Nigunim and Other Melodies for Organ (2022)   

for organ


After a tour last weekend of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, founded in 1749 in Charleston, and a look to its small organ façade in the balcony, and with reminiscences of so many fine musicians with whom I have worked, the notion of composing a number of essays for a small organ -- few registration changes -- came to mind. Included are treatments of some Chassidic nigunim as well as known tunes and meditations.


Of the organ in synagogues, which some find unusual, there is a centuries' long tradition in Europe. One reads, "Still in the 17th century, but in Prague this time, the singers of the prayer Barukh she-Amar (Mezammerei Barukh she-Amar) performed instrumental music in the synagogue every Friday afternoon. Abraham Levi of Amsterdam, who was passing through Prague between 1719 et 1724, noticed that 'the cantors also used organs, cymbals, harpsichords and string [instruments] every Friday for the welcoming of the Sabbath ; they sang not only Lekhah dodi with these instruments, but they continued to play and sing a pot-pourri of fine melodies for more than an hour'. Such practices also took place regularly in the synagogues of Frankfort, Nikolsburg and many other towns" In "The Organ in the Jewish Tradition," by Hervé Roten, Institut Européen des Musiques Juives, n. d.


On "Darkecho Elokeinu" in a melody favored in the Chabad movement, the melody is presented, ornamented and rhythmic, after a short introduction of the minor 'freygish' -- other variant spellings of this term are often seen -- mode with its distinctive augmented second which so well flavors these wordless tunes.


i. On "Darkecho Elokeinu"


4 pages, circa 3' 00" an MP3 demo is here: 


ii.  On "Nigun Simchoh"


On "Nigun Simchoh" is another of the nigunim which the East European tradition has spawned, its lively appoggiaturas in the melody line meant to "chirp" in the playful way of a klezmer clarinetist. A wordless melody of joy should dance as the pedal line punctuates as if a pizzicato bass.


3 pages, circa 3' 45" an MP3 demo is here: 


iii.   Dveikut I


Dveikut I is a motet-like texture with ornamented line atop.  Of the concept carried in its various transliterations, such as "devekut," one reads, "Both the noun devekut and its three-letter (in Hebrew) verb davok have several theological and mystical meanings in kabalistic literature. Sometimes it means no more than 'being near to' or 'to cleave.' However, the most usual meaning of this term, if it can be said to have a usual meaning, is "'communion with God,' which is achieved mainly during the time of prayer or meditation before prayer through using the right kavvanot, the mystical interpretations and meanings given to the words of prayer." In "Devekut," Jewish Virtual Library, n. d.


1 page, circa 2' 15" an MP3 demo is here: 


iv. On "Nigun LeShabbos Veyom Tov"


Of the melody as root for "On "Nigun LeShabbos Veyom Tov" one reads from Chabad, this melody is "...expressing the longing of the soul to be closer to its Creator." Again the freygish minor mode conveys the flavor of this melody.



3 pages, circa 3' 45" an MP3 demo is here: 


v.  On "Nigun Hakafos"


A short allegro in A minor freygish enthusiastically sings, according to Chabad, "an exciting, joyous melody in two sections, generally sung at Hakofot on Simchat Torah." Again the appogiaturas attempt to mimic the klezmer style within this more controlled "Baroque" texture.


2 pages, circa 1' 30" an MP3 demo is here: 


vi.  Dveikut II


A second meditation, Dveikut II, uses the augmented second alternating with the more expected second of the various scales in use.

1 pages, circa 2' 15" an MP3 demo is here: 


vii.  On "Yism'chu"


The well-known melody, as marked by "solo" in the third measure then passes between the staves, the counterpoint sometimes above and sometimes beneath it. This arrangement is straight forward and sectional as is the melody. Enjoy.


3 pages, circa 2' 15" an MP3 demo is here: 


viii.   On "Nigun Rostov"


Of this melody, Chabad tells, ""The Rebbe 'Rashab' was fond of this melody and sang it often. During World-War I, he left his native city of Lubavitch and settled in (in southern Russia), where he resided until his passing in 5680 (1920). It is therefore known as the Rostover Nigun - melody. The melody is usually sung before the Rebbe began his Torah or Chassidic discourses." The "chirp" of the 32nd notes as decoration are meant as imitation of a vocal glottal style of singing.


4 pages, circa 2' 30" an MP3 demo is here: 


ix.   On "V'shamru"


This later 20th century melody, in contrast to some of the far older melodies, was written by Moshe Rothblum, who served for years at Adat Ari El alongside Alan Michelson, one of my teachers from so long ago. Rabbi and Cantor, they were a fine team for the congregation for many years. The tune became immediately popular throughout the Southland then, and now has found far wider appeal. The refrain is interrupted by episodes in this setting which are each slightly longer than the one before and in a lightly ornamental style.


4 pages, circa 3' 00" an MP3 demo is here: 


x.   Dveikut III


The pedal is marked as for 8' only to act as the additional "closed" chord voicing in this tune "expressing the longing of the soul to be closer to its Creator."


1 page, circa 2' 00" an MP3 demo is here: 


xi.    On "Shabat shalom"


This tune with its quasi-Baroque setting and fughetta which follows is lively, a wish sung in that allegretto giocoso which should bring joy.



4 pages, circa 3' 00" an MP3 demo is here: 


The score for these eleven pieces is 30 pages in length, and playing time is about 30 minutes in toto.


The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this organ score.


Nigunim and Other Melodies for Organ