Compositions by Erik Contzius

I believe in creating music which is prayerful, expressive of the text, and has a Jewish sound. Most of all I like to write music with which I would pray myself. If you have questions, or if you are interested in commissioning me, please e-mail me!

Where to get my music

Transcontinental Music Publications

The Travelers’ Prayer (Cantor, SATB Choir, Keyboard)
A setting of the traditional “T’fillat HaDerekh” (Travelers’ Prayer) in Hebrew.

Hineh Mah Tov (Cantor, SATB Choir, Keyboard)
Psalm 133: “Behold how good and how pleasant when brethren dwell together in harmony.” Evokes memories of Shenandoah.

Shalom Rav (Cantor, SAB Choir, Keyboard)
Arranged by Bonia Shur, this prayer for peace was composed in memory of Yitzhak Rabin.

Ein Keloheinu (SATB Choir, Keyboard)
Hebrew setting of the traditional hymn. This setting of Ein Keiloheinu has the sort of simplicity and old-world flavor that will appeal to volunteer and synagogue choirs. The melody is reminiscent of a Hassidic niggun.

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A Woman’s Voice (SSA Choir, Piano)
Commissioned by the American Conference of Cantors, this is a setting of an original poem by Dina Elenbogen, written in honor of the “Imahot” (matriarchs) of the modern Reform Cantorate.

And Hannah Prayed (Voice, Keyboard)
A setting for voice and keyboard of I Samuel 1:13, 2:1-4; 8-9. One of the first documented prayers of the Bible. Recently a finalist selection at the 2008 Shalshelet Liturgical Music Festival!

Candle Blessing for Kol Nidrei (Cantor, SATB Choir, Keyboard)
This is a setting of the Candle lighting blessing for the evening of Yom Kippur, with additional text for when the holy day falls on Shabbat. Based on traditional motifs.

Candle Blessing for Shabbat (2 part Voice, Keyboard)
A setting of the Shabbat Evening Candle Blessing for 2 part choir and keyboard (women and men). If you’re looking for an alternative to the Binder setting, this is it! Makes musical reference to the Hashem Malakh mode!

Ein Keloheinu (S.A.T.B. choir and Keyboard)
A rousing rendition of the Jewish hymn.

Eloheinu… R’tzei for Shabbat (Cantor and Keyboard)
A setting of the traditional “Holiness of the Sabbath” prayer in the mode for the Sabbath Evening.

Kanah Shem Tov (Cantor, S.A.B. choir, Children’s chorus, flute, cello & piano)
Commissioned by Temple Beth-El Congregation Sons of Israel and David of Providence, Rhode Island, this work was written to celebrate Rabbi Leslie Gutterman’s 40th anniversary with his congregation.

Text from Pirkei Avot 1:6 and 2:7:

“Find for yourself a teacher and you’ve made yourself a friend”

“The one who has acquired a good name has acquired it oneself. The one who has acquired the words of Torah has acquired for oneself a place in the World to Come. The more Torah, the more life. The more study, the more wisdom. The more counsel, the more understanding. The more justice, the more peace.”

Mah Ashiv Ladonai – quid retribuam Domino (S.A.T.B. choir and piano)
A setting of Psalm 116 (115 in the Vulgate) in Hebrew and Latin. Composed for the occasion of the American Conference of Cantors mission to the Vatican as a part of the Second Annual Jewish Catholic Dialogue. Read about the composition’s inception.

Cantor Sally Neff writes about the work on her blog:

I also want to tell you about another special moment in the concert [at the Vatican]: the world premiere of a piece written just for this event: Erik Contzius’s Mah Ashiv L’Adonai (Psalm 116). The piece was written in a mixture of Hebrew and Latin and was an amazing blend of styles from gregorian chant through a more modern Jewish sound. It is gorgeous! One of my favorite pieces in the entire program… I am hoping to do the piece again in collaboration with some church choirs. Congratulations to Cantor Erik Contzius on a true masterpiece!

Mi Khamokha (Cantor, S.A.T.B. choir, and keyboard)
A driven setting of the Shabbat evening Mi Khamokha.

Mi Shebeirakh/El Na R’fa Na Lah (Cantor, congregation, and keyboard)
A setting of the traditional Hebrew healing text. The refrain is based on the “Bonei v’rakhamav” of Ellstein. Easily sung by the congregation!

O Let Me Behold Your Glory (Cantor, S.A.T.B. choir & keyboard)
Written for an introduction to the Yom Kippur Torah Reading, this is a majestic setting for Cantor, Choir, and Keyboard of the texts, “And Moses said: O let me behold Your glory!” from Exodus 33:18-19, 21, and the passage from Psalm 99:9: “Let us exalt God… Rom’mu Adonai Eloheinu…”

Our Task (Solo, S.A.T.B. choir, and keyboard)
Text taken from Pirkei Avot 1:14, 2:16, and Micah 6:8 Pirkei Avot 1:14

“He used to say: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am for myself only, what am I? And if not now, when?” “He would say, ‘It is not up to you to finish the work, yet you are not free to avoid it.'” “It has been told to you, O mortal, what is good, And what God requires of you: Only to do justice And to love goodness, And to walk humbly with your God.”

Psalm 150 (Cantor, Congregation, and Keyboard)
A setting of the 150th Psalm in Hebrew. A fun and energetic setting.

Shakhar Avakeshkha (Early Will I Seek You) (Soprano, congregation, and keyboard)
A setting of the famous poem by Solomon Ibn Gabriol (11th Century).

Shehekheyanu (Voice, S.A.T.B. choir, & Keyboard)
A lyrical setting of the Jewish prayer for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this day. Written in honor of the 50th wedding anniversary of Cantor Helene and David Reps. Also available in a solo arrangement.

Sim Shalom (Cantor, congregation, and keyboard)
A setting of the prayer for peace for Shabbat morning. In Hebrew and English.

Sim Shalom II (Cantor, congregation, and keyboard)
Commissioned by Temple Emanuel in Reisterstown, MD. Hebrew, with refrain for congregation.

Sim Shalom (from Seder Ha-T’fillot) A 2011 commission by Cantor Debra Stein in honor of Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman. The text is from a Sephardic version of the prayer, “Sim Shalom.”

T’fillah for Shabbat Evening (Cantor, S.A.T.B. choir, congregation, and keyboard)
This collection includes the following pieces: Adonai S’fatai Tiftakh, Avot v’Imahot, M’khalkel Khayim, and Ata Kadosh.

The 23rd Psalm – Adonai Roi (Solo, S.A. & Keyboard)
A setting of the 23rd psalm in Hebrew and English. The Hebrew phrases sung by the solo are translated by the choir into English.

The Teaching of God (S.A.T.B. choir & keyboard)
This is a setting after Nehemiah 8 (in English) which tells the story of how Ezra the Scribe revealed the Bible to the people in a dramatic musical unfolding. Good for many special occasions and makes a great anthem

V’sham’ru (Cantor, S.A.B. choir, and keyboard)
A nice congregational setting with a choral arrangement suitable for a volunteer group.

V’sham’ru III (Cantor, congregation, and keyboard)
A call and response setting. The congregation catches on quickly!

Y’did Nefesh (S.A.B. choir with divisi a cappella)
A challenging setting of the poem by Eliezer Azkari (Safed, 16th C.). Not for the faint of heart–it will need some rehearsing!

Y’varekh’kha (Cantor and keyboard)
A setting intended for a baby naming or bris ceremony. Very much like a lullaby. Can also be used at weddings.

Ya’aleh V’yavo for Shalosh R’galim (Cantor, congregation, and keyboard)
A setting of one of the traditional prayers for the three pilgrimage festivals of the Jewish calendar. The text is from the Reform rite, and the music is based on the traditional mode for the day.

Yih’yu L’ratzon (Cantor and Keyboard)
A simple meditation.

Yism’khu (Voice and Keyboard)
An arrangement of a Slonim Hassidic Niggun used for Yism’khu. Heard directly from a former member of the Slonim Hassidim.

You Shall Love the Eternal God (Cantor, congregation, and keyboard)
This was setting was written especially for the Society for Classical Reform Judaism (renewreform.org) for the text of the Union Prayer Book Sinai Edition. An English setting of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 with an easy Hebrew refrain for the congregation.

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Lamdeini Elohai (Voice & Keyboard)
for voice and keyboard, a musical setting of the poem by Leah Goldberg.

Available exclusively at contzius.com

Mi Khamokha – We Shall Overcome (Voice & Keyboard)

A setting of Mi Khamokha using the “Shira” tune for “Shabbat Shira” as well as the music of “We Shall Overcome” and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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About Me

Cantor Erik Contzius is a versatile baritone, a creative composer, and a dynamic performer. His Jewish repertoire is eclectic, ranging from the highly classical (performing the Ernest Bloch "Sacred Service" in Bulgaria, Canada, and Israel) to traditional hazzanut (appearing on the stage of the Stardust Ballroom at Kutsher's Hotel in the Catskills), to dynamic vocal jazz (touring with the Afro-Semitic Experience!). Cantor Contzius' compositions have been performed by cantors and choirs across the United States and can be heard on his album, "Teach My Lips a Blessing."
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