A Word from the Composer: Samuel Adler

A Word from the Composer: Samuel Adler

Samuel Adler, 
Mannheim, Germany, March 4, 1928

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness” has been my motto when composing for sacred texts, since I believe music is the effective and powerful vehicle with which one can create an atmosphere conducive to worship. Very early in life, my father, who was a cantor and a fine composer of Jewish liturgical music, taught me two important lessons. First, he instilled in me a love and understand- ing of my Jewish heritage, its liturgy, its literature, its music, its customs, and its values. Second, he taught that there are “many paths to God” and with this philosophy must come a respect, an in-depth understand- ing, and a celebration of one’s neigh- bor’s religious beliefs and observances. These two teachings have enabled me to write music for both synagogue and church with full conviction and ardor. In my view, an expression of ecumenism is of primary importance today since our world seems to be constantly shrinking and all of us are living closer together and need to understand one another more profoundly in a spiritual sense. When we are able to celebrate the highest within us all, our world will be a better and more peaceful place. As a composer, I have to remember only one other Hebrew admonition when composing a sacred text, and that is “Know before whom you stand” so as to try my very best. 

Some of the works contained on this recording are based on traditional Hebrew biblical cantillation. Pieces like A Prophecy of Peace, Psalm 24, as well as the setting of the Mah Tovu make use of the cantillation formulas, while others are simply free compositions inspired by either secular spiritual poems, or by biblical passages and other sacred texts. The Transfiguration Mass is my attempt to express my sincere belief in ecumenism. The texts combine the traditional Catholic texts of the Missa Brevis with a secular spiritual poem, plus prayers in English from the Protestant and the Jewish liturgies. The work was commissioned by Gloriae Dei Cantores and the Community of Jesus in celebration of the completion and dedication of their Church of the Transfiguration in 2000.

My long association with the wonderful choir Gloriae Dei Cantores, its out- standing director Elizabeth Patterson and their fine organists James Jordan, SharonRose Pfeiffer, and David Chalmers has been a most fruitful and inspiring one for me. I am grateful for their continuing devotion to my music and feel fortunate to have this dynamic and dedicated chorus perform it with such outstanding results.


Previous article A Word from the Composer: Alan Hovhaness