Symposium and Concert: Women of Valor

The Women’s Sacred Music Project, the Daylesford Abbey, and the Germantown Jewish Centre, presented an exciting performance of Andrea Clearfield’s “Women of Valor Suite,” with a newly commissioned piece, “Hagar,” composed by Clearfield, libretto by Ellen Frankel, and performed in a special chamber version. Featured were sopranos Elizabeth Racheva and Suzanne Du Plantis.

The concert, which took place at the Daylesford Abbey on Sunday afternoon, September 18, 2011, was preceded by a symposium focusing on the image of the Woman of Valor described in Proverbs 31 and in Muslim tradition, exploring Jewish, Christian and Muslim responses to this figure. Presenters were Susan Teegen-Case, librettist Ellen Frankel, Zakiya Islam, and composer Andrea Clearfield.

The program was repeated on September 24, as the lead-in program for Germantown Jewish’s Centre’s observance of S’lichot, a midnight penitential service in preparation for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

Andrea Clearfield originally composed “Women of Valor,” her doctoral dissertation, as an oratorio for soprano, mezzo-soprano, narrator, and orchestra.  The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony premiered it in April 2000.  She subsequently wrote a chamber arrangement for soprano, mezzo-soprano, piano, violin, and percussion.  The oratorio highlights women in the Hebrew Scriptures, and was conceived as a midrash on the Proverbs 31 text describing a woman of valor, or in an Anglicized translation, “the goodly wife.”

WSMP became interested in the chamber version of “Women of Valor” and presented an aria from it, “Jocheved” in 1997.  The aria is a lullaby sung by the mother of Moses as she puts her tiny son into a basket and slips him into the Nile.  WSMP later commissioned an SSA choral arrangement of “Jocheved’s Song” so that the Lady Chapel Singers could sing it.  It was recorded on the CD, “Magdalene and the Other Mary.”   A simple version arranged for cantor, keyboard, and congregation is published in the Leader’s Guide to Voices Found.