LEARNING TO PRAY, a chancel opera


Children's and Liturgical Opera Company, LLC

LITURGICAL OPERA: Learning to Pray

a tiny liturgical theater piece for narrator,
two mimes (optional), violin, piano & tambourine
based on the Hasidic tale "Learning to Pray"
as retold by Howard Schwartz
Music by Susan Hulsman Bingham





Narrator. One or two mimes optional.



Violin, piano, tambourine



Traditional Hasidic dress if done with mimes



The Hasidic tale "Learning to Pray"
as retold by Howard Schwartz






Tonal, Semitic/Klezmer style tonalities.






15 minutes



This piece premiered at the Episcopal Church of the Mediator, Allentown, PA, on Sunday, January 20, 2008.


Click HERE to listen to the entire piece. (This is a midi recording with
Susan Bingham dubbed in as narrator.
Clips of premier [live] performance coming soon.)

LIBRETTO for Learning to Pray

Rabbi Dovid Din was sought out in Jerusalem by a man who was suffering a crisis of belief.

"Tell me what I can do for you," the Rabbi says.

"Why do you think you can do something for me?" the man answers testily.

"You are here at my door," answers the Rabbi "You came to me."

"And what does that actually prove?" counters the man. "You make assumptions."

"Ah," replies the Rabbi. "Please excuse me. Come in."

And so the man came into the Rabbi's study. However, whatever the Rabbi said to him, the man disputed. The Rabbi realized that it was the man's intention to provoke him, so he restrained himself and refused to be drawn into an argument. The Rabbi listened and listened to the man, and the man ranted and raved.

"I have come to know that we are no more than a conglomeration of chemicals and electrical forces. Give the universe enough time, and every possible thing can occur, just by chance."

"Never mind that you exist, that you are conscious, and that this in itself s a miracle," counters the Rabbi.

"As I said, give the universe enough time, and every possible thing will eventually happen," says the man. "We are born as the result of the lust of two people thrown together by circumstance," the man continues. “We acquire a little knowledge . . ." the man continues “ . . . . a little expertise. We achieve a little comfort in this world. We acquire things. A house, acar.  We deck ourselves out in good clothes. We think we're safe if we can put food on the table, live in a house in a good neighborhood. We get a job, join the rat race. We impress others. We even impress ourselves. Then, to our horror, we age. Brain cells begin dying out. We get wrinkled and stupid. We aggravate our children who must endure the burden of our care. Or we die young, as so many of our people did, before age can rob us.”

“Tell me," the Rabbi gently asks, "Why are you so angry with God?"

This question stunned the man, as he had said nothing about God.

"All my life I have been so afraid to express my anger to God that I have always directed my anger at people connected with God. But until this moment, I did not understand this," said the man.

"Where are we going?' the man asks, seeing the Rabbi is beckoning to him.

"To the Wailing Wall. And not to the place where everyone prays. We are going to the site of the ruins of the Temple, the Kotel that symbolizes so many griefs," the Rabbi answers.

"Here," says the Rabbi. "Stand here. Face these ruins. It is time to express all the anger you feel toward God."

At first, the man's heart was as cold and still as stone. Fighting self-consciousness, he began to talk. The talking grew louder. The rage the man had locked away began to move.  Soon he was yelling. Then he was screaming and pounding on the wall. He began to wail. The man’s wails became howls of grief and rage. Then he began to cry, and he could not stop crying.

Little by little his cries became sobs. After a time, these sobs turned into prayers.

And that is how Rabbi Dovid Din taught a man how to pray.


Composer's comment: A beautiful tale and very dramatic. Can be done as an oratorio or with one or two mimes; sets may be minimal or absent. Beautiful if done near the bhima or in the chancel area. SHB


Musical score of LEARNING TO PRAY: $25. Price includes shipping and handling within the U.S. Includes copying and performance rights.

Musical score in downloadable PDF format: $18.


Computer-generated CD of LEARNING TO PRAY with the composer narrating: $20. Price includes shipping and handling within the U.S.


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