David Chevan's "Yizkor" on YouTube
About two weeks ago, on Monday, April 16, I had the opportunity to premiere Yizkor: Music of Memory and Mourning, a memorial concert I composed for cantor and jazz ensemble. The lyrics for the pieces all come from the Yizkor service (the Jewish memorial service) and the music that I composed is a mixture of jazz-inflected melodies and rhythms and chazzanut-the often highly melismatic and distinctive traditional singing style used by cantors-a style that dominated their singing more in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century. One of my compositional goals was to reinvigorate this now less commonly used singing style by putting it into a new context. The other was to create a modern Jewish memorial work.
For the past three months I rehearsed the music with Cantor Martin Levson and members of the Afro-Semitic Experience. We gave the premiere performance at my school, Southern Connecticut State University to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. The event was recorded and videotaped. Thanks to modern technology I can share some of that event with you. Two of the pieces are now posted on YouTube so that you can see and hear this music.
Yizkor for Martyrs
April 16, the day that we performed this piece, was also the day of the shootings at Virginia Tech University. Many of those in attendance at the Holocaust Memorial program were aware of the shootings and the peculiar coincidence of an already planned memorial service was not lost on most of us. One colleague later wrote to me, "It is an eerie coincidence about the performance and the events of the day on Monday. I found it particularly ironic that one of the victims at VTech was a holocaust survivor. Maybe in some way Yizkor was for him."