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Sefarađizo סאראיז

Sephardic Association of Órgiva

שׁוּבוּ אֵלַי

Shuvu ’Elay

Return To Me

This composition is dedicated to the exuberant singer, composer, and choir director Polina Skovoroda-Shepherd, whose return to her Russian-Jewish roots inspired it.

שׁוּבוּ אֵלַי | ˈS͡hụvụ ’éˈḷạy | Return To Me is a תְּפִלָּה | təfịˈḷàh | prayer to be sung during the Hebrew month of אֱלוּל | ’Èˈḷụḷ | Elul and the subsequent יָמִים נוֹרָאִים | Yàˈmịm Nọṛàˈ’ịm | Days of Awe.

The text of the prayer is a simple conditional promise from Malachi 3:7:

שׁוּבוּ אֵלַי וְאָשׁוּבָה אֲלֵיכֶם!
| ˈS͡hụvụ ’éˈḷạy və’às͡hụˈvàh ’ăḷéyˈk͡hèm! |
Return to me and I will return to you!

The book of מַלְאָכִי | Mạḷ’àˈk͡hị | Malachi (literally my Messenger), introduced in Malachi 1:1 as

דְבַר־כהוה אֶל־יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּיַד מַלְאָכִי
| đəvạṛ hạˈS͡hém ’èḷ-Yịsṛàˈ’éḷ, bəˈyạđ Mạḷ’àˈk͡hị |
a word of haShem to Israel, by Malachi's hand

is a prophetic diatribe decrying the ethical lapses of the כֹּהֲנִים | kọhăˈnịm | priests, the בְּנֵי־לֵוִי | bəˈnéy Ḷéˈvị | descendants of Levi — Levites—, and the Israelites in general. Thus the prayer is to be interpreted with role-reversed referents as “If we return to G!d, then G!d will return to us.”.

The condition Return to me is spelled out in Malachi 3:18 as being צַדִּיק | t͡sạˈdịq | righteous, or עֹבֵד אֱלֹהִים | ‘ọˈvéđ ’Ĕḷọˈhịm | serving G!d, or more precisely in Malachi 3:22 as:

זִכְרוּ תּוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה עַבְדִּי, אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִי אוֹתוֹ בְחֹרֵב עַל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל, חֻקִּים וּמִשְׁפָּטִים.
| Zịk͡hˈṛụ Tọˈṛạt͡h Mọˈs͡hèh ‘ạvˈdị, ’ăˈs͡hèṛ t͡sịˈvịt͡hị ’ọˈt͡họ vəĦọˈṛév ‘ạḷ-kàḷ-Yịsṛàˈ’éḷ, ħụˈqịm ụmịs͡hpàˈtịm |
Observe the Teaching of Moses, my servant, whom I charged at Horeb over all Israel with laws and rules.

In this square round for four voices, by David ben Or, the melody consistently turns upward for the phrase שׁוּבוּ אֵלַי | ˈS͡hụvụ ’éˈḷạy | Return to me and downward for the phrase אָשׁוּבָה אֲלֵיכֶם | ’Às͡hụˈvàh ’ăḷéyˈk͡hèm | I will return to you, echoing the notion that the divine is more exalted than the human. Similarly, the Return to me phrases are sung in the exalted Jewish scale, with its raised mediant; while the I will return to you phrases are sung in the ordinary Phrygian scale (distinguishable only in measure 11).

In the first (A) section, the melody wavers in the dubious premise of human return and ascends resolutely in the faithful promise of divine return, without quite reaching the top of the scale. The full lyric is reiterated more firmly a parallel third higher in the second (B) section, confidently completing the ascending scale. The third (C) section implores the listeners three times, with rising melodic pitch and harmonic tension, to fulfill the condition of returning to G!d, before reaffirming the encouraging promise of reciprocation along a descending ordinary Phrygian scale. In the fourth (D) section, the antecedent is repeated six times with increasing urgency and pitch, the first five repetitions reduced to the simple command שׁוּבוּ | ˈS͡hụvụ! | Return!, before leaping up to climax in the relative minor chord at the goal אֵלַי! | ’éˈḷạy! | to me!.

piece  (MIDI MP3)

melody  (MIDI MP3)
audio recordings

Shuvu ’Elay: Lyrics 1/1
lyrics
(PDF)
Shuvu ’Elay: Lead sheet 1/1
lead sheet
(PDF)
Shuvu ’Elay: Partition 1/5Shuvu ’Elay: Partition 2/5Shuvu ’Elay: Partition 3/5Shuvu ’Elay: Partition 4/5Shuvu ’Elay: Partition 5/5
Partition
(PDF)

http://sefaradizo.org/muzica/shuvu_elay/ Sephardic Association of Órgiva, Granada, Andalusia, Spain 2018.11.18 English edition

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