From the CD jacket:
Samaritan music is vocal music, unaccompanied by instruments, handed down over the one hundred and thirty generations of the ancient Israelite-Samaritan people in the land of Israel. It has been passed on in two ways:
a. Through formal study, with every Samaritan boy or girl studying for about an hour a day with Samaritan teachers at the Community Center when they come home from their regular school. They learn reading, liturgy and poetry in ancient Hebrew and in the Aramaic dialect still used today by the Samaritans;
b. By participation in prayer services at the Samaritan synagogue every Sabbath and festival.
Thus the musical tradition is preserved, with its thousand different songs and melodies, some of which are sung in prayer services and secular ceremonies, on Sabbath and festivals and on joyous as well as sorrowful occasions. Some of the songs are handed down directly, a clear echo of ancient Israelite song; some were written by Samaritan composers in the latter half of the first millennium, and some in the first half of the second millennium of the modern era.
Samaritan music is in part composed of variations and coloratura phrases which cannot be followed by the written musical score, but in part has a rhythmic unity, which facilitates writing musical scores and musical arrangements for it. Musicologists have indeed tried their hands at this with varying degrees of success.
Nonetheless, the uniqueness of Samaritan music still stands out. The performances of the Samaritan Singers emphasize the three most striking features:
1. LEFT AND RIGHT SINGING
Those who pray in the synagogue, which faces east, are divided into two groups. Members of the first group are knows as Rightists, and sit on the right side of the synagogue. Members of the second group are called Leftists and they sit on the left side of the synagogue hall. There are prayer hymns with 22 stanzas, the same number as the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each verse has 4 short lines. The Rightists begin to sing the first verse and when they get to the beginning of the third line, the Leftists begin to sing the second verse. In this way all the congregants continue singing to the end of the hymn, each side singing its own verses. The Rightists sing the odd-numbered stanzas while the Leftists sing the even-numbered ones. The cantor of the synagogue always joins the Rightists.
2. TRILLS-ADDING SYLLABLES NOT IN THE TEXT
This is also a characteristic unique to Samaritan music. The singers sing a given version but to embellish the song, they add many phrases not among the syllables comprising the words of the given text. In this manner two words can at times be sung for over two minutes, by adding a variety of syllables and trills which are not part of the text.
For example, the word kamu from the verse: "The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom like stone." (Exodus 15:5) or in ancient Hebrew, "yaradu bammasalot kamu aaben," is sung just like this: kaaawaaanuwwa'awwa'aaawwanuwwa'aamu'oooau'aoo'unwoo'aoo.
3. SINGING A GIVEN TEXT WITH A VARIETY OF MELODIES
There are many texts which are sung with different melodies according to the occasion-- secular, Sabbath, festival or pilgrimage. Thus, for example, the Song of the Day can be performed with more than ten different melodies.
For more information, see http://www.mystae.com/samaritans.html