Saturday, 7 March 2009

Dear Mr Bernstein

Tonight my choir will be singing your Chichester Psalms. I'm really looking forward to it, but I have a few problems with lyrics to your score. It's in Hebrew and I'm a Jew, surely I shouldn't have problems?

Please tell me who did the transliteration of the Hebrew into the Roman alphabet. It's the first time I've sung in Hebrew for over 20 years, but I'm sure this is the first time I've seen a chai written as an "h" with a dot underneath. Why haven't you used the more traditional "ch", as in the Scottish word "loch"? You use it some of the time, maybe 20% of the chai's are written that way. As a result, most of my colleagues are singing anachnu as "anahu", which is totally wrong. (Anachnu translates as "our".)

Also, you have totally screwed up the stresses of the words, particularly in the middle of the first movement. You're a Jew. You must know that Hebrew frequently stresses the second to last syllable of a word, just like Italian does. And yet, when you get to the bit that goes bar'chu sh'mo, the stresses are all in the wrong place making it really difficult to sing and make sense of singing. Why? Did you expect your non-Jewish choristers to just wing it? If it's hard for me (and at least I know what the words should sound like), it's even harder for them.

Finally (and this isn't your fault), do you know how hard it is to not sing the very last verse as:

Ma tov, umah
naim. Shevet achim gam yahad.*

to the theme from the Flintstones? Every time we've rehearsed it, I drive home singing that.

- Pam

"Behold how good and how pleasant it is for breathren to dwell together in unity" per my score.

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