People of the Book – A New work by Henning Sommerro

From an early age I have been fascinated by Jewish history and culture and was therefore very delighted to receive a commission to compose a work for the tenth anniversary of The Jewish Festival in Trondheim. The history and culture of the Jews includes many of the world’s most prominent figures in literature, art, and music; the latter was of especial inspiration to me, naturally enough: composers such as Mahler, Gershwin and Bernstein have added motivation and colour on my path towards this composition.

The creative process began with an idea to write something relating to Jacob’s wife Lea and their daughter Dina, but in the course of subsequent research I came across texts by the Spanish poet and philosopher Judah Halevi and the German-Swedish poet Nelly Sachs. I decided to abandon the Old Testament family in favour of pursuing longer lines: a journey through the multifaceted history of the Jewish people. The number seven, symbolized by the seven-branched menorah, is a central element in the composition. The work comprises seven movements for seven musicians; to make the music more user friendly, however, I have also written a version for clarinet and piano which will be performed on the second day of the festival. With the exception of the scoring, the two works are identical; they both include a singer who sings four different texts in English and German: an Old Testament text by Moses, a text by Judah Halevi, and two poems by Nelly Sachs. These texts give life to the several thousand-year-old journey of the Jewish people, respectfully referred to in the Koran as the People of the Book, as they travelled through light and darkness. At the conclusion, the exclamation Mazel tov can be heard, a phrase used to express congratulations on joyful occasions, and a tribute on my part as befits a tenth anniversary!

The seven movements are:
I People of the Book
II I will Sing…(Words: Moses)
III The Wanderers
IV He Sleeps… (Words: Judah Halavi)
V Night
VI If only I knew…(Words: Nelly Sachs)
VII Mazel tov (Words: Nelly Sachs)

The anniversary was in 2020, but because of the pandemic, the celebration was postponed to September 2021.
Durata: 35 min.

Program – Jødisk Kulturfestival Trondheim (jkfest.no)

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