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Sample Track 1:
"Ashir Shirim (I Will Sing Songs to God)" from Ancient Echoes
Sample Track 2:
"Rannanu (Sing with Joy)" from Ancient Echoes
Sample Track 3:
"Abwoon (O Father-Mother of the Cosmos) [The Aramaic Lord's Prayer]" from Ancient Echoes
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Ancient Echoes
Layer 2
What Would Jesus Sing?

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Have you ever wondered what kind of music Jesus danced to? SAVAE – The San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble – may have the modern world’s closest approximation in its CD “Ancient Echoes:  Music from the Time of Jesus and Jerusalem’s Second Temple,” a project two-and-a-half years in the making- and then some, according to founder and artistic director Christopher Moroney.  The ensemble performed in Cincinnati last Sunday afternoon.            
            “My wife (and ensemble member Covita Moroney) talked about this even before SAVAE formed (in 1989), but we never knew how to go about doing it,” he said.  “We didn’t know how to read Aramaic, never heard it spoken, didn’t know anyone who did, and the language is so important.”            
            When he encountered the book “Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus,” by Neil Douglas-Klotz, he found a starting point.           
           “The book had transliterations of the Aramaic texts, so we could get an idea of what it sounded like,” he said.            
          Supported by a series of weeklong retreats with experts on Middle Eastern languages, the ensemble explored the Aramaic texts containing the words of Jesus and other pertinent documents, including the Dead Sea scrolls.            
          To put the words to music, they explored the work of musicologist Abraham Idelsohn who began notating the folk songs and religious music of Jews from around the world when they re-settled in Jerusalem.      
         “He found that groups from all over the world had similar melodies – sometimes the exact same melodies and the exact same texts, even though they had lived in strict isolation for 2000 years,” Moroney said.  “So he assumed that the modes and melodies went back to the first century before they were dispersed.”
          The Moroneys also worked with an Egyptian phonetics teacher specializing in the Babylonian dialect used in the classical recitation of the Qur’an.  Babylonia, whose empire encompassed what is now Baghdad, was home to a thriving Jewish community that maintained the closest ongoing ties with Jerusalem of any Diaspora settlement.             For the musical compositions, SAVAE drew on Idelsohn’s records of the Babylonian Jews, borrowing these era-authentic musical phrases and motifs to set these texts to music.    
            To recreate the instruments, the Moroneys turned to archaeological discoveries and traditions still existent in the Middle East.      
            “We found people who had made versions of those instruments based on pictures and icons that existed from the first century,” he said.  “These came I different forms—cons, mosaics and even fragments of instruments that have been unearthed.”         
            Via the Internet, they communicated with a clothing shop owner in Nazareth who sent them electronic photographs of instruments made by local craftsmen.        
            Moroney and a group of vocalists from the San Antonio symphony formed SAVAE to perform Latin American music from the 1500s, exploring how the Spanish conquest influenced the indigenous music of the Aztecs living there at the time.  They consider moving even further back in time and half-way around the world to “Ancient Echoes” an extension of that work.          
            “It was a pivotal era in world history,” he said, “and what happened in the Middle East in the first century is still playing out today.”
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