Sacred Service, Oratorio
A recording of Sacred Service from a 1959 live concert:
Marc Lavry, Conductor
Joshua Zohar, Baritone
Kol Zion Lagola Choir (The Broadcasting Service Choir)
Kol Israel Symphony Orchestra (The Broadcasting Service Orchestra)
Lyrics: Hebrew Liturgy
Publisher: The Marc Lavry Heritage Society
Sacred Service was commissioned by Cantor Reuben Rinder of Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco to set music to the synagogue’s Sabbath services.
This was the third time that Cantor Reuben Rinder of Temple Emanu-El of San Francisco commissioned a work titled “Sacred Service”, or Avodath Hakodesh, based on texts from the Siddur, a Jewish prayer book. The first composer to compose it in 1933 was Ernest Bloch, the second, in 1947, was Darius Milhaud. Lavry was commissioned in 1955.
The composition consists of two parts: the Friday evening (Sabbath Eve) and Saturday morning services, each one compiled of a number of prayers.
The rhythm of the words and tone of the passages were Lavry’s inspiration for the music. Many reviewers commented that even without listening to the words they could hear the prayers in the notes.
Lavry became so involved with the project that while writing the composition he remembered some of his father’s chants, which can be heard in Echad Hu Eloheinu (Our God is One).
When writing the Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel) prayer Lavry felt so much in awe that he chose an intimate and humble music where the cantor practically recites the words while the choir joins in a murmur.
The finale movement, the Halleluiah, brings the typical Lavry characteristics where both the choir and orchestra rejoice an ecstatic rhythmical dance.
Anecdote: the image at the top of this page is a painting by Marc Lavry on the theme of Sacred Service.