Voice of the Wanderer
Ten years ago, I was invited to record an album of traditional Jewish songs. Beginning my research in libraries, I eventually spread my net far wider, finding people who could help me with the translation and pronunciation of the various dialects I needed. It has been a fascinating journey, bringing into my life not only exquisite music, but also some delightful people. Most of my contacts were only too happy to share their knowledge and skills with me. Many people may be familiar with Yiddish or Sephardic songs, or perhaps some of the Hassidic music that has become so popular, fashionable, even, sometimes beyond the Jewish community. Some may know the kind of â€-cabaret Yiddishâ€™ repertoire that I heard in my childhood; others may have heard a few Israeli songs from the 1950s and â€™60s. Very early on in my research, however, I realised that Jewish music means far more than this. It is an entire world, spanning the globe, and I decided to reflect this as much as I could with this project. Musicologists have identified a number of Jewish musical â€-regionsâ€™, and I tried to find representatives from each of these. The only one which I have not represented is that of the â€œmelismaticâ€ Iraqi style: this would be beyond anyone who has not trained in this music for years. I hope I know my limits. I also decided to reflect the rich variety in this music in the mode of it's present-ation. Some of the songs are best sung a cappella (totally unaccompanied); others need only a touch of percussion, which was mainly provided by Abe Doron. Among the other songs, however, my brilliant co-producer Mitch Clyman and I made orchestral or chamber-ensemble accompaniments. For one song, long a favourite para-liturgical melody of mine, I even wrote a choral arrangement, and roped in friends and colleagues Betty Klein and Rahel Jaskow to sing the other parts. It was deeply moving for me to hear this piece gradually take shape, as this is the first time that one of my choral arrangements has ever been recorded. The resulting album is thus unique. There are of course songs in Hebrew, Ladino and Yiddish; but there are also songs in Aramaic (a language that was spoken in the Near East two thousand years ago), Farsi (from Iran), Arabic (one of the southern Yemenite dialects), and Kurmanji Sorani, a dialect from the Kurdish region of Iraq. This was the longest recording I have ever undertaken. I started putting down tracks in November 2004, and the final vocal track was set down only in April 2006. The project has been a part of my life for so long that it may feel a little strange not to have to deal with it any more... However, there are many other projects waiting for my attention, and at last I am ready to turn to them, proud of and delighted with what I have managed to achieve with this, my first, Jewish album. Comments by happy listeners: â€œA masterpiece! It is more than just â€-greatâ€™ and â€-fantasticâ€™: this is THE definitive album of Jewish music. Iâ€™ve been listening to recordings of music in Yiddish and Hebrew for years, and thereâ€™s simply nothing else like The Voice of the Wanderer. Jill has done for Jewish music what Cecil Roth did for Jewish history, and every Jewish community around the world should avail themselves of a copy. They donâ€™t know what theyâ€™re missing! Jillâ€™s voice is beautiful, rich, and sounds just perfect. The whole production is simply superb.â€ â€œLike everything Jill does, itâ€™s perfect.â€ -- Matilda KoÃ©n-Sarano â€œBravo! I just received your new CD... and I have one complaint -- it ended too soon!!!! It is wonderful, evocative, beautifully done, with a quiet joy, reverence, musicality, and love that I know is so much a part of you.â€ -- Rabbi J.R. â€œI know I keep saying this with each album, but this one is the best yet. Etz Hayim Hi just blows me away... Youâ€-ve done our tribe proud! â€ â€œWonderful! The selection is beautifully varied, and the texts are fascinating... The translations provided are excellent. We think you are creating something rare and valuable. Much of this music may be lost if it is not kept alive...â€ -- A.S.K. â€œThis is a marvelous work of art and research and beauty. Iâ€™m looking forward to sharing it with others. ...thank you for your artistry.â€ â€œThe album is amazing... itâ€™s one of your best yet. Itâ€™s not only extremely well done, itâ€™s a service. You are bringing special music to people who otherwise would probably never hear it, and consequently, keeping it alive. Hats off! Simply wonderful.â€ â€œI love your arrangements and the use of all the different instruments. Your voice is so expressive and there is so much variety and musicality.â€ -- S.S. â€œWhat Iâ€™ve heard so far is gorgeous. Your voice is so lambent and distinctive, you should copyright it too, besides the arrangements!â€ -- J.M. â€œThe Voice of the Wanderer -- so aptly named! -- is a real treasure! Iâ€™m impressed (but not surprised -- I know you!) with the variety of the selections, your versatility of style, and the careful, precise annotation... I was carried away on an adventure, hearing the strange yet familiar voices and words and rhythms ... One of my favorites is the last piece, Shadumad...â€ â€œWanderer is simply stunning. Iâ€™ve listened all the way through only once but already I know itâ€™s going to be one of my favorites. Everything is just right â€" the arrangements, the choice of songs, the mix of languages â€" but most of all, Jill, I love your mature voice. In many ways this album makes me think of Miriam Makeba, in terms of color or conveying emotion.â€ â€œWe have listened to The Voice of the Wanderer several times right through. ...Your voice sounds in places almost transformed. It is a natural folk voice but has additional subtleties and strengths, and unusual linguistic feeling. It is now a much stronger voice than I recall on your last visit to Wellington. It must be all that ballroom dancing!â€ -- J.M. â€œ Enjoying listening to your CD. I havenâ€™t often heard you sing in the lower part of your voice before: wonderful sound!â€ â€œDear wanderer, dear bellbird... no bellbird has ever sung as you sing, nor any wanderer, nor anyone since Zdenka Milena maybe, and she is long dead. ...How could we have known or imagined how your voice would develop, your range, your timbre, your scholarship, and with them that bell-like purity in the higher tones, the warmth of the lower notes, the musicianship. ...I donâ€™t know how you do it. The Voice of the Wanderer is particularly dear to me, with it's echoes and memories.â€ -- H.M.