Music Thursday: “The Rabbi’s Wedding at the Palmerston Street Shul”

Not long ago, Spotify’s algorithms had the good taste to suggest a particular song to me: Srul Irving Glick’s “The Rabbi’s Wedding at the Palmerston Street Shul,” movement III of his “Old Toronto Klezmer Suite,” performed by Angele Dubeau. I had never heard it before.

But before we dive into the song itself, who was Srul Irving Glick? In a word, one of Canada’s greatest composers. Born in Toronto in 1934 to a Jewish family, Glick composed hundreds of pieces for all manner of instrumentation, from guitars to full orchestras to choirs. His music retains the traditional sound of Toronto’s Jewish community–his father was a cantor, and Glick composed a great number of liturgical works for synagogue use.

According to The Glick Society’s website, Glick began studying piano at the age of 12. By 15, he knew he wanted to be a composer (and not a concert pianist). He dedicated the rest of his life to this pursuit, and was awarded the prestigious Yuval Award by the Cantor’s Assembly of America (among other accolades) before his death in 2002. For a more complete biography, click here

Glick first wrote the “Old Toronto Klezmer Suite” itself in 1998 for pianist Catherine Wilson and her group “Ensemble Vivant.” Of the piece, he said, “This work is based on klezmer style in a chamber music idiom. I wanted to express my deep love for the city of Toronto. I wrote this quintet for pianist Catherine Wilson and her Friends, performing the violin, viola, cello and double bass. Each movement reflects reminiscences of some aspect of my growing up in Toronto.”

“The Rabbi’s Wedding at the Palmerston Street Shul” is the fourth movement of the suite. Here it is performed by violinist Angele Dubeau and her own ensemble “La Pieta.” As for the song itself–the haunting melody first hooked my attention, but the transition to energetic Jewish dance in the second half cemented my enjoyment. What fun! Now, enjoy it for yourself:

 (Can’t see the video? Click here)

Music Thursday: "Miserere Mei"

Good morning! Today is Music Thursday…not because of any particular musical association with Thursdays, but because I wanted to share a particular song I like. I’m intentional like that.

That song is Miserere Mei, a falsobordone setting (setting being the setting of a psalm to music, falsobordone being a style of musical recitation in the 15th-18th centuries) of Psalm 51, written by Gregorio Allegri around 1638.

I first heard the piece at a local choral concert with a friend–its strong melodies and haunting harmonies stuck in my mind, and I underlined it in the program to look up when I got home. Although I’ve since listened to it repeatedly, I never knew anything about it until this morning, when I looked it up to share with you.

 Allegri (1582-1652), an Italian priest and composer, wrote the work “on his own time”–or rather, not for a particular commission. Soon, however, his music caught the ear of Pope Urban VIII, who secured an appointment for him in the choir of the Sistine Chapel. He held this position until his death.

The Miserere itself offers a double-choir version of Psalm 51; one choir sings it chant-style and the other adds melodic embellishment…this is what creates that exquisite tapestry of sound. At some point after its writing (and for unknown reasons), the Misererei was forbidden to be transcribed and published (!!!) and  allowed to be sung only in the Sistine Chapel itself.

This continued until, as legend has it, a young composer by the name of Mozart visited the Sistine Chapel in 1770. After hearing the piece only twice, he transcribed it accurately from memory and took it home. Since then, the piece has spread through the world, with ornamentation added by performers until became what it is today.

Sharing it with you today is an appropriate coincidence, as the piece was traditionally performed during Holy Week back in the Sistine Chapel days. Here, the King’s College Choir gives it at Easter, in the King’s College chapel:

Psalm 51 itself holds one of my favorite verses, and many more that have been a mainstay of the Church for millenia:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”  Psalm 51:10-11

What a beautiful ode Miserere is to this heart-felt, repentant Psalm. The Psalmist earnestly desires to serve the Lord with a pure heart, not half-way and steeped in sin. Praise the Lord for His incredible sacrifice at the Cross–the meaning of Easter, and the reason this song was sung–which enables us to live that Spirit-given, Spirit-filled victory over sin! I pray this song blesses you as much as it did me.