Hebrew Bible class listens to Bernstein


Carrie Duncan's Hebrew Bible class had a great opportunity to enrich their learning about the book of Psalms by attending the MU Choral Union's performance of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms on Thursday, April 19 in Jesse Auditorium. Although they appear like poems to readers of the Bible, they are actually more akin to song lyrics. Ancient Israelites would have heard psalms performed as music, or perhaps even sung them themselves! Scholars have little knowledge of what music sounded like in the ancient Israelite world; the Bible talks about a variety of stringed instruments, flutes, and drums, but the Bible preserves no musical notation that we can understand today. Bernstein's interpretation of Psalms is, therefore, a 20th century creation, but it is the closest we are likely to get, and certainly helps remind us that Psalms = songs. Student Olivia Liu commented that the performance gave the psalmist's words a sense of dynamism, while Justin Peters noted that the music emphasized the psalms' emotional highs and lows, creating an exciting musical experience. Many thanks to the Jill Raitt Opportunities for Excellence Fund for sponsoring our attendance!