Excerpt: Psalm 61, verses 2-5 performed by Scottish Voices, conductor Graham Hair


Instrumentation: SSAA vocal quartet + harp
Duration: 15:00
Commission: Scottish Voices
Premiere: 8/30/11
Scottish Voices, Graham Hair, Conductor
Opening Concert
VIIth International Interdisciplinary Conference on Musicology
Glasgow University Chapel
Glasgow, Scotland

View Score | Purchase Music

Program Note:

Selah, scored for female vocal quartet (or potentially women’s chorus) and harp, was commissioned by Scottish Voices and their conductor Graham Hair on the occasion of the VIIth International Interdisciplinary Conference in Musicology in Glasgow, and is dedicated to them. It is a setting of verses of the following psalms in the original Hebrew: 46, verses 2-8; 13, verses 2-6; 61, verses 2-5; and 148, verses 1-4, 7-13. The title refers to the word found at the end of numerous verses, including a number of those in the psalms listed above. Its exact meaning is a mystery, but I was drawn to the idea that it means something like “stop and listen,” though its etymology is a mystery. It is, in any case, a rhythmically strong stop to the line it follows. The verses themselves are filled with poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, and repetition, as well as vivid and moving metaphors. I have tried to project these in the shape and flow of the music. The choice of psalms traces both attributes of and relationships with God, ranging from gratitude for His strength and support to supplication, from questioning despair to joyful celebration. I would like to thank my husband, Michael Kubovy, for his unstinting assistance with the Hebrew. For additional information, visit –JS

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