Adonai Echad (2000)
The following reviews are of the Hampstead and Highgate Festival’s 2001 concert given by Highgate Choral Society, who commissioned the work, and the New London Orchestra under Ronald Corp. The New London Children’s Chorus also had a signifcant role, and the soloists were Mark Wilde (tenor) and John Fletcher (baritone).
The cantata on Hebrew texts, Adonai Echad (‘The Lord is One’) is penned in a less than progressive musical language, but its affability reveals a wonderfully communicative work aimed at soldiering two faiths with texts sung in English and Hebrew. Stridently punctuated by percussion, the warm and very English orchestration was attractively played by the New London Orchestra, while the bold yet sensitive singing of the Choir pointed to the efficacy of the choral writing…
‘The wolf shall live with the lamb’ was a real moment of joy and was sung with raw beauty and accuracy by the New London Children’s Choir in this worthy addition to modern pragmatic repertoire.
Musical Opinion (Festival Reviews)
[some members of the audience] felt the hairs on the backs of their necks rise…the singers of the HCS and NLCC were transformed by the music and transfixed their audience.
Philip Howard, The Times
The first thing that struck me about this work was the craftsmanship. This is a highly unified work, with some texts and music recurring from time to time. It has a certain ‘flavour’ to it that Corp hopes is suggestive of native Jewish music without parodying it. To this extent the piece is most successful. The orchestration sounds opulent in this work, and the moods vary from the exuberant cheerfulness of Psalms 95 and 96 to the heartfelt pleading of Psalm 130. There are wonderful set pieces for the tenor and baritone soloists, and some with chorus. The writing for children’s choir is exquisite, especially in the magical conclusion.
Jewish liturgy is a closed book to most, which is a pity considering what is common to Judaism and Christianity. Whilst music scholars have crossed what has been described as the ‘sacred bridge’, little is known about it in a popular sense beyond Kol Nidrei by Bruch, who was not Jewish, or the Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service) by Bloch, who was. There are of course many examples by other composers but they remain thin on the ground.
Thus, the world première of Ronald Corp’s Adonai Echad (One God) was welcome for its exploration of common ground and a good many other reasons besides. Corp’s interesting textual sources and treatment of them were drawn from the English musical tradition with just a hint of the Old Biblical provided by the sounds of the beaten tam-tam and the clash of cymbals to give a thunderous opening.
There is an abundance of melody and carefully-worked harmonies that comfortably fitted the texts and verses sung in Hebrew. The emotional and musical high point came with the senior chorus’s singing of the strongly confessional and pleading Psalm 130 (‘Out of the Depths’). Neither they nor the children nor tenor, Mark Wilde, found any difficulty with the Hebrew pronunciation, doubtless a result of the composer’s care in setting the Hebrew texts with its soft glottal sounds, which so often confound many singers unversed in Hebrew or cantilation.
This was an enthusiastic and worthily performed première of a work that for many reasons, let alone its artistic merits, should be heard again.
David Sonin, The Hampstead and Highgate Express