Scored for: soprano solo, SSA, flute, percussion, piano, narrator. Also available for SSA and piano.
Text: Ellen Frankel, Genesis 17:15 (narration), Andrea Clearfield (sung text)
Duration: 7:00 min.
Premiere: 11/30/03 Lady Chapel Singers, Washington National Cathedral
Commissioned by: The Women’s Sacred Music Project
Published by: Self-published, Angelfire Press
Contact Andrea Clearfield for score and parts:
See preview score pages: SARAH SSA Choral excerpt (PDF)
Women of Valor is a celebration of women from the Old Testament. The oratorio was
inspired by a midrash (biblical commentary) on Proverbs where each line of the biblical
text from Proverbs 31 represents a biblical woman. The texts for Women of Valor are
drawn from the Bible and from modern poems and prose written by women. Women of
Valor highlights the stories of Sarah, Leah, Rachel, Jocheved, Miriam, Hannah, Jael,
Michal, Ruth and Esther.
The musical material for Women of Valor incorporates ancient Hebrew synagogue chants
as well as other traditional melodies. These melodies are woven through the piece like
a tapestry, connecting threads between the old and the new. This large-scale work can be
likened to a musical midrash which reflects the poetic, colorful, powerful, evocative and
celebratory aspects of the texts.
The original hour long work is scored for soprano and mezzo-soprano soloists, narrator
and symphony orchestra. It was given its world premiere at Royce Hall in Los Angeles
on April 16, 2000 by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony under the direction of Dr. Noreen
Green. Soloists were Hila Plitmann, soprano and Gail Dubinbaum, mezzo-soprano and
the narrator was noted television actress Valerie Harper. The performance was sponsored
by Hadassah Southern California, who created educational programs around the work.
A story on Women of Valor was broadcast nationally on NPR’s All Things Considered.
The Lehigh Valley Orchestra presented the East Coast premiere of Women of Valor
in 2004 in Allentown, PA, sponsored by the Jewish/Christian Institute for Understanding.
An arrangement of the work was performed by the Los Angeles Jewish
Symphony in 2004 with celebrity narrator Laraine Newman and the chamber ensemble
arrangement has been performed at numerous synagogues and concert venues.
Women of Valor will be published by LeDor (ledorgroup.com) in Winter, 2017.
The treble chorus arrangement of “Sarah” for soloists, women’s chorus and chamber
ensemble was commissioned by The Women’s Sacred Music Project, Lisa Neufeld Thomas,
President. The premiere took place in 2001 by the Lady Chapel Singers at Heilig-Geisty-
Kirche, Heidelberg, Germany. The arrangement for treble choir and piano was created
for Lirit Women’s Chamber Choir, Renee Bouthot, Artistic Director.
[Narrated text (italics) from The Five Books of Miriam by Ellen Frankel; Sung text by Andrea Clearfield]
I am the first Jewish woman, the first Jewish wife, the first Jewish mother. As a young beauty, I left my home, my family, my culture, and my faith, and with my beloved Abram set off to follow the Voice-Without-a-Face.
Sarah, Serai–Sarah, the Ancient One
Sarah, Serai–Sarah, the Aged One
I braved the harems of Pharaoh and Abimelach, banished Hagar and her son, subjected my aged body to the travails of birth, and watched my husband lead my only son off to death.
Sarah, Serai–Sarah, the Barren One
Sarah, Serai–Sarah, the Blessed One
Sarah, the Princess, Sarah, the Priestess, Sarah, the Chieftenness
Sarah, the Mother of the Jews
I am wise because I have faced impossible choices and have nonetheless chosen. I am shrewd because I have learned to laugh at miracles and thereby to force God’s hand.
Sarah, Serai–Sarah, the Learned One
Sarah, Serai–Sarah, the Laughing One
Sarah, the Mother, the Ancient One
And God said to Abraham, “As for your wife, Serai, you shall not call her Serai but her name shall be Sarah. I will bless her, indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she shall give rise to nations.”