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  • Jonathan Widran

REBECCA SHORSTEIN & ALDEN GATT, Shir Hashirim

Though the gorgeous, deeply emotional and emphatically dramatic Hebrew language vocals of internationally renowned opera singer Rebecca Shorstein are the driving narrative force, the eight chapter collection Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) is at heart an incredibly compelling trio presentation anchored by the gorgeous compositions of her brother Benjamin Shorstein (founder of the Jacksonville, FL jazz collective Madre Vaca) and the powerful, sometimes subtle, sometimes emphatic piano accompaniment of Alden Gatt, who is on staff with some of the world’s most renowned operas.

Both casual and rabid opera fans who simply want to luxuriate in Shorstein’s glorious expressions in a foreign language can feel free to enjoy without worrying about the context or the text itself, but those who are curious about those elements should know a few things. First, this is sacred text, taken directly from the Hebrew Bible’s “Song of Songs” (aka “Song of Solomon” or “Canticle of Canticles”) – one of only a few books of Scripture that makes no formal reference to God.


As Benjamin Shorstein writes in his liner notes on the project’s informative bandcamp page, “Shir Hashirim is an enigma. . .revered by some as the holiest of texts, yet the words are about sensual love and contain nothing overtly religious.” Those passionate words of affection has inspired many composers to set them to music over the centuries. Creating a truly divine showcase for his sister’s ample narrative operatic talents, he approaches the story with creative tone painting of the text, setting each verse in a different key for dramatic variety in the flow. It’s also worth noting that the Shorsteins had been discussing the creation of a song cycle based on ancient Hebrew text as early as ten years ago, and soon chose this one.


In 2015, Rebecca came up with the theme for the opening bars, and Benjamin composed the melodies for chapters 1,2 and 4-7 before setting the project aside. Down time during the pandemic enabled him to resurrect those pieces and, with the confidence of more composing experience under his belt, he set about creating this mystical, truly exquisite opus.


For further details and a translation of the text, please visit:


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