High Holy Days music
Here are fifteen pieces I’ve written for High Holy Days over the years. If you like this music, or are interested in singing some of it, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!
- Ashrei Ha’am (Ps 89:16-19) – traditional Rosh Hashanah text, making reference to the shofar calls. This piece has a very easy chorus that the congregation picks up instantly, using nigun syllables to sing different shofar calls; the verse melody alludes to the Unataneh Tokef motif. Ashrei Ha’am can be sung unaccompanied. There are also extra optional voice parts that produce canon-like semi-echos to add to the sense of lots of shofar calls happening.
- Tashlich (Micah 7:19) – short, two part round that people can sing by the water when they do the Tashlich ritual. For those who want to chant this as a group meditation, I have also created moves for a simple circle dance symbolising the casting away of sins.
- Ein Keloheinu No.2 – a lively setting, simply repetitive (of course!), but with two twists: it’s in 10/8 (which is easier than that sounds!), and can also be sung as a two part round.
- Ahavat Olam – originally composed for Yom Kippur; first blessing before the evening Sh’ma. Can be sung unison by the congregation. There is also an arrangement for 4 voices, and optional piano part.
- Barchi Nafshi (Ps 103:1-12) – a traditional psalm for Yom Kippur, these verses explore themes of sin and mercy, compassion and forgiveness. This can be sung unaccompanied, solo or unison (congregation), or with piano or guitar. (I haven’t arranged it for choir yet, but could easily, so let me know if you would like a choral version.)
- Essa Einai (Ps 121) – ‘I lift my eyes to the mountains’ – evocative, unaccompanied solo. Also available in a closely translated English version. Has been used at Yizkor.
- Han’shamah Lach – used at S’lichot and Kol Nidrei. Available as a solo (with or without accompaniment), and in a 3-voice arrangment.
- Kaddish – a lively, spirited setting “before the gates of Ne’ilah close”. Can be sung unison, with or without guitar/piano; optional harmony parts. The musical setting is interesting melodically and structurally, bringing out the meaning of the words and the inherent larger shape of the text.
- Kol B’Ramah, Kol D’mei – Verses from Jer. 31:15; Gen. 4:10; Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a). Has been used during the martyrology section of Musaf as a meditation/reflection. Can be sung a cappella solo, but also has an optional, carefully crafted piano part.
- Nigun Yonah – for Mincha. A thoughtful, slow, slightly restless nigun reflecting the undercurrents of Jonah’s unsettled state, and the waves of the ocean below, and then above, him. Can be sung unison, or as a round.
- Oseh Shalom (No.2) – based on the nusach of the cantor’s Hin’ni prayer; used in Musaf.
- Sh’ma Adonai Koli (Ps 27:7) – recurring, meditative prayer/chant. “Hear, O Lord, when I call with my voice, and be gracious to me, and answer me.” Reb Zalman Shachter-Shalomi’s translation: “Listen, YaH, to the sound of my cry and, being kind, answer me.” Can be sung solo, unison congregation, but also can be a 2-part round, with optional guitar accompaniment. Psalm 27 is also used throughout the month of Elul.
- V’shavti B’veit Adonai (Ps 23:6) – meditative chant for Yizkor. “Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Two part round, with optional guitar.
- V’taheir Libeinu – “Purify our hearts, that we may serve You in truth.” Recurring in the Amidah – composed hauntingly for Yom Kippur, but can be used at other times as well, of course.
Meditations and extras
- Ana Eil Na (Num. 12:13) – Simple, repetitive chant asking for healing; Hebrew with optional English words. Very easy for people to pick up instantly, and spontaneously harmonise.
- Im Ein Ani Li – (5 June, 2019) Recording coming in the next few days!
- Nigun Chakartani vaTeida – Inspired by Ps 139:1: “You have searched me out and known me”. A meditative nigun suitable for Elul and Yom Kippur.