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Basya Schechter is a singer/songwriter and the former leader of the band Pharaoh’s Daughter. She grew up in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and the lyrics from her new album, Songs of Wonder, are taken entirely from the poetry of renowned rabbi and theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel. Schechter puts music to Heschel’s poetry, with gorgeous results.
Schechter matches Heschel’s themes of love and worship with sweeping, swirling arrangements. A few of these songs have multiple parts that fit very well together. “Palaces in Time” and “I And You” have gorgeous vocal melodies, and are fleshed out by glockenspiel, violins, piano, and acoustic guitar. These songs are uplifting and soothing at the same time.
Another highlight is the thunderous “Tshuvah.” It begins with a rumble, then gets louder as dissonant, blaring horns come in that go with Heschel’s words: “God, You greatest mute! / You answer screams with riddles. / You’re no defender of the criminal, / You never say to hatred—‘Out! Stop!’” It ends with Schechter’s voice, and sparse instrumentation; the calm after the storm.
Schechter brings Heschel’s poetry to life on Songs of Wonder. Setting music to an icon’s poems may seem daunting, but Schechter’s vocals and arrangements do the words justice.