The world premiere performance of the peace cantata “Halelu” took place on May 19, 2007 in Belgrade, Serbia. The 40-minute composition for solo voices, chorus and orchestra is the collaborative effort of Israeli vocalist/composer David D’Or and myself.
The concert was produced and organized by the Embassy of Israel in Serbia with support of the Israeli-Serbian Business Fund to commemorate the 59th Independence Day of Israel.
Mr. D’Or, one of Israel’s most prominent artists, was joined by soprano Seiko Lee as vocal soloist. I conducted the combined forces of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra and the 120-voice choir of the Academic Cultural Artistic Society. The audience of 2,500 included the Ambassador of Israel to Serbia, H.E. Yaffa Ben-Ari, and Princess Jelisaveta of the Yugoslav Royal Family.
The concert was held at the Sava Arts Center in Belgrade and televised to six other Eastern European countries. Future performances are planned for Jerusalem, the United States, Japan, Cyprus, South America and Ukraine.
David D’Or and I first met in Israel in September 2004 at a concert promoting interfaith harmony at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. It was held in conjunction with the Middle East Peace Initiative. David D’Or commented that this was one of the most uplifting concerts he had done in his distinguished career. “Based on the inspiration of that concert I felt compelled to contribute to the cause,” he explained, “and the best way for me to do that was to write music.”
After a subsequent meeting in New York early in 2005, we began a serious creative collaboration based on several musical themes that David D’Or had composed and sent me.
I was very taken by the richness of his melodic invention. It was a fantastic juxtaposing of several traditions. He was a musical Ambassador for Peace, bringing several traditions into harmony.
I remember feeling that some of it was very much like the music of Bach, perhaps the greatest of the church composers. It was deeply spiritual music and evoked the spirit of the most exalted musical expressions of that particular culture. Other themes were evocative of the modality of the Hebrew and Arabic traditions.
From March through August I arranged and orchestrated the music, and with the assistance of Seiko Lee, produced demos of the various movements, which were then sent to David D’Or for approval.
The music was recorded in Tel Aviv in 2006 with the Ra’anana Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia Chorus of Israel.
The music of “Halelu” is a fusion of diverse musical styles including Western tonality and Middle-Eastern modality and rhythms. It is sung in English, Hebrew, Arabic and Latin. The greetings of peace of Christianity, Judaism and Islam (peace, shalom, salaam aleikum) figure prominently in the lyrics of several movements. Psalm 113, “Praise the Lord” (sung in Hebrew by Mr. D’Or), is the basis of the fourth movement.
The ten-movement cantata expresses the composers’ desire to cultivate a culture of peace. On other occasions, the vocalists have used their music to bridge cultures. Mr. D’Or appeared with the Orchestra of the Beijing Opera in China as a cultural envoy between China and Israel, and Miss Lee has given three concerts in North Korea, a rarity for an artist from Japan, Korea’s historical enemy.
“My deepest desire is to build bridges through song,” Seiko Lee said. “I feel this is my mission. I hope the success of this concert will bring greater peace in this part of the world.”
At the heart of this musical endeavor is our fervent desire to promote understanding and reconciliation and encourage other artists to use their creative abilities to bridge cultures.