In the Garden of Delight
Text by Judah ibn Tibbon (12th c.), trans. Harold Rabinowitz
SAATB soli or chorus unaccompanied
Commissioned by The Friends of The Saint Paul Public Library for The Rose Ensemble for the reopening of Saint Paul ‘s renovated George Latimer Central Library. The event was hosted by Garrison Keillor.
Premiere—9/2002 by The Rose Ensemble.
In 2002 I was commissioned by The Friends of The Saint Paul Public Library to write a short work for The Rose Ensemble to sing at the re-opening of Saint Paul Central Library—now called the George Latimer Central Library—a 1917 Renaissance Revival structure on Rice Park in downtown Saint Paul on the National Register of Historic Places.
For the text, I chose an excerpt from the ethical will of Judah ibn Tibbon, translated by Harold Rabinowitz. Judah (1120–c. 1190) was a Jewish physician and translator born in Spain who later practiced in Marseilles. Judah speaks fondly of his library, recommending it to his child as his “best treasure,” his “best companion,” and to his book shelves as “the most beautiful pleasure-gardens.” In the Garden of Delight is probably best suited for five singers or a small ensemble. For a similar treatment, see Three Romantic Part Songs.
My child! I have honored you
by buying you many books.
Make books your companions;
let bookcases and shelves
be your pleasure gardens and orchards.
Bask in their paradise, gather their fruit,
pluck their roses, take their spices and their myrrh.
If your soul be sated and weary,
change from garden to garden,
from furrow to furrow, from sight to sight.
Then will your desire renew itself
and your soul be satisfied with delight.
–Judah Ibn Tibbon (12th C.), translated by Harold Rabinowitz. From A Passion for Books, copyright © 1999 by The Reference Works. Used by permission.