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Song Cycle Evokes Inner Reflection, While Lyrics Speak of Finality
Composers Charles Davidson, former cantor at Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, and Dan Kleiman teamed up with local lyricist and author Esta Cassway to create a memorial in music to those lost during the attacks on Sept. 11.
"I Love You, Goodbye," is the result of that collaboration, and has been performed across the country, from Hollywood, Calif. to Sarasota, Fla. For the performance at Har Zion, Cantor Eliot Vogel and vocalists Barbara Bey, Walton Duffey and Rachel Levin lent their voices to the musical performance.
"Different communities used [the program] in different ways," said Vogel. "This was a Jewish community's response."
"We did not have speeches; we did not have anything other than a very simple memorial," he continued.
"Sometimes, you can't say things in words that you can convey in music," added Cassway, who noted in the program that no words could truly pay tribute to those who lost their lives.
"Jews remember," Stein said to the congregation on the night of the performance, "and this is a way of remembering that event."
The evening began with Cantor Vogel singing Psalm 140. "Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man/Preserve me from the violent/Who devise evils things," he sang in Hebrew. Cassway noted that choosing that particular psalm was incredibly difficult.
"It had to have the exact right words," she said.
'What the Country Was'
After a violin interlude, Davidson's title song, "I Love You, Goodbye," was sung by Rachel Levin and Walton Duffey, who echoed two different voices. Cassway's lyrics drew upon phone calls made at the time of the tragedy, and her inspiration came from a very personal source. "I wrote my part in honor of two young people in the area who died in 9/11," said Cassway. The two voices sing to parents and loved ones, ending with the title phrase, "I love you, goodbye."
The next piece was a poem by Davidson, "Now From This Place," read by Har Zion Rabbi Emeritus Gerald I. Wolpe. The piece reflected on America's former mindset: "We rested here secure/untrammeled by alien boots/distant and apart/from history's hurtful episodes/of anger, disappointment and abuse."
Playing off the stark contrast between America before that day and after, the poem "covered all angles of what the country was," according to Cassway.
The service continued with "Live Every Day," with music by Davidson and Kleiman, and lyrics by Cassway. Barbara Bey was the performer. "We lives are lost without a reason/And hope has left without a word/Memories will bring a smile/For every life there was a season," sang Bey. The idea of the composition was to get the audience "thinking of the future, but not forgetting the past," explained Cassway.
The evening concluded with the entire congregation singing "America the Beautiful."
"Sometimes, music can lift the soul," said Cassway. She added that a song like that can unite an audience in a purely patriotic way.
For some, the summer war between Israel and Lebanon shifted the attention to the Middle East, but after the failed airline bombings in England, the memory of Sept. 11 was again "thrust into our eyes," said Vogel.
"Sept. 11 just doesn't go away."
"I Love You, Goodbye," was not meant solely for the Jewish community. The program is interfaith, and features a large variety of musical styles, from cantorial to gospel. "The whole flavor of it was varied," said Vogel, which is why it was so embraced by the congregation.
"I think they were very receptive," said Vogel, "very appreciative, and very moved by it."
"It was meant to be, not happy," stated Cassway, "but uplifting."