The Hush of Midnight: An American S’lichot Service

Hush of Midnight.jpg

For Download

Setting: SATB, Solo, Unison

Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate

Number of Pages: 34


Charles Davidson

Winner of the Television Media Award.

This hour-long service is based on traditional nusah ha-tefillah and text for Selihot, with additional texts by Ruth F. Brinn, to be sung by Cantor and congregation. The music is memorable, contemporary and easy to sing.

This is a wonderful opportunity to involve the congregation in interactive prayer. Cantor and congregation together lead the service. With simple planning and rehearsals designed to familiarize the congregation with their parts, you can make this year’s Selihot experience one that will become a traditional favorite. It is easy to teach with simple harmony parts, and can be supplemented by an adult choir, children’s choir or a combined choir. Congregational booklets in Hebrew and English are essential for a complete worship experience.

Cantor, congregation, guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard.

Contact publisher for congregational booklets, instrumental parts and ordering complete packages (includes full score, vocal scores, congregational booklets, instrumental parts).

Additional notes and all tracks from the Milken Archives:

Liner Notes

The Hebrew word s’liḥot refers to the collective penitential liturgy, the daily recitation of which commences prior to Rosh Hashana and continues through Yom Kippur. The s’liot are generally recited just prior to dawn as vigils (ashmurot), preceding shaharit, or the morning service. In Ashkenazi custom (outside specifically Hassidic circles and some communities in Israel), the first such recitation has come to take the form of a formal service, beginning at or just after midnight on the Saturday night—technically, Sunday morning—prior to Rosh Hashana. It thus serves as an inauguration of the penitential season. (If Rosh Hashana falls on a Monday or Tuesday, that service is held on the previous Saturday midnight.) In common parlance, this inaugural service is often called simply s’liḥot, although its proper title is either “the First s’liḥot” or “s’liḥot for the First Day [of s’liḥot recitations],” since it actually marks the first of the series of those daily predawn recitations in spiritual preparation for the High Holy Days and their focus on repentance and renewal. A full discussion of this service from traditional perspectives, as well as the history of the s’liḥot liturgy, will be found in the explanatory notes in Volume 3, which includes a complete “first s’liḥot” service according to Orthodox and traditional practice.

Charles Davidson’s 1966 The Hush of Midnight could not be more divergent in its musical reinterpretation, illustrating the broad range of styles and approaches to synagogue music that has characterized the composite American Jewish experience. In this modern adaptation of the s’liḥot service—which includes only a small portion of the s’liḥot liturgy, along with new verse by the 20th-century poet Ruth Brin (1921–2009)—the composer reveals aesthetic originality and explores late-1960s popular music trends and sensibilities, all within the scope of a unified service. “A combination of traditional cantorial chant with the musical vernacular of our day,” is how Davidson has described the work.

The Hush of Midnight is marked by the well-crafted employment of melodic repetition and rhythm, elements of cantorial intonation, reference to the traditionally prescribed prayer modes, and a musical flexibility that mirrors the fluctuating accentuation of the Hebrew texts. Its overall style falls under the umbrella of “folk rock” music, although Davidson has characterized it as “a rock-cantorial prayer experience.”

At the time of its conception, Davidson referred to this work as “a service for our time,” calling for an “assembly youthful in spirit,” cantor or cantorial solo, guitars, piano, and drums. “The poignant cries of past suffering and the suggestion of bodies swaying in prayer do not lurk unabashedly in the background,” he has explained. “They proclaim themselves over the beating of drums and the throbbing electric guitars.”

Davidson’s objective in this work was to transform a collection of the s’liḥot that, when combined with Brin’s reflective poetry, would produce a unified prayer experience that reflects the tone of the midnight service. “Above all, it is a service designed for participation,” he underscores, “with the intent of trying to establish a dialogue between man and his Creator.”

Listen to Shomer Yisrael and Avenu Malkenu below.


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