About Avi Randall
My name is Avi Randall (they/them) and I am a Conservative Ashkenazi musician currently studying at the New England Conservatory of Music in the Contemporary Improvisation department. I play piano, viola, and organ, and compose and improvise. Throughout my life, I have immersed myself in lots of traditions from all around the world, and have always been drawn to Jewish music from any place and time. My main musical connection is with the classical pianist and composer Leo Ornstein, who emigrated from Russia around the same time as my great-grandfather, went to my school, and then became a touring composer, pianist, and improviser. I have connected to Jewish music through my mother as well, who is a Klezmer fiddler and was part of the Klezmer Revivalist movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Besides music, I also love to bike, bake, read Carl Jung novels and collections of essays about international politics, and hang out with my cat.
About Yismach Moshe
My submission is a setting of the prayer “Yismach Moshe”. I am using Klezmer and Jewish folk music traditions as a platform to explore the text and express the meaning through improvisation. I was drawn to this prayer as I saw a connection between the prayer text and the ethos of Shmita. “Yismach Moshe” is the opening prayer for the morning Amidah and starts the first day of Shabbat every weekend. Shmita is a year of rest, for the land and for those working the land, and I see symbolism in linking the opening of Shabbat to the opening of the year of rest. The text for the prayer, “Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion”, reads to me that when Moshe received the commandments, he felt full of purpose. His next action would be to share the wisdom of Adonai to the rest of the Israelites. I understand this to be another parallel. Historically during Shmita, landowners have a clear purpose of giving, and feeling gratitude. They must free those who have been working for them, and let anyone eat from their lands. This is a physical representation of Moshe’s actions in Sinai, who would give the commandments to the Israelites with the clear purpose of giving. The text also mentions the “diadem of glory” and Moshe being a “faithful servant”. Moshe is performing a very important mitzvah, and Adonai hasn’t rewarded him for it, but rather has given him the symbolic strength – a crown inside of his head, and the encouragement to go on. The miztvot arising from Shmita are rewards in and of themselves, as they serve the same role of Moshe delivering the commandments; they provide a path of purpose.