A very different sort of trumpet will take center stage at the New York Philharmonic when Philip Smith, the orchestra’s principal trumpeter, premieres “A Voice, a Messenger” by Aaron Jay Kernis.

For six days, the Israelites had circled the city in silence, led by their priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant. Only the sound of the shofar, the curved ram’s horn, rang out across the walls, instilling terror in the hearts of the besieged. On the seventh day, after the seventh tour of the walls, the priests blew a single long note on the shofar, the sign for the Israelites to let out a thunderous roar. The walls collapsed; Jericho was theirs for the sacking.

Seattle Youth Symphony Aaron Jay Kernis composed ‘A Voice, a Messenger,’ a concerto for trumpet and orchestra, for the New York Philharmonic.

Not only people but nature itself seems to take note whenever the trumpet and its curvier cousin, the shofar, make their appearances in the Bible. No wonder, then, that composers seeking to bring a note of awe to their music have always found the trumpet to be a natural ally—just try to imagine Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” without its gleaming, jubilant trumpets or Handel’s “Messiah” without the rousing wake-up call of “The Trumpet Shall Sound.”

A very different sort of trumpet will take center stage for three nights beginning Tuesday at the New York Philharmonic when Philip Smith, the orchestra’s principal trumpeter, premieres “A Voice, a Messenger” by Aaron Jay Kernis as part of the program “Alan Gilbert and Soloists from the Philharmonic.” And yet the work’s roots reach all the way back to Jericho. (The concerto is a co-commission of the New York Philharmonic and the Big Ten Band Directors Association.) Mr. Smith, a devout Christian, requested that Mr. Kernis—a Jewish composer whose past works have included Holocaust references and texts by the medieval Spanish mystic Solomon Ibn Gabirol—base the piece on trumpet references in the Bible.

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