What Binds Us Together: The Binding of Isaac Story in Music

May 4, 2019 @ 5:00 pm
Unitarian Universalist Church
1 Middle St
Advance: $20/adult, $10/student. Door: $25/adult, $12.50/student. Children under 12 free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.
Oratorio Chorale

The Voice of Isaac
Keith Phares, baritone
Oratorio Chorale
Emily Isaacson, artistic director
Christopher Staknys, piano

“What Binds Us Together” is a series of events comprising a multimedia lecture, Holocaust Remembrance Day community observance, film screening, and concerts. The series of interfaith, multimedia experiences is aimed at creating dialogue among religious communities in southern Maine.

The Binding of Isaac is one of the most emotionally heart-wrenching stories in both the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis 22) and the Qur’an (37:99-113). In this tale, Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, prepares to sacrifice his favorite son to show his devotion to God. The concerts present the story in music from many cultures.

“The concert has three aims,” says Artistic Director Emily Isaacson. First, it presents the primary texts from each of the religions—Genesis 22:1-24 from the Torah, the translation from the King James Bible, and its Koranic counterpart, Surah 37: 100-113, to show the shared heritage among these three faiths. Second, it explores composers across four centuries and several countries—Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674, Italian), Benjamin Britten (1913-1976, English), Aharon Harlap (b.1941, Israeli), Steve Reich (b. 1936, American), Howard Frazin (b. 1962, American)—who have engaged the text to center or deconstruct the essential aspects of the narrative. And third, it investigates how these composers use musical and extra-musical devices to build a dramatic or theological narrative.”

With music by Benjamin Britten, Giacomo Carissimi, and contemporary composers Aharon Harlap and Howard Frazin, the concert demonstrates how, throughout history, various artists, writers, and composers have chosen to interpret this story, not only from a religious perspective, but also as commentary on contemporary political and social issues. Three panelists—Rabbi Carolyn Braun, Muslim educator Reza Jalali, and Rev. Frank C. Strasburger—will offer interpretations of the story and engage in a Q&A after each performance.

The Oratorio Chorale will be joined by acclaimed soloists Malinda Haslett, Lucas Coura, Josh Collier, and Keith Phares, with accompaniment by pianist Christopher Staknys and cellist Ben Noyes.

The series is made possible with support from the Sam L. Cohen Foundation and the Maine Humanities Council; concert sponsor: Brann & Isaacson.

Events preceding the concerts include a multimedia lecture, “The Art of Sacrifice,” by Emily Isaacson (Tues. April 23, 6:00 p.m., Jewish Community Alliance, Portland), and musical selections by the Chorale at the Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance Day Community Observance and film screening (Wed., May 1, 6:00 p.m., also at the JCA). Both pre-concert events are open to the public free of charge.