Artist Statement

So what's a nice gentile singer/songwriter like me doing, recording the ancient prayers of the Jewish people?

I guess you could say this is “roots” music.

You see, I have learned that my own faith is inherently a Jewish one, at its very root and core. I am a follower of the Rabbi Yeshua HaNotzri, aka Jesus of Nazareth. And, believe it or not, you can’t put Him in a nice, neat religious box. Yeshua and His disciples were utterly and authentically Jewish in every way, many still are. He was–and is–kosher! Yeshua lived out and taught the Torah. He worshipped with his followers in the synagogues of the Galilee and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and they prayed the ancient liturgical prayers of Israel.

As a non-Hebrew speaker, I was thrilled to discover gorgeous English translations of the Jewish prayer book, the Siddur. As I began to delve into the prayers of the Siddur, they moved me deeply. The ancient cries, longings, worship, and rejoicings of Yeshua and His people became mine in some way.

Words leapt off the pages and begged to be expressed in the vernacular I love and thus, they found expression in eclectic, jazz-influenced songs.

As I started to set the English translations to music, it was as if they danced out of heaven and through my being. Each piece seemed to come alive. In several instances, I was inspired to contribute lyrics of my own as well. There was a profound sense that, in some way, I was created to write this music, but that this was not, and is not, about me at all.

To my delight, visual art also flowed into my imagination and out of my paintbrush as prayers became vivid paintings. They complement the music in rich and engaging ways. To top it off, some of the best jazz musicians on the East Coast lent their talents to the recording, elevating the project to an even higher level of quality and beauty.

I’m sure my interpretations fall far short, failing to approach the sacred traditions of Israel with adequate authenticity and reverence. Nevertheless, I humbly offer up this project with profound gratitude to, and respect for, the Jewish people, their ancient prayers, and their traditions. I also have deep appreciation and thanksgiving for all those who helped make this possible.

This is a project that can be enjoyed by all types of people. If you like fresh, multifaceted music and luminous poetry, if you appreciate songs that express a breadth of human spiritual experience, if you are intrigued by ancient cultures and traditions and how they intersect with modern life, if you are Jewish, if you are Gentile, if you are faith-filled or skeptical, if your heart is open, this project is for you.

Julie Lavender

January 2013/Tevet 5773