New Jewish Liturgical Music
Your Bountiful Light CD and Companion Book
“The music has vitality and invites even the most unmusical bystander to sing along.”
A Musical ‘Light’ on Hebrew Texts: Composer’s Work Sung by Congregations Nationwide
Washington Post Music Critic
“Norma Brooks has created a bridge that weaves the ancient words of Jewish liturgy with compelling melodies in a variety of musical styles. The result is both unique and unerringly right.”
Dr. Everett Fox
Professor of Judaic and Biblical Studies, Clark University MA
Norma Brooks began composing original Jewish liturgical music in 1984 for her Washington DC congregation Fabrangen. Her first composition, Ul’amtuye, was from the Aramaic text recited before reading the Torah, “May You bestow on us of Your bountiful light and receive our prayer in compassion.” The music became a regular part of Fabrangen’s Sabbath morning service and she has been composing Jewish liturgical music ever since.
Fabrangen’s tradition of shared leadership and egalitarian participation created a space for Norma’s new melodies. The study of the text always came first in her compositions. Throughout this process Rabbi Max Ticktin z”l, Dr. Esther Ticktin, Norman Shore, Rachel Braun, and Hazzan Dr. Ramón Tasat have mentored her on textual selection and interpretation. She immerses herself in the text, thinking about specific words or phrases that create meaning and mood in the context of the service. Through this process the text inspires her to compose melodies that gives the words new life.
Norma blends diverse styles of music: cantorial chazzanut, classical music, South American music, klezmer, blues, jazz, gospel and Hasidic nigunim. Hazzan Tasat remarked, “I immediately perceived one of Norma’s musical trademarks: her melodies ring true to the text…Norma has an inner ear attuned to the times, and she responds to text with a modernity that never compromises the integrity of the text. She is true to the best cantorial tradition which speaks incessantly to the heart. Her compositional output does not stop surprising us, challenging us, demanding from us the same level of emotional intensity that she pours into her music.”
In 2001, Hazzan Tasat produced 14 of Norma’s songs on the CD Your Bountiful Light, collecting these melodies in a companion songbook. The CD included arrangements by Hazzan Natasha J. Hirschhorn and Tasat and text translations by Dr. Everett Fox. The production of Your Bountiful Light was made possible only by Hazzan Tasat’s passionate commitment to the project. He created and directed the Bountiful Light Choir, which performed Norma’s music in a Washington, DC premiere at Tifereth Israel Congregation in March 2002. The Bountiful Light Choir performed Norma’s music at venues such as Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, the Park Slope Jewish Center in New York City, Beth El congregation in Massachusetts, Congregation Ohr Shalom in New Jersey, and many Jewish music festivals.