SAVAE: San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble

Ancient EchoesAncient Echoes

Kathy Mayer - soprano, harp, kamenche, lyre, def (frame drum), little bells
Tanya Moczygemba - alto, kinnor, davul, def, little bells, riqq
Christopher Moroney - artistic director, baritone, harp, shofar, rabbabah, davul, dumbek, jingles, riqq
Covita Moroney - alto, guimbri, mijwiz, oud, def, tzilezal ( cymbals) zils
Lee P’Pool - tenor, kinnor, def, dumbek, riq
Jody Noblett - tenor, kinnor, migwiz, shabbabah (reed flute), davul, dumbek, little bells, tziltzal
Sonya Yamin - soprano, kinnor, davul, dumbek, little bells, zil

Recording session producer - Angela Mariani
Music arrangements - Christopher Moroney
Project Manager, sound editing/mixing - Ron Rendek
Engineer - John McCourtney · Recorded at Airwave Studio, Chicago
Edxecutive producer - World Library Publications

Rediscovering Music & Chant of Middle Eastern Spirituality

In 1907, Abraham Zvi Idelsohn (1882-1938), the generally acknowleged “father” of modern musicology, settled in Jerusalem. The great diversity of musical traditions he found among the Jews living in the region led to the creation of his monumental musicological collection, Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies. Idelsohn examined the traditional melodies of Hebrew music from Jewish centers throughout the world, and found recurring motives and progressions that were not found in any other national music. This suggested a common origin for these musical phrases that went back to Israel/Palestine in the first century c.e., prior to the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans and the Jewish Exile.

He found that these motives fell into three distinct tonal centers, which corresponded to the Dorian, Phrygian, and Lydian modes of the ancient Greeks. Each of these modes elicited a distinct psycho-emotional response. The Dorian Mode tetrachord was used for texts of an elevated and inspired nature; the Phrygian for sentimental texts, with their very human outbreaks of feeling, both of joy and grief; and the Lydian was used in composing music for the texts of lamenting and confessions of sins.

Idelsohn further categorized and defined these motives as ones that either prepared a musical phrase, began it, or conluded it. In the hopes of creating an echo of first-century authenticity on this recording, the melodies for the Dead Sea Scrolls text and the prayers and sayings of Jesus were carefully composed using the motives and melodic fragments collected by Idelsohn. It is very likely these sacred texts and prayers were chanted and sung, as that is the both the Jewish and Middle Eastern tradition.

Singing, chanting, and breathing the sounds of a prophet’s words not only allows us to feel the meaning of these words at a deeper, embodied level, but it also connects us to the conciousness of the prophet who spoke them. The remaining pieces on the recording (with the exception of the “Song of Seikilos,” B’tseth Israel, and Bircath Cohenim) come directly from Idelsohn’s collection.

Ancient Echoes

1. note - audio clipAshir shirim (I will sing songs)

Traditional, from Thesaurus of Oriental Hebrew Melodies, Vol. II: Songs of the Babylonian Jews, no. 164
Collected by Abraham Z. Idelsohn
Because of the close ties and ongoing communication between the Jews of Babylon and Jerusalem following the Jews’ gradual return from the Babylonian Exile in the sixth and fifth centuries b.c.e., musicologist A.Z. Idelsohn concluded that Babylonian Jewry offered the closest link to the melodies of ancient Jerusalem. Idelsohn transcribed this lively wedding song of the Babylonian Jews in Palestine nearly a century ago . In “Ashir shirim,” the bride is seen as a metaphor for Israel. Just as the bridegroom “redeems” the bride by fulfilling his promise to her, so God will redeem Israel when the prophet Elijah (Eliyahu) returns to announce the coming of the Messiah. Weddings were spectacular celebrations in ancient Israel/Palestine. The ululations of the women are the traditional cries of joy that have filled the air at weddings for centuries throughout the entire Middle East.
Ashir shirim laél beviath hag-goél. Ayuma temima bathe ne‘ima — Hish geal na geal. Eliyahu yavo yighal, yighal.

I will sing songs to god at the coming of the redeeemer. This terrified, innocent and fair daughter— Hurry to redeem her now. Elijah will come and she will be redeemed. (Translation by Sara Purcell)

2.note - audio clip Rannanu (Sing with Joy)
Text from the Dead Sea Scrolls: Qumran cave 4 (4Q403: 36-37)
Melody composed of Hebrew motives in the ancient Dorian mode by Christopher Moroney
This piece utilizes a portion of the “Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice,” also known as the “Angelic Liturgy,” from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The majority of present-day scholars attribute these writings to the Essenes, a sectarian group of Jews who formed an ascetic monastic community near Qumran in the Judean Desert. The “Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice” evoke the angelic realms and celebrate the worship of God in the heavenly temple. The rhythmic pattern that drives the second half of the piece is called thaqil. It was described by Safi-al-Din in a 13th century work on music and is believed to be the earliest Middle Eastern rhythm that is documented enough to be completely reconstructed.
Ran-n’nu, m’ran-nané da ‘ato,
b’runan bélohé fele.
Weh’ghu kh’vodo bil-l’shon kol hoghé da‘ath;
ranoth pi-l’o b’fi khol hoghé vo.

Ki hu elohim l’khol m’ran-n’né da‘ath‘ad
w’shofet b’gh-vuratho l’khol ruhé bin.
Sing with joy, you who rejoice in His wisdom,
among the wondrous godlike beings.
And chant His glory with the tongue of those with wisdom;
and chant His wonderful songs of joy with the voice
of all beings who chant about Him.
For He is the God of all who rejoice in wisdom forever
and measure His power over the spirit of understanding.

3. note - audio clip Abwoon (Father-Mother of the Cosmos)
The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4
Chant composed in the ancient Dorian mode by Christopher Moroney · Improvised solo by Covita Moroney
Aramaic is a Middle Eastern language that was the native tongue of Jesus of Nazareth, and common to the Israel/Palestine region during the first century c.e. This musical setting of the prayer of Jesus—sometimes called the Lord’s Prayer—includes traditional Middle Eastern percussion, rhythms, and improvisational modal chanting. All the Semitic 1anguages — including Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic — use a root system which allows one word to hold multiple meanings. Thus, a tradition of translation arose in the Middle East that led to each word of a prophet being considered on many different levels of meaning.
Abwoon d’bvashmayo, nethqadash shmok. Te-the malkutokh. Nehwé tseby o-nokh, aykano d’bvash’mayo of -ba’r‘o. Habv lan lahma d’sunqonan yow-mano, Washboqlan hawbén w’kh-t’hén, aykano dof h’nan shba-qn l’hayobén. W’lo tahlan l’nesyun’eh, elo patson men bisho. Metol d’dilok hi malkutokh, w’haylo, w’teshbuh-to lo‘alam ‘o-l’min. Amén.

  O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
focus your light within us. Create your reign of unity now. Your one desire then acts with ours, as in all light, so in all forms. Grant what we need each day in bread and insight. Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt. Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back.
>From You is born all ruling will, the power and the life to do, the song that beautifies all, from age to age it renews. Truly—power to these statements—may they be the ground from which all our actions grow. Amen.

(Translation and commentary from Aramaic Peshitta by Neil Douglas-Klotz, from “Desert Wisdom”- ©1995 Reprinted with permission, all rights reserved, Abwoon Study Circle,
4. Arabian Dance
Traditional: from Thesaurus of Oriental Hebrew Melodies, Vol. IV, Chap. IV: Arabic Music, Nos. 14 & 15   Collected by Abraham Z. Idelsohn
This pairing of instrumental pieces in maqam Nahawand represents the type of Arabian art music that may have been heard in the Herodian court or by the aristocracy of ancient Israel/Palestine. Maqam is an Arabic word that means “a place from which to rise” (it originally referred to the platform on which musicians were placed at court). It is a system of tonal organization utilizing distinct scales with a hierarchy of degrees and unique ornamentations which combine to express a particular emotion or spiritual state. Instrumental pieces are typically preceded by an improvised solo prelude known as taqsim, here played on the oud. In addition to Nahawand, some common maqamat (plural) are Hijaz, Rast, and Bayati.
5. Song of Seikilos
Ancient Greek song, 1st century c.e.
By the first century C.E. Israel/Palestine was tremendously influenced by Greek culture and philosophy. The early translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek at Alexandria was largely responsible for the predominance of the Greek or Hellenistic viewpoint in Jewish culture and theology. The Hellenization of musical life in ancient Israel/Palestine was especially strong during the reign of Herod the Great who imported Greek musicians to perform for cultural events in urban centers such as Jerusalem and Caesarea. Undoubtedly Greek music was performed at the Herodian court. The music for “Song of Seikilos” is inscribed on a 1st century Greek burial stele bearing the following epitaph: “I am a portrait in stone. I was put here by Seikilos, where I remain forever, the symbol of timeless remembrance.”
Hoson zes phai-nou, meden holo-os sy lypou-ou. Pros oligon e-esti to ze-en, to telos ho chronos apaitei-ei.

As long as you live, shine, Let nothing grieve you beyond measure. For your life is short, and time will claim its tribute.

6. note - audio clip Tubwayhun L’ahbvday Sh’lama (Blessed are the Peacemakers) Text from the Aramaic Peshitta, Matthew 5:9

Melody composed of Hebrew motives in the ancient Dorian mode by Christopher Moroney
This saying of Jesus, one of a group of sayings referred to as the Beatitudes, was translated in the King James Version of the Bible from the Greek as: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Aramaic differs greatly from Greek; it is a language close to the earth and nature, rich in planting and harvesting imagery. Tubwayhun, usually translated as “blessed” or “good,” describes a state of ripeness or readiness, in harmony with one’s surroundings. L’ahbvday refers to those who perform a task and are committed to staying with it—the roots of the word contain images of planting, tilling the soil regularly, and celebrating the harvest. Sh’lama (“peace”) is essentially the same word as Hebrew shalom and Arabic salaam. D’bv’nauhi (“children”) refers to any embodied form or creation which only existed as potential before. Alaha, the Aramaic word for God, means “Sacred Unity” and is related to Eloha (Hebrew) and Allah (Arabic). The roots of nithqarun (“shall be called”) present the image of digging a channel for water to flow through. Restated, this saying could read: In harmony with the world are those who are committed to planting peace; they shall become the channels for fulfilling God’s will.
Tubwayhun l’-‘abv-d’y sh’lama; d’bv’n’uhi d’ alaha nith-q’run.

“Blessed are those who plant peace each season; they shall be named the children of God.”

(Translation and commentary by Neil Douglas-Klotz, from “Prayers of the Cosmos”- ©1990)
7. Sounding of the Shofar and Shema Israel (Hear, O Israel), Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Traditional: from Thesaurus of Oriental Hebrew Melodies, Vol. II: Songs of the Babylonian Jews, no. 4
Collected by Abraham Z. Idelsohn

Shortly after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E. the entire art of the instrumental music of the Levites (Temple musicians) fell into oblivion. In attempting to recreate this lost sound, SAVAE has turned to the writings of Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph (circa C.E. 50-132) preserved in the Talmud (the collection of ancient Rabbinic writings), and the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (circa C.E. 37-100) preserved in his work, “Jewish Antiquities.” Both men witnessed the Temple’s musical services and wrote about the performances of the Levites and the instruments they played. The orchestra consisted of a minimum of two nevelim (a type of harp), nine kinnoroth (lyres), and one set of tziltzalim (cymbals), which were used to accompany the singing of the daily prayers and psalms. In addition to the twelve adult male singers, boys of the Levites were permitted to participate in the choir, “in order to add sweetness to the song.” The first section of the Talmud, known as the Mishna, gives us a depiction of a musical performance at the Temple service which included the Shema (Dt 6:4-9), the Priestly Blessing (Nb 6:22-27), and the Ten Commandments. SAVAE’s sequence of these three Temple pieces opens with the sounding of the shofar, a ceremonial ram’s horn trumpet used by the priests for summoning and ritual purposes. The signal sounded on this recording is based on a traditional Yemenite manner of blowing the shofar. It is followed by a Babylonian setting of the Shema, which expresses the essence of Judaism’s central belief in the unity of God.
Sh’ma‘ Isra’él adonai elohénu, adonai ehad.
W’a-havta éth adonai elohekha b’khol l’vav’kha
uvkhol naf-sh’kha uvkhol m’odekha.
W’hayu had’varim haéle asher anokhi
m’tsa-w’kha hayom ‘al l’va-vekha. W’shin-nantam l’vanekha, w’dibarta bam
b’shivt’kha b’vé-thekha,
uvlekh-t’kha vad-de-rekh,
uv-shokh-b’kha, uv-qume-kha.
Uq-shartam l’oth ’al yadekha,
w’hayu l’toto-foth bén ‘e-nekha.
Ukh-thavtam ’al m’zuzoth béthekha,

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And I command you on this day to take these words to heart. And teach them clearly to your children, and speak of them while you are in your home, and when you are walking on the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And bind them as a sign upon your hand, and let them be as frontlets between your eyes. And write them on the doorposts of your house, and on your gates.

8. Bircath Cohenim (Priestly Blessing) Numbers 6:22-27
Melody deciphered from the Masoretic canti llation symbols of the Bible by Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura
Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura, a French composer, organist, and music theoretician, undertook one of the most fascinating attempts to retrieve the lost Biblical melodies of the Levites. She developed a system of deciphering the musical signs (te‘amim) of the Tiberian Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible. These ancient signs, which appear above and below the Hebrew letters, were indicators of chironomy—a type of music “notation” which was conveyed through the use of hand gestures. Haïk-Vantoura devoted herself to finding the key to decoding the musical meaning of these signs. In 1976 she published the results of her work in her book, “La Musique de la Bible Révélée” (The Music of the Bible Revealed). In the years following, she published several volumes of musical scores as well as supervising a number of recordings based on her restitutions.
Wa-y’dab-bér adonai el moshe lémor “dab-bér el ah’ron w’el banaw lémor, koh th’va-r’khu eth b’né Isra’él amor lahem: Y’varekh-kha adonai w’yish-m’rekha. Ya’ér adonai panaw eley-kha wihun-nekha. Yis-sa adonai pahnaw eley-kha w’yasém l’kha shalom. W’samu eth sh’mi ‘al b’né Isra’él wa’ni ’vare-khém.”

And the Lord (YHWH) spoke to Moses saying: “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus shall you bless the children of Israel.’ Say to them: ‘May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord shine His face upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His face upon you and give you peace.’ And so call down My name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them.”

9. Wa y’daber Elohim (The Ten Commandments) Exodus 20:1-11
Traditional: from Thesaurus of Oriental Hebrew Melodies, Vol. II: Songs of the Babylonian Jews, no. 177
Collected by Abraham Z. Idelsohn
A.Z. Idelsohn collected this piece (as well as the preceding Shema Israel) in Jerusalem from a Babylonian cantor. The Babylonian Jews represented the oldest settlement outside Palestine known to history and therefore it can be assumed that ancient elements were preserved in their traditional songs. In her book, “La Musique de la Bible Révélée,” Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura points out the similarities between this particular version of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) collected by Idelsohn and her own musical restitution of the same text, almost as if the Babylonian setting echoes the original melody performed at the Jerusalem Temple two thousand years ago.

Wa-y’dab-bér elohim ét kol hadevarim haél-le lémor: anokhi adonai elohe-kha asher ho-tséthikha mé-erets mitsrayim mib-béth ‘vadim. Lo yi-hye le-kha elohim ahérim ‘al panay. Lo tha‘-se l’kha fesel w’khol temuna asher bash-shamayim mim-ma‘al wa-asher ba’arets mit-tahath wa-asher bam-mayim mit-tahath la’arets. Lo thish-tah’ we lahem w’lo to‘ov-dém. Ki-ano-khi adonai elohe-kha él qan-na pokéd ‘awan avoth ‘al banim ‘al shil-léshim w’‘al rib-bé‘im l’son’ay, w’‘ose hesed la’lafim l’o-h’vay ul’shom’ré mits-wo-thay. Lo this-sa eth shém adonai elohe-kha lash-sho ki lo y’nak-ke adonai éth asher yis-sa eth sh’mo lash-shaw. Zakhor eth yom hash-shab-bath l’kad’sho. Sh’sheth yamim ta‘avod w’‘asi-tha kol m’lakh-tekhah, uvay-yom hash-sh’vi‘i shab-bath l’adonai elohekha lo ta‘aseh kol m’la-kha, at-ta uvin-kha uvit-tekhah ‘avd’kha wa’math’kha uv’hem-tekhah w’ghér’kha asher bisha‘ rekhah.

Ki shé-sheth yamim ‘asah adonai eth hash-shamayim w’eth-ha’arets eth hay-yam w’eth kol asher bahm way-yanah bay-yom h’shevi-‘i ‘alkén bérakh adonai °ehth yom hash-shab-bath way-kad’shéhu.

And God spoke all these words saying: I the Lord am your God who brought you out from Egypt, from the house of bond-age. Do not let your selves have other gods above, or in front of Me. Do not worship sculptured or other images in heav-en above or on earth below or in the waters underneath the earth. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them. For I the Lord your God, am an immpassioned God, and will visit the guilt of parents upon their chil-dren, and upon the third generation, and upon the fourth generation of those who reject Me, but will show kindness to the thousand who love Me and who keep My commandments. Do not swear falsely using the name of the Lord your God, for no exoneration will be granted to whosoever swears falsely using the name of the Lord. Remember the day of the sabbath and keep it holy. Six days you will labour and do all of your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord your God: None should do any work; not your son or your daughter, your male slave and your female slave or your cattle, or the tran-ger who is visiting your settlement. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth with the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the sev-enth day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath, and hallowed it.

10. Tubwayhun Layleyn / Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
Text from the Aramaic Peshitta, Matthew 5:6
Melody composed of Hebrew motives in the ancient Dorian mode by Covita Moroney

Musical arrangements by Christopher and Covita Moroney
This Beatitude was translated from the Greek as: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (KJV) Again, the word tubwayhun (“blessed”) carries the sense of ripeness. The oldest roots of the Aramaic word layleyn (“to those”) present the image of one who is watching and waiting by lamplight for something to happen; it is a picture of focused, intent expectancy. Khafnin (“hunger”) connotes a longing for strength and sustenance. Tsheyn (“thirst”) conveys a sense of being inwardly parched and dried out. Khénutha (“righteousness”) literally means the base of justice on which something can rest. It is the perfect stability that results from bringing all points of view to the table to be considered equally. The word refers to both an inner and outer justice—a foundation of fairness and equity within one’s self and one’s community. Nihsb’un (“filled” / “satisfied”) presents another Aramaic planting/harvesting image. It can mean “surrounded by fruit,” “encircled by birthing,” and “embraced by generation.” This saying could be restated as: Fully mature are those who intently yearn for a foundation of justice where the different parts of themselves can come together and be heard, both within their own psyche and their outer community; they will find themselves surrounded by creative solutions.
tubwayhun l’yléyn d’khafnin w’ts-héyn l’khénu-tha, d’ hihnon nihs-b’ ‘un.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for a foundation of peace between the warring parts of themselves; they shall find all around them the materials to build it.”

(Translation and commentary by Neil Douglas-Klotz, from “Prayers of the Cosmos”- ©1990)
11. Ze Eli Meode (This Is My Supreme God)
Traditional: from Thesaurus of Oriental Hebrew Melodies, Vol. II: Songs of the Babylonian Jews, no. 163 Collected by Abraham Z. Idelsohn

Like “Ashir shirim,” this wedding song compares the love and joy that is shared by the groom and bride to the relationship between God and the Jewish people.

Ze eli meode na‘ala, aqad-dém panaw’ bih-thehil-la. Na yasis ‘alai begh-ihla, begh-ihla uve-tsohola kime-sose hatan’ ‘al kal-la.

This is my supreme God. I will face Him with glory. May he rejoice in me with happiness, rejoicing with happiness in his people like a groom rejoices in his bride.

(translation by Sara Purcell)
12. Tubwayhun L’miskeneh’eh B’ruh (Blessed are those who hold fast to the Spirit of Life)
Text from the Aramaic Peshitta, Matthew 5:3 Melody composed of Hebrew motives in the ancient Dorian tetrachord by Christopher Moroney

This Beatitude has been translated: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (KJV) The Aramaic word for poor, miskeneh’eh, carries the meaning of holding fast to something, in recognition of how much one needs that thing and would be “poor” without it. The word ruhh can be translated as “spirit,” “breath,” “soul”—that which links us to the source of life. Malkuta (“kingdom”) is a word Jesus often used. It’s roots point to a sense of empowerment and vision.

The word malkuta is also gendered feminine in Aramaic and would more accurately be translated as “queendom.” D’shmaya, usually translated as “heaven,” has the meaning of light, sound, name, or atmosphere that extends without limit. One possible restatement of this saying could be: Complete and whole are those who hold fast to their connection with the source of life: for theirs is the empowering vision of the universe.

Tubwayhun l’mihskene’uh b’ruh; d’ dihl-hunhi malkuto d’sh-mayo.

“Blessed are those who devotedly hold fast to the spirit of life; to them belong the inner kingdom and queendom of heaven.”

(Translation and commentary by Neil Douglas-Klotz, from “Prayers of the Cosmos”- ©1990)
13. B’tseth Isra’el, Psalm 114 (When Israel went forth from Egypt)
Text from The Bible: Psalm 114
(Fanfare trumpet played by David Smith.)
Melody: Sephardic Psalmody & Gregorian Chant (Liber Usualis: “In Exitu Israel,” Tonus Peregrinus)

This melody was preserved by Jews and Christians independently of each other in the Middle Ages as both a Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) cantillation in Hebrew (B’tseth Isra’el ), and a Roman Catholic plainchant in Latin (In Exitu Israel). The two chants are identical textually and musically, which could point to a common origin in the ancient Judean Temple before the Christian and Jewish faiths split into separate streams. According to the Mishna (Mishna Tamid V), before the Levites began to sing the daily Psalm, two priests took their stand at the altar and started to blow the trumpets tekia-terua-tekia (a pattern of a long note followed by either short staccato notes or a tremolo on one sustained note, followed by another long note). Following this, the cymbal player sounded his cymbal and the Levites began the musical performance.

B’tséth Isra’él mim-mits-rayim
béth Ya‘aqov mé‘am lo‘ez ha-y’tha y’huda l’qadsho,
Isra’él mam-sh’lo-thau hay-yam ra’ah way-yanos.
Hay-yardén yis-sov l’ahor
heharim raq’du kh’élim g’va‘oth kivnéy-tson.
Mal’kha hay-yam ki thanus
Hay-yardén tis-sov l’ahor
heharim tir-q’du kh’élim g’va‘oth kivnéy-tson-
Mil-lifnéy adon huli arets
mil-lifnéy eloha Ya‘aqov,
haho-f’khi hatsur agam mayim
halamish l’ma‘-y’noayim.

When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech, Judah became His sanctuary, Israel, His dominion. The sea saw them and fled, Jordan ran backward, mountains skipped like rams, hills like sheep. What alarmed you, O sea, that you fled, Jordan, that you retreated, mountains, that you skipped like rams, like sheep- Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flinty rock into a fountain.

(Translation from the King James version of the Bible)
14. Tubwayhun Lawileh (Blessed are they that mourn) Text from the Aramaic Peshitta, Matthew 5:4 Melody composed of Hebrew motives in the ancient Phrygian tetrachord by Christopher Moroney
This Beatitude has been translated, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (KJV) The Aramaic word l’bwileh (“mourners”) carries the sense of those who long deeply for something to occur, those troubled and in emotional turmoil, or those with an emotional sensitivity or tenderness. Nithbw’yeun (“comforted”) connotes being returned from wandering, united inside by love, and feeling an inner continuity. This can be restated as: Whole are they whose hearts are open to the depths of their emotions; they will come home to the love that flows within them. Tubwayhun l’bwile; d’hinon nith-bw’yun. “Blessed are those in emotional turmoil; they shall be united inside by love.” (Translation and commentary by Neil Douglas-Klotz, from “Prayers of the Cosmos”- ©1990)
15. note - audio clip Bircath Cohenim (reprise) Numbers 6:24-26

Melody deciphered from the Masoretic canti llation symbols of the Bible by Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura ©Choudens Edition, Paris, France

Y’varekh-kha adonai w’yish-m’rekha yah’ér adonai panaw eley-kha wihun-neka. Yis-sa adonai pahnaw eley-kha w’yasém l’kha shalom.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord shine His face upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His face upon you and give you peace.’

Translations by Christopher Moroney unless otherwise noted.

SAVAE / San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble

The San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble (SAVAE) made its debut in 1989 with a concert at San Antonio’s historic San Fernando Cathedral. In the years that have followed, the ensemble has presented concerts in cities across the United States— from New York to Seattle. With its home in America’s most colorful Latino city, it is no surprise that SAVAE is best known for its recordings of early music from Latin America. Three best-selling recordings, including the Billboard charting Guadalupe: Virgen de los Indios, have won national attention and critical acclaim.

SAVAE has been featured on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, Sound and Spirit, Latino USA, and Weekend Edition. The nationally broadcast program for early music, Harmonia, featured the ensemble in a program of Middle Eastern music entitled “Music of the Light.” Feature stories about SAVAE have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Kansas City Star, The Houston Chronicle, and The Austin American Statesman. The well-regarded publication, Early Music America published an interview with SAVAE artistic Director Christopher Moroney.

Founded by multi-talented musicians, SAVAE is credited as being “equally adept at fa-la-la and sha-na-na.” The ensemble has been praised for mastering the “organ-like tone, exquisite balances and wonderfully feathered dynamics” of Renaissance music; and for “astonishing precision, purity, and style.” As a complement to its carefully-crafted vocal work, the ensemble accompanies its performances on reproductions of ancient wind, string and percussion instruments. In 2000 World Library Publications issued Artistic Director Christopher Moroney’s vocal/instrumental arrangements for SAVAE.


English translations and commentary of the Aramaic prayers are by Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz. The Beatitudes are reprinted from “Prayers of the Cosmos” ©1990, HarperCollins. The Lord’s Prayer is from “Desert Wisdom” ©1995, HarperCollins.

Our additional thanks to Saadi and Kamae for sharing their insights into Middle Eastern spirituality and prayer.

CD liner notes compiled and written by Covita & Christopher Moroney with our thanks to Rabbi Monty Eliasov, A. Z. Idelsohn, Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz, and Sara Purcell. And thanks to many others, not listed here, who supported this work.

Our thanks to: Rabbi Monty Eliasov, for his many contributions to our understanding of the language and culture of the Second Temple; Rabbi Julie Danan, for extending open-hearted hospitality to us at Congregation Beth Am in San Antonio; Diana Samuels, who patiently taught us to read Hebrew and also provided music and language resources; and to Sara Purcell for help with translations and for restoring several of Idelsohn’s transliterations back to the original Hebrew script.

A heartfelt “thanks and blessings” to Barbie Gorelick for her stewardship of the Tri-Faith Dialogue of San Antonio — and to the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim brothers and sisters who participate.

Our deep gratitude to Hallelujah Kahlil Khalil, our Egyptian phonetics coach, for the hundreds of hours spent teaching us to read and pronounce an ancient form of Arabic that developed near Babylon.

Our sincere gratitude goes to Angela Mariani, who produced the recording sessions, for bringing out the best in each of our performances in the studio.

Before we had even a single note of music for this recording, several people provided key spiritual inspiration, professional encouragement, and a pathway toward an authentic musical approach.

The Reverend Ann Helmke loaned us a small book, “Prayers of the Cosmos,” which immediately inspired our belief in the possibility of recreating music Jesus might have heard. (The oil lamp on the CD cover was a gift from Ann.)

Ben Tavera King, owner of Talking Taco/Iago Records (SAVAE’s first three recordings are on this label), urged us to go forward from the moment we first mentioned the idea. Ben immediately began loaning us the instruments we needed, and recordings of Middle Eastern music.

Jeff Senn’s “Jas’s Middle Eastern Drum Page” on the internet was a great help in identifying the rhythms used. David vanAbbema of Temple Beth El in San Antonio graciously provided us with our first tangible piece, “B’tseth Israel.” Dr. John Silantien has had a fundamental influence on SAVAE’s approach to ensemble singing—we all have had the privilege of singing under his baton.

Finally, an enormous debt of gratitude goes to Mark Dunn, Editor at Transcontinental Publications in New York, who made his complete set of rare and out of print volumes of Abraham Z. Idelsohn’s Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies available to SAVAE for this project.

The enthusiasm of our colleagues at World Library Publications has been a gift to SAVAE. From the day that Les Stahl first heard about our interest in recording music from the Holy Land—to the present—he has maintained enough excitement for everyone! Ron Rendek made a rigorous week of recording, with all of its long hours, a wonderful experience. And Mary Prete continues to demonstrate her conviction that this music deserves to be heard. Many others at the company have been working behind the scenes, and we extend sincere thanks to our new family at WLP.

Without the ongoing support of our families and friends the members of SAVAE could not have devoted the time and energy needed to prepare for this recording. Thanks and blessings to y’all for taking on additional babysitting duties, and for holding down the fort while we are out on the road.


The spiritual grandeur of the Temple... the earthy simplicity of a caravan campfire... the refined formality of Herod’s court. The music on “Ancient Echoes” hopes to capture the atmosphere of these contrasting settings that existed in the Holy Land two thousand years ago. Yet, there is little precise knowledge of the music that flourished prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 c.e.. How can one hope to recreate it-

By studying archeological findings—illustrations etched in stone, sculpture, coins, and musical instrument—as well as written historical accounts and biblical texts, one can weave the clues together. But for this recording SAVAE’s most significant resource was the landmark work by musicologist A.Z. Idelsohn.

In addition to the musical challenges, the ancient pronunciation of Hebrew and Aramaic is uncertain. In order to approach these dialects SAVAE studied Hebrew, Aramaic, and Quranic Arabic with native speakers and scholars. Enriched by history and Idelsohn’s vast body of work—and inspired by the guidance of our teachers—SAVAE began to listen for the “ancient echoes” from the Holy Land in order to recreate its music.


The instruments that SAVAE plays on “Ancient Echoes” consist of instruments which are modern reproductions of those thought to have existed in 1 c.e., in addition to traditional Middle Eastern instruments in use today which have evolved over centuries—but whose history is vague.