But no matter. Perhaps such reticence is refreshing in a time when all is revealed, all the time. I got quite tickled at the entry for him that I finally tracked down on the website of Oregon State University, where he is a professor emeritus in the music department. There is a brief bio for him, but the e-mail contact link doesn't work, the “media” tab produces the message “I currently have no images uploaded,” and he doesn't even list his publications. There is a photo of him as a rather distinguished-looked bearded gentleman (he was born in 1943), and that's it. Self-promoting he is not.
By looking at his music company and his books, though, we can get a pretty good idea of what he's about:
1. He's interested in text and not just music. So, his main published work beside his music is a four-volume series titled Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire, in which he gives word-by-word translations of works in Latin, German, French and Italian, and, most relevant for our selection, Hebrew.
2. He's interested in the diversity of music, as evidenced in the motto of Earthsongs: “One world – many voices.” The company even sells pronunciation guides and CD's for fifty-nine different languages. Makes the three non-English languages we're singing in this concert seem pretty paltry!
But what of our actual selection? Jeffers has taken the three traditional blessings that are sung for the eight nights of Hanukkah and put them in a haunting, minor-keyed setting. Each verse begins with the words “Baruch Atah, Adonai Elohenu, Melech haolam” (“Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the World”) and then goes on to list a blessing God has given: He has sanctified His people by His commandments, performed miracles for them, and allowed them to reach the present. Since Jeffers has provided his signature literal translation on the cover, we know that the last line means “and who has allowed us to reach season this.” In other words, God's work is ongoing. That last word, with the basses hitting their dramatic low note, says “this:” this time, this place, this situation. This is what He has given.