This morning I’m writing chapter 14 of Exodus:

And Moses stretched out his hand, and a strong wind blew all night, and dried up the sea. And the children of Israel came into the sea on dry land, and [this bit is recited with the special tune for the Song of the Sea] the waters were like walls to them, on their right and on their left, וְהַמַּיִם לָהֶם חוֹמָה מִימִינָם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָם.

It so happens this morning that while I’m writing this piece, I’m listening to the last movement of Berlioz’s Te Deum, Judex crederis, which is remarkably well-placed as an accompaniment to this particular piece of Torah. Have a listen:

Berlioz scored the Te Deum for two orchestras, three choirs, and an enormous organ, which makes it sufficiently breathtaking for the scene at the Sea, all that water and all those people and the mighty strength of God through-and-over all.

The text is pretty appropriate too; in English it starts We believe that you will come to be our judge. We therefore pray you help your servants…. Full English and Latin here.* Berlioz’s musical interpretation certainly reflects how I think the children of Israel must have been feeling at that point. Right at the end, when all the choirs and all the instruments combine in this enormous cry of In te Domine speravi, non confundar in æternum! (O Lord, in you have I trusted, let me never be confounded) as the waters tower over them and the warriors follow them and the strong winds blow and the trop changes to the slow, sweeping, dramatic cadences of the Song of the Sea…

* I admit the bit about redeeming with blood is rather Christian, but it’s not too bad, especially given the blood of the Exodus, and the rest of the text is spot on really.

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February 2017

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