Excerpt from Union Hymnal: Songs and Prayers for Jewish Worship
One of the main purposes kept constantly in view was to make it as Jewish as possible, and thus meet one of the needs of our modern synagogal life, namely the adaptation of Jewish traditional music to the usage a... nd taste of our own days. This involves a two-fold question: what elements of synagogal melody best ex press our religious life in music employed by our congregations; and how shall we clothe them in harmony that shall reveal their own peculiar modal character and melodic contours? We would. Not assert that we have solved these two problems. Not only in this Hymnal, but in our religious-musical life in general, they are still far from a solution. But we have made an earnest efiort to proceed in this direction. We have called upon Jewish composers for aid. As noted elsewhere in this Preface, a considerable number of them contributed compositions to this collection. Composers were urged to utilize some of the wealth of synagogal melody. This plea found a ready response. Even a superficial glance through the contents of this volume indicates how many of the hymns are based upon traditional melodies.
The Committee moreover adopted a liberal attitude toward experiments in harmonization. Some of the hymns are not intended to be sung by four voices. Some are experiments, and attempt to make use of modern harmonic discoveries and apply them to the original or synagogal melodies employed. Some original compositions are frankly in the style of traditional Jewish music, and with varying success adopt its characteristic mood.
But we recognize that the needs and tastes of our congregations are not one, but many. A number of old and new hymns have been included which are in thegeneral tone, but which are not specifically Jewish. In the case of these, too, the Committee has exercised the utmost care. Although we must rely upon our own judgment and recognize our fallibility, we have tried to exclude all trivial and unworthy music. Every hymn was scrutinized with genuine care and accepted only after repeated tests had been made. In some cases hymns had to be set to music three or four times before the Committee was satisfied.
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