A Setting of the Psalms by Bernstein Makes for Serene Listening

Daniel Hughes leads The Choral Project in a performance of Bernstein's 'Chichester Psalms' in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz (Photo: Courtesy of The Choral Project )

The South Bay’s Choral Project is celebrating Leonard Bernstein on his 100th birthday with a concert titled the Art of Sound, featuring the serene and lovely Chichester Psalms. This commission from Chichester Cathedral in England features music cut from Bernstein's West Side Story, but the highlight for me is "Psalm 23," written for countertenor or boy singer, meant to sound like the voice of young King David.

In Psalms, Bernstein is wrestling with his Jewish identity (which he did often). The lyrics are in Hebrew, and the text pulls the music toward optimism and hope. The chorus sings in the closing verses, "Behold how good, and how pleasant it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity." Good advice for our partisan times.

Details on the Choral Project's performances on Feb. 10 and 11 are here.

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