10/4 (separated into half- bars of 5/4). Despite the work's difficulty, it is occasionally performed as an anthem in services of choral evensong in the most musical Anglican cathedrals. The soloist in the second movement is thus very often a treble.
Urah, hanevel, v'chinor! Awake, psaltery and harp: A-irah sha ar I will rouse the dawn! The introduction (presented on sheet music as part of movement one) begins gathering energy. Word painting is used in that the dissonant 7ths present in every chord sound like clanging bells, indicating that we are being told to awaken in a deep and profound way. In the first measure, Bernstein also introduces a leitmotif in the soprano and alto parts consisting of a descending perfect fourth, ascending minor seventh, and descending perfect fifth. The motif is also found with the seventh inverted as a descending major second. The significance of the passage is unknown to the editor, except that it conjures up images of tuning the harp and psaltery (especially the use of perfect fourths and fifths). This leitmotif is found elsewhere in the work, including the end of the first movement ("Ki tov adonai," m. 109-116), the third movement prelude, and in the soprano part of the final a cappella section of movement three ("Hiney mah tov," m.60), with a haunting reintroduction of the material in the harp on unison G's during the "Amen" of m. 64.Word painting leitmotif
Hariu l'Adonai kol haarets. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands. Iv'du et Adonai b'sim a Serve the Lord with gladness. Bo-u l'fanav bir'nanah. Come before His presence with singing. D'u ki Adonai Hu Elohim. Know that the Lord, He is God. Hu asanu v'lo ana nu. It is He that has made us, and not we ourselves. Amo v'tson mar'ito. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Bo-u sh'arav b'todah, Come unto His gates with thanksgiving, atseirotav bit'hilah, And into His court with praise. Hodu lo, bar'chu sh'mo. Be thankful unto Him and bless His name. Ki tov Adonai, l'olam as'do, the lord is good, his mercy everlasting V'ad dor vador emunato. And His truth endureth to all generations.
TUTTI All Parts Alto IAlto IIBass IBass IISoprano ISoprano IITenor ITenor II
The second movement begins with the psalm of David set in a conventional meter (3/4) with a tranquil melody, sung by the boy treble (or countertenor), and repeated by the soprano voices in the chorus. This is abruptly interrupted by the orchestra and the low, rumbling sounds (again word painting) of the men's voices singing psalm 2 (also notably featured in Handel's Messiah). This is gradually overpowered by the soprano voices (with the bizzare direction, "blissfully unaware of threat" in m. 102) with David serenely reaffirming the second portion of psalm 23. However, the last measures of the movement contain notes which recall the interrupting section, symbolizing mankind's unending struggle with conflict and faith.Handel's Messiah Interestingly, the boy's theme was adapted from a musical that Bernstein never completed, The Skin of Our Teeth (based on the play by Thornton Wilder). The men's theme was adapted from material that was cut out of West Side Story.West Side Story
Adonai ro-i, lo e sar. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Bin'ot deshe yarbitseini, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, Al mei m'nu ot y'na aleini, He leadeth me beside the still waters, Naf'shi y'shovev, He restoreth my soul, Yan' eini b'ma'aglei tsedek, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, L'ma'an sh'mo. For His name's sake. (sopranos) Gam ki eilech Yea, though I walk B'gei tsalmavet, Through the valley of the shadow of death, Lo ira ra, I will fear no evil, Ki Atah imadi. For Thou art with me. Shiv't'cha umishan'techa Thy rod and Thy staff Hemah y'na amuni. They comfort me. (Tenors and basses) Lamah rag'shu goyim Why do the nations rage, Ul'umim yeh'gu rik? And the people imagine a vain thing? Yit'yats'vu malchei erets, The kings of the earth set themselves, V'roznim nos'du ya ad And the rulers take counsel together Al Adonai v'al m'shi o. Against the Lord and against His anointed. N'natkah et mos'roteimo, Saying, let us break their bonds asunder, V'nashlichah mimenu avoteimo. And cast away their cords from us. Yoshev bashamayim He that sitteth in the heavens Yis' ak, Adonai Shall laugh, and the Lord Yil'ag lamo! Shall have them in derision! (sopranos) Ta'aroch l'fanai shulchan Thou preparest a table before me Neged tsor'rai In the presence of mine enemies, Dishanta vashemen roshi Thou annointest my head with oil, Cosi r'vaya. My cup runneth over. "David" Ach tov va esed Surely goodness and mercy Yird'funi kol y'mei ayai Shall follow me all the days of my life, V'shav'ti b'veit Adonai And I will dwell in the house of the Lord L'orech yamim. Forever.
TUTTI All Parts AltoBassSoprano ISoprano IITenor ITenor II
The third movement begins with a conflicted and busy instrumental prelude which recapitulates the chords and melody from the introduction; then suddenly it breaks into the gentle chorale set in a rolling 10/4 (1+ 2++, 3+ 4++) meter which recalls desert palms swaying in the breeze. The finale comes in from the third movement without interruption. The principal motives from the introduction return here to unify the work and create a sense of returning to the beginning, but here the motifs are sung pianississimo, and greatly extended in length. Particularly luminous harmonies eventually give way to a unison note on the last syllable of the text - another example of word painting, since the final Hebrew word, Yachad, means "together" or, more precisely, "as one." This same note is that on which the choir then sings the amen, while the trumpet plays the opening motif one last time and the orchestra, too, ends on a unison G, with a tiny hint of a Picardy third.Picardy third
Adonai, Adonai,Lord, Lo gavah libi,My heart is not haughty, V'lo ramu einai,Nor mine eyes lofty, V'lo hilachtiNeither do I exercise myself Big'dolot uv'niflaotIn great matters or in things Mimeni. Too wonderful for me to understand. Im lo shivitiSurely I have calmed V'domam'ti,And quieted myself, Naf'shi k'gamul alei imo, As a child that is weaned of his mother, Kagamul alai naf'shi. My soul is even as a weaned child. Yahel Yis'rael el AdonaiLet Israel hope in the Lord Me'atah v'ad olam.From henceforth and forever. Hineh mah tov,Behold how good, Umah nayim,And how pleasant it is, Shevet ahimFor brethren to dwell Gam ya ad Together in unity.