Elijah, Amanda Cross, Ken Appiah, Amadeus Youth Children’s Choir
Elijah sang lead and backup on all songs. Amanda sang all female vocals including the solo on All The Way Away. Ken Appiah, from Ghana, West Africa, guested on Shema, Oseh Shalom and Adon Olam. The Amadeus Youth Children's Choir sang on Tizcor.
Kevin Kuhn, Elijah, Raphael Bruin
Kevin handled all electric guitar solos on the record, while Elijah played the acoustic and nylon guitar parts. Raphael added his rhythmic flamenco flourishes on sections in Shema and Olam.
Antoine's playing is heard on almost every song on the album. His unique style, drawing on his years playing everything from bluegrass to jazz, as well as klezmer to classical, allowed his mastery to really shine through on the album.
Eugene Carr, Anja Wood, Sonia Choi
Eugene performed the main melodic lines in Echad, and was joined by both Anja and Sonia for the ensemble work in Lecha Dodi and Shema, as well as the coda on Echad.
Mac performed on Olam, Shema and Kaddish. True to form, Mac used a whole slew of trumpets and mouth pieces to naturally change his sound from song to song. Most of his wonderful solo in the middle section of Olam was performed in a single breath!
David Weiss, Sandro Friedrich
Dave performed all the myriad ethnic flute parts and solos on the album using his Bansuri, Nay, Duduk, Chinese shakuhachi bamboo flute and Bolivian pan flute, while Sandro laid down the middle section on Kaddish using a Bansuri.
Elijah played all the piano/keyboard parts on the record.
David performed all the electric and fretless bass parts on the record. He is one of the most in-demand session players in New York as well as a first-call bass player on Broadway. Besides those professional accomplishments, he remains one of the kindest musicians I know.
Itamar Doari, Matt Kilmer
Itamar played on Kaddish, Adon Olam, All The Way Away, A Part of Me, and Shema. Matt performed on Kaddish and Adon Olam.
Elijah knocked out the drum tracks for Tizcor and Lecha Dodi.
Elijah, Dominik Johnson, Christos Andreou, Mark Schaffel
Sound design on the album was handled by Elijah in New York, Dominik and Christos in London, and Mark in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ross is currently one of the principal dancers in Cirque du Soleil's Mystère. He is also a choreographer as well as a dance teacher and a former Junior world champion gymnast. Incredibly gifted as well as creative, Ross always goes above and beyond elevating all those around him.
Sandrine is currently one of the principal dancers in Cirque du Soleil's Mystère. Her talents as a dancer, acrobat and choreographer, is only outshined by her warmth and kindness.
Sean is currently dancing with Battery Dance Company in New York, where he serves as both dancer and choreographer. He's an incredible dancer and a real pleasure of inspiration. His mastery of numerous disciplines of dance can be seen in the "Echad" video where he effortlessly moves from one style to another.
Anne is currently dancing with Martha Graham and prior to Graham danced with Ailey II. She's an extremely expressive dancer and a joy to work with.
Jason Ricardo Jordan
Jason is a Principal Dancer with Buglisi Dance Theater in New York and a fantastic choreographer and teacher as well. Jason was instrumental in organizing the "Echad" video shoot with me. He is a great friend and an amazing and gifted beautiful soul.
Grace and kindness personified. So-Young is currently dancing with the Buglisi Dance Theater in New York.
All music Written, Produced, Arranged and Mixed by Elijah
Geoff Pesche, Abbey Road Studios
Geoff was a real pleasure to work with and a wonderful person to end the recording of the album with. Everyone at Abbey Road were incredibly generous with their time, while sharing some great stories of legendary recording sessions that took place there over the years.
Dominik Johnson, Matt "Dasher" Messenger, Ryan Kelley
Dom, Dash and Ryan all brought different musical mixing perspectives from the many records under their collective belts to offer advice and help while I crafted the album, for which I am very grateful.
Elijah, Dominik Johnson, Alon Lot, Marc Webster, Ryan Kelley
Elijah handled most of the engineering on the album with Dom riding in a close second. Marc recorded the children's choir and Ryan took care of several vocal sessions as well. Alon recorded Itamar's 12 hour percussion recording session at his studio in Israel.
Giordona's support and artistic advice throughout the making of the album was indispensable for which I will always be grateful. She continues to be an incredible source of inspiration.
Dominik helped get the ball rolling with me. From the first time I reached out to him in England, on a call that lasted nearly 2 hours, to him coming over from England to stay with us for months at a time, Dom quickly became part of the team, lending his talent and ideas generously throughout the course of the record.
Just as Dom helped get the ball rolling, it was Christos who definitely kept the ball rolling throughout the making of the album with his musical and technical expertise. He's an amazing guy, whose talent and friendship I appreciate greatly.
Mark is one of the best musicians I know and a dear friend, who not only gave of his time generously listening to the myriad musical ideas throughout the making of the album, but was also incredibly gracious with both his time and insight regarding lyrical ideas as well.
Vania Milan, Shani Toder, Kent Caldwell
Vania not only took on the task to create the album cover, but she did so while nursing a 5 month old and taking care of a 5 year old! In addition to the album cover, Vania created the artwork for all the songs on the album except for Tizcor, which was created by Shani Toder. The masks used in the Adon Olam video were created by Kent Caldwell.
Working with Amanda is always like working with a close family member. Not only did all of our sessions together always feel warm and comfortable, but the effortless and exciting way she sings, always brought a pleasurable joy to our time working together.
I have known and worked with both Kevin and David Kuhn for years and working with them is always a joy. Every session with Kevin is magical and I feel blessed to know them both.
Before Antoine showed up for the first of what turned out to be many sessions together on the making of the record, I already was aware of his many accomplishments as a professional musician- from working with different symphonies to the Broadway stage. What surprised me, however, is what happened during the last 5 minutes of our first session together. Antoine had to leave to pick up his daughter, yet I wanted him to record "just one more tune." Since he didn't have time to listen down to the track a few times prior to recording (which is the normal process), we decided to go for a single recording take as he was hearing the track literally for the first time. We hit record on "A Part of Me" and what you hear on that song, is what Antoine played in a single pass the first time hearing it.
Itamar and I did our first session together in New York for Kaddish. Shortly after, I decided that the full sound he was able to get from a single djembe, was what I wanted to use to replace most of the drum tracks I had already recorded for the album. As he was in the middle of a world tour, getting him to record on the rest of the album proved a bit challenging, until one day, he mentioned that he was going to have several days off back home in Israel. We wound up recording the album remotely, with him tracking in Israel while I monitored in my New York studio for a marathon 12 hour recording session.
Mike has always been a great friend and a source of whom I always return to, whenever I need to be reminded of what a truly great musician should sound like.
Taras Shevshenko, Rick Barcode, Scott Rosenbaum, Milan Misko
Corey Fox, Whitfield Van Cott, Scott Rosenbaum, Giordona Aviv, Dominik Johnson, Stephanie Cape
Special thanks to my brother Jonathan, David Shusman,
Tim McCarthy, Dylan Bernstein and Romulous for their warmth
and love as I journeyed from a blank sheet to a roomful of sound.
Q. What is the concept behind Prayers & Dreams?
A. Prayers and Dreams came as a result of the idea to use ancient text and sounds from different traditions and put them in a contemporary setting. The idea was to blend what might seem unbendable traditions, stories, languages, musical instruments, sounds and bring them all together with the universal human theme of the connection between physical and spiritual love. I have always been fascinated by this relationship between the body and spirit and how they can complement one another towards elevating the human experience. It is that type of association between the two what I considered most while writing Prayer & Dreams.
Q. Which different types of lyrical traditions most informed the songs on Prayers & Dreams?
A. I combined lyrics of mine written in English with ancient Hebrew text, some actually dating back thousands of years, in order to move a particular narrative in a song. For example, in the song Shema, I wrote the verses in English yet the choruses are from an ancient Hebraic phrase dating from the Biblical times.
Q. Why use ancient texts?
A. These texts have captured people’s imagination and affected them profoundly over generations. Text, whether found in prayer or secular literature, or any type of art for that matter that has been able to cross the generational and cultural divide is a wonderful place to glean insight from. It was certainly common for me to sit with numerous ancient texts in front of me while searching for the "spiritual" phrase that felt right to enhance or balance the song.
Q. What was the research process like in choosing the material?
A. I did a lot of research as far as what text would be suitable for expressing the ideas I mentioned. Since some of the prayers and texts I used are thousands of years old, there was a certain complexity or density in getting to the essence of their meaning.
Perhaps in some cases I may have pushed the boundaries of what people may have grown accustomed to with certain textual interpretations. A good example of this would be my song Shabbat Shalom. The phrase, "Shabbat Shalom", is a very common Hebraic greeting whose literal translation is "Good Sabbath." However, if you scratch the proverbial surface, what Sabbath really means for people, beyond it being a day of rest for observant individual, can easily be viewed as a day of reconnection among family members or friends. This is why I refer to the song in translation as "Renewal." Therefore, it is the observance of a day of rest- through a type of physical respect or honor that leads to the renewal of a spiritual connection between two people. Where one ends the other begins. It's almost like being given a second chance. On Shabbat Shalom I wound up combining that phrase with sections from two other ancient prayers as well.
Q. Did the words inspire the music or was it the other way around?
A. Sometimes I needed the music to actually arrive at the essence of the meaning of the lyrics and other times it was the text that informed the music which was the case in the song Olam. In addition, there are some instances such as in the song Shema where Ken (a singer from Ghana who sang in Ghanaian on the album) and I sang a completely made up phrase: "Somonamayeh! Somonamayeh monoah!", I felt I needed a type of rhythmic language density to propel the melodic and rhythmic musical climax of the end of the first coda.
I think it would be fair to say that most people that will listen to this record don't speak or understand ancient Hebrew prayer or text. For those particular listeners, that actually represents an opportunity , much like listening to the music of Karl Jenkins (who makes up sounds in the form of words to fit his music), to interpret the lyrics to mean whatever they want them to mean at a particular moment.
Q. What were some of the different unique sounds and instruments you used on the record?
A. From the inception of the record, I wanted to blend elements of electronic sound design, with "authentic" ethnic instruments. That said, I don't think I actually used any unique sounds on the album, although the combination of what I used might be considered unique from a Western perspective. For example, in Adon Olam I used African vocal phrases in and around ancient Hebrew prayer. In Shema, I combined African, Hebrew, Iranian and English lyrical and music phrases, with a folk-jazz style of violin played by Antoine for his solo, while at other times his violin parts are pretty lyrical and lean towards classical lines. Underneath it all, Itamar is playing his djembe, a drum originating from West Africa and typically used in Middle Eastern music yet in a somewhat Western way, keeping his rhythms- at least in the front of the song, pretty straight ahead with a more relaxed syncopation. We also used a wide range of wind instruments, from the Chinese shakuhachi bamboo flute, along with several Turkish neys, a Bulgarian kaval, to the South Asian bansuri to name a few.
In addition, in more than half of the songs on the record, I featured Itamar's djembe playing in a space typically occupied by a complete drum set, yet he was only playing a single drum. Clearly that's also a testament to Itamar's ability as a wonderful percussionist to be able to fill up that sonic spectrum with his dexterous musicality. I think a good song that showcases Itamar's djembe playing would be on A Part of Me, especially when blended with Antoine's appalachian-style violin performance.
Q. Besides the main theme of the connection between spiritual and physical love of Prayers & Dreams, are there any “less obvious” themes you explored?
A. I think a good example would be on the song Lecha Dodi where musically I try and express the relationship between masculinity and femininity. The translation for me of the title is "Welcome My Beloved." The song is traditionally sung to welcome in the Sabbath which is often viewed to be feminine. I actually wanted to represent the song as a balance between the feminine and masculine by the musical arrangement.
The first part of the song is lighter in feel while the backend of the song, almost at the exact midpoint, becomes heavier with stronger rhythmic and musical elements right across the harmonic spectrum. In fact, as I began to layer the backend of the song (after the drums come in), I specifically added more and more counterpoint to the song so it would balance- time wise as well as, of course, interest, to the melodic front part of the song. Even after Kevin's guitar solo starts riding the song, I added yet another new vocal melody towards creating that specific balance. Incidentally, the text was written by a mystical Jewish sage who lived in the 16th Century.
Another song that stands out where I reached to blend contrasts through combinations, in this case the old and young, or innocence and wisdom, was on the song Tizcor. It was very important for me to have children sing the chorus, which translates to "To the world, to the world forever, never forget." The song is a reminder of the adage that what we do or how we act has definite consequences for those who come after us. Who better to drive that message home, than innocent children singing out that simple yet consequential phrase?
Q. How long did it take you to create the album and how did this process affect you as an artist?
A. It took me a little over 2 years to make Prayers & Dreams. Every day brought new challenges as well as possibilities. Some of the most gratifying moments for me were connecting and working with many incredible artists and performers from different parts of the world- not only musicians but painters and dancers as well. For the album I drew a lot of inspiration from other art forms and combined them as a complement to one another. This is why I chose to work with (the artist) Vania, who drew not only the album cover but most of the original artwork for each of the 12 songs on the album.
Q. How does Vania’s art reflect or enhance your music?
A. Vania's particular style, combining beauty with what we affectionately call the "grotesque", where she draws an oversized giant-like hand or foot, seemed ideal to me. This simply was a natural progression of contrasts I felt further supported ideas explored on the record. I plan to do the same with dance and movement. Involving other art forms in this process have informed the numerous possibilities in visually developing the concepts behind Prayers & Dreams.
Q. What can we look forward to in the world of Prayers & Dreams?
A. In the following installments of Prayers & Dreams I plan to continue to explore other ancient cultures, traditions and religions that have a strong foundation in art, poetry or music. I am also putting together a stage show for Prayers & Dreams, Part 1 which will involve artists, dancers and other creative visual artists, as well as, of course, the talented musicians that performed on the record.