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Articles

Below are links to a library we are building of material of interest to both professional cantors and those simply interested in synagogue music.

Aspects of the Cantor's Art

Performing British Cantors

The Role of the Jewish Cantor by Victor Tunkel

The British Cantorate: what does the future hold? by Stephen Glass

The Anglo-Jewish Cantorate by Victor Tunkel

London Choirs participating in the Barry Weinberg Jewish Choral Festivals

Cantor Charles Lowy - CD and Book

Tribute to Barry Weinberg my Uncle by Stephen Glass

The Power of Synagogue Music by Stephen Glass


Aspects of the Cantor's Art
posted 8 September 2006
Yossele Rosenblatt - Techniques for Prayer Leading - that are not taught in Cantorial School. Was a series of 4 talks/workshops for cantors and those interested in the cantorial art by Cantor Joseph Levine, Philadelphia at Central Synagogue, 36 Hallam Street, W1N 6NW Wednesdays 8, 15, 22 and 29 November 2006
Singing the sacred chant of the synagogue - no matter of which denomination - to certain melodic and rhythmic modes, offers the solace and stability of long standing Jewish tradition in the midst of our rapidly changing lives.
Starting 8th November, in four weekly sessions, Joe Levine the distinguished cantorial scholar from Philadelphia, will examine with us what it is about the famous cantors of the Golden Age - that makes their renderings both timeless and timely, on the theory that ancient ways may yet have something to teach us..
In the sessions will spend some time listening to the greats such as Yossele Rosenblatt and Pierre Pinchik - then with musical handouts from several eras that Joe has prepared, attendees will be invited, if they wish, to perform in a workshop setting, applying the freshly learned chant patterns to their own singing, and listening and reacting to their fellows. All of the chants can and will be applied in the classes to several other texts common to all branches of Jewish practice.
The course is open to all who love and have an interest in cantorial music, and will be of especial interest to practising cantors. Singing by students will be encouraged, but not mandatory. Non-professional lovers of cantorial music might think of this as a mini-course in "participatory listening."
Joseph A. Levine holds a doctorate in Sacred Music and has taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Academy for Jewish Religion, and the Jewish Music Institute's School for Liturgical Music at the University of London. He serves on the Rabbinical Assembly's High Holiday Mahzor Committee, and is Editor of the Journal of Synagogue Music. His latest book, Emunat Abba-The Sacred Chant of Abba Yosef Weisgal, was recently republished by the Cantors Assembly in a 25th-Anniversary Edition.

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Performing British Cantors

(December 2004)
Gedalya Alexander
Born in 1976, Gedalya Alexander became interested in Cantorial singing at a very early age. As a boy, he sang with the cantors of his Synagogue in Manchester on High Holydays. Having been deeply moved by outstanding recordings of the great Cantors of the early 20 th century, as well as by the heartfelt rendering of synagogue services by his late grandfather from Galicia , he was inspired to become a cantor himself, one day. He serves as cantor of the prestigious Finchley Synagogue where he conducts the weekly Sabbath and Festival services, and has performed in concerts in London . He continues to study with Cantor Moshe Haschel, who has been an inspirational mentor. He studied classical singing with John Noble and is now studying with Anthony Roden.
David Apfel
David Apfel is cantor of the Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue in Leeds , having inherited his cantorial virtuosity from his late father, Dayan Joseph Apfel. He has enthralled audiences in North America , Israel , Hong Kong , Australia , New Zealand and throughout the UK and is in demand to sing in marriage services. He sings in several languages and delights his audiences at home and abroad with his outstanding repertoire of chazanut, Yiddish songs and humorous tales.
Robert Brody
Robert Brody began his vocal studies at the Birmingham College of Music while he was a student of dentistry at the University. On returning to London he continued at Trinity College of Music and then with Benvenuto Finelli who introduced him to the Bel Canto vocal technique as well as the Royal College and the Royal Academy of Music. He has on many occasions been called on to act as Cantor in Synagogue Services in London and throughout Europe , Canada and USA . He has visited Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia to record Cantorial Music of the Ghetto for BBC TV and has conducted memorial services in Warsaw , at Auschwitz and Treblinka. He visited Romania this year to perform with the Arad Phiharmonic choir in the Synagogue. He has given recitals in London 's leading venues, has recorded for RCA and the BBC. He has recorded music by Louis Lewandowski with the Zemel Choir of London , and with the BBC Singers for Radio 3. His recently re-issued CD 'Hebrew and Cantorial Melodies' has received wide acclaim.
Moshe Dubiner
Cantor Moshe Dubiner was born in London and brought up in a Chasidic atmosphere, attending the Yesodey Hatorah School , followed by Schneiders and Eitz Chain Yeshivot. At only 16 years old he was accepted as a student at Jews College where he studied chazanut with the late Rev Leo Bryll. He studied voice production under Dino Borgiolo and the eminent Harold Miller. At the age of 17 he officiated at the Great Synagogue in Commercial Road in the East End and later at the Great Garden Street Synagogue where he was cantor for 2 years. In 1962 he was appointed cantor at Bayswater Synagogue, following in the footsteps of Rev Leo Bryll and 2 years later accepted the post of cantor at Brondesbury Synagogue, taking over from Rev Aaron Elfand. When Rev Faigenblum retired from Cricklewood Synagogue, Cantor Dubiner took over and served them for several years and in 1980 held the post of cantor when the Western Synagogue amalgamated with Marble Arch Synagogue. For the last 30 years Cantor Dubiner has combined running a successful business with being a part-time cantor in various communities, ranging from Bournemouth via South of France to Israel and the USA .
Lawrence Fine
Rev Lawrence Fine is a renowned cantor who graduated from the Cantor's Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Juilliard School of Music in New York . He has served congregations in New York , Israel , Holland and England , where until recently he was the cantor at Belsize Square Synagogue. From 1984 to 1986 he was the Director of the Masorti Association and since 1987 he has been the Director of the Institute of Nusach Hatefila at the Sternberg Centre in London . He has lectured in Liturgy, Kabbalah and Jewish liturgical music at the Leo Baeck Rabbinical College in London and has made several CD recordings, including the High Holy Day Music of Belsize Square Synagogue, The Salomon Sulzer Concert with the Zemel Choir and in April 2004, a recording of Chazanut in Holland from 1949 - 2004, entitled Tov Lehodot.
Rev Fine has made appearances with many fine orchestras including the Israel National Opera and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta.
Moshe Haschel
Cantor Moshe Haschel was born in Buenos Aires , Argentina and in 1969 emigrated with his family to Israel ... He graduated from the Israeli Institute for Cantorial Art in Jerusalem where he studied with Cantor Naftali Herstik, Cantor Moshe Stern, Eli Jaffe, Daniel liff and Dan Hendrikson. In 1985, he accepted his first post as chazzan of the Great Synagogue "Ein Ya'akov' in Giv'ataim, Israel . Soon after he conducted services at the Green & Sea Point Hebrew Congregation in Cape Town , South Africa . In 1988 Cantor Haschel accepted a call from the Finchley Synagogue and since 1997 he has occupied the bimah of the St. John's Wood Synagogue, London . As an exemplary exponent of the cantorial art, his faithful interpretations of some of the most intricate compositions demonstrate a profound understanding of the various styles of this music, an accomplishment that links him with the great cantors of the past. Along with his synagogal responsibilities, Cantor Haschel is renowned as a concert performer, singing to great acclaim in many parts of the world including England , Israel , Europe , South Africa , The United States and Canada in addition to having made several recordings. Among his many appearances on radio and television one can perhaps single out the BBC live broadcast of the first National Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at Westminster Hall in January 2001 In the presence of HRH Charles Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister Mr. Tony Blair and many other dignitaries, Cantor Haschel chanted the El Male Rachamim prayer for the holocaust martyrs.
Steven Leas
Steven Leas grew up in South Africa , where he made a considerable impact as a cantor and also as a singer in the operatic and musical theatre fields. He was also the lead singer of a flourishing corporate band 'Moodswing' and the proprietor of a successful recording studio. He appeared many times on television with major SA orchestras and international soloists, singing in many styles He was Cantor of the Linksfield-Senderwood Hebrew Congregation and was selected by the South African Broadcasting Corporation to explain the role of a cantor to the South African Television Public. Steven is part of a South African Jewish version of the 'Three Tenors Concert' with Avron Alter and Oshy Tugentahft most recently in a very successful concert in Sydney , Australia . He was also the Chairman of The Finance Committee of SAMET (The South African Music Education Trust) of which Nelson Mandela is a Trustee.
Steven moved to London in the beginning of 2002 to further his operatic career where he completed the English National Opera 'The Knack' Programme under Mary King, Rufus Norris and Leah Hausman (of Royal Opera fame). He is currently studying voice production with Raymond Connell and Anthony Roden. He is cantor of the Great Portland Street Synagogue in London and sings with the Neimah Singers ( St John's Wood Synagogue) under Marc Temerlies and also is 'Resident Cantor' of the London Jewish Male Choir, Musical Director Michael Etherton, with whom he will tour Florida in 2005 together with Cantor Naftali Herstik. Steven visited Auschwitz in 2004 to record the memorial prayer 'El Male Rachamim' for the BBC, Canadian and Polish Television to mark the 60 th anniversary of the Camp's liberation. He was chosen to take part in the National Holocaust Commemoration event at the Great Hall, Palace of Westminster (English Parliament) on 27 January 2005 , which will be televised nationally. Steven is planning a tour to South Africa with Stephen Glass in 2005.
Chaim Tsvi Lider
Chaim Tsvi Lider was born in Jerusalem in 1953 into an illustrious Rabbinic family. Yiddish was the language of the household, while music and religious learning were both central to his upbringing. Chazan Lider received his advanced religious education at Yeshiva Etz Haim in Jerusalem . He left Israel to further his vocal training in New York and Berlin , studying with eminent Chazanim such as Noah Shall. Married with a family, he is now based in London from where he is pursuing an international career.
Yehuda Marx
Cantor Yehuda Marx was born in Manchester into a cantorial and Chassidic family. From a very early age he already knew that he wanted to be a Chazan. He enrolled at Jews College to study Chazanut full time under the late Rev Bryll and the late Rev Sherman. During this period of study he made it his practice to listen to every Chazan in London , often walking long distances to do so - an experience he found very rewarding and uplifting. Yehuda has sung in numerous synagogues in this country as well as in Israel , New York and Sweden . At present, he is the Chazan of the Heaton Park Synagogue in Manchester - a position he has held since 1990.
Jonathan Murgraff
Jonathan Murgraff was educated at the Hasmonean Grammar School and showed an interest in singing from a young age, performing in musicals and also conducting synagogue services. His interest in cantorial music was influenced by the late Chazan Korn and numerous visiting cantors who appeared at Hendon's Raleigh Close Synagogue. While studying in Israel before starting university, Jonathan was chosen to perform as a soloist in the Jerusalem Theatre to inaugurate the World Bnai Akiva Congress. He was also selected to attend the prestigious Stuart Burrowes Master Class in classical and operatic singing and also participated in the competition for Young Jewish performer of the Year. He became Chief Cantor of the Central synagogue in London in 1996 and studied liturgical music under Richard Rosten and Cantor Moshe Haschel. He performed there in concert with the world renowned Moshe Stern. Murgraff still acts as a visiting chazan around London but runs a full time private dental clinic in London 's West End .
Adam Musikant
Adam is the Honorary Chazan at the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation of London, a position he has held since January 2000. From the age of six, he has sung in the synagogue choir. Between the ages of eight and fourteen he trained as a boy treble at the Royal Opera House and sang in operas and concerts in the UK . In 1984 he travelled with the Royal Opera to Los Angeles to sing in the Olympic Arts Festival. He has conducted services for many years - (at the age of seventeen he took his first Yom Kippur service at Bevis Marks) - mostly at Lauderdale Road and occasionally at other Sephardi synagogues. Recordings include pop and classical music, television, drama and most recently, a CD of melodies from the liturgy of the Spanish and Portuguese, with their choir. As a director of a financial trading company, Adam works hard to find the time to devote to his love of chazanut, singing and golf.
Stephen Robins
Cantor Stephen Robins ARCM is one of just a handful of chazanim who trained at a full time course in the former Jews College under the tutelage of the late Rev L Bryll. He was awarded the diploma from the college in 1975 and then went on to study voice and repertoire for 9 years with Mark Raphael, a senior lecturer of the Royal College of Music.
Stephen is recognised as a leading teacher of Nussach Hatefilah, prayer motifs and has taught at Jews College (now the LSJS) for the last 15 years. He has held 2 major full time positions, 12 years at Wembley and later received a call from Edgware United, a position he held for 11 years. In 1997, he decided to become free-lance in order to expand his career internationally. For the last 7 years has been travelling, mainly to Canada and America . He has appeared on both commercial TV and the BBC over the past few years and has made several CDs, the latest one being a Taste of Shabbat. He has held a secondary post as Chazan to the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue in Montreal , where he has conducted additional Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Services for 7 years and performed at major concerts both here and abroad. This year, Stephen conducted Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in Woodside Park , North Finchley , where he has been the part time chazzan for the last 4 years. The Synagogue has not had an adult choir before, but for this year, a new choir was formed. The choir proved to be highly successful and further events are in hand. The choir gave its first performance outside of Woodside Synagogue wich Stephen Robins at the Barbican Art Gallery on 15 December 2004
Lionel Rosenfeld
Lionel Rosenfeld was born into a family of Rabbis and cantors and was imbued with an understanding of Jewish music and prayer by his father, Rabbi Abraham Rosenfeld (zt"l). His own inimitable interpretation of the liturgy inspired the Choral Shabbaton services from which the Shabbaton Choir draws its name. Lionel sings extensively with the Shabbaton Choir in concert and on tour under its director Stephen Levey, and also works closely with Stephen Glass in the composition of new music.
Lionel made Aliyah with his family in 1973. In 1988 he became Minister/Chazan at London 's Western Marble Arch Synagogue. After ten years he returned to Israel , before accepting a call to become Minister of the Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation in 2001. He will soon be returning to the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London.
David Shine
David Shine's interest in Chazanut began as a young boy. He was inspired by the Chazanim in Nottingham where he grew up, firstly by the late Rev Aaron Hiller and then by Rev Maurice Schwartz. He conducted High Holydays Services in Staines at the invitation of Rev L Rosenberg, whose daughter Janet he married. In 1973 he was appointed Chazan of the North Hendon Adath Yisroel Synagogue, which he served for 30 years. He has officiated as guest Chazan and performed at concerts in London and in the provinces. David was introduced to the London Cantorial Singers in 1997 by Ian Lyons z''l. He serves on the choir's executive committee and is one of its lead cantors. David is a lyric tenor. He learnt voice production under the late John Hargreaves; then under Tony Maddison and now under Leslie Seymour. He studies Chazanut under Cantor Moshe Haschel. David believes fervently that the aim of the Chazan is to use the Chazanut and vocal techniques to reflect the various layers of meaning in the prayers. Although seeking to be a faithful follower of the liturgical tradition he does occasionally insert changes in traditional chazanut compositions so as to reflect the true meaning of the words. David also sings Yiddish and operatic pieces in concert to critical acclaim. He is a solicitor by profession.
Geoffrey Shisler
Geoffrey Shisler studied Nusach Hatephillah and Chazanut at Jews' College, London with the late Rev Leo Bryll. His first full-time position was at the famed New Synagogue, Egerton Road , Stamford Hill for 2 years and he then moved to Kenton where he was Chazan for twenty years. He taught the part-time Nusach course at Jews' College for eleven years. He was Minister/Chazan to the Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation for seven years and is now the Rabbi of the New West End Synagogue, London, where he officiates as cantor only occasionally when the resident Chazan, Jeremy Lawson, is away.
Dov Speier
Dov Speier was born in Stockholm. His training took place in many countries including Sweden , Belgium , Israel and England. Rev Speier is considered as a concert Chazan and gives operatic recitals. He has a wide range of singing styles in his performance including Opera, Yiddish and Israeli songs. He has given concerts in many countries including Sweden , Denmark and Israel. He is now a freelance cantor and takes services in the UK and abroad.

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The Role of the Jewish Cantor by Victor Tunkel
(December 2004)
The synagogue cantor (Hebrew: chazan, plural chazanim) is a prayer leader. He is not a priest or cleric but an individual chosen by the congregation to be a messenger for them and lead them in their prayers. The position has evolved and developed over many centuries. Initially, it called for someone familiar with the texts who was fluent in Hebrew. This was long before printing existed and at a time when manuscripts were scarce.
Over the years, other important qualifications soon emerged as being fundamental to the role. The Chazan was expected to be well-versed in the contents and meanings of the prayers and highly proficient in all the various prayer modes and ancient melodies which are associated with the liturgy and which characterise different days and even times of day in the Jewish year. He was expected to have a pleasant voice, clear diction and an ability to create an atmosphere of prayer and to move the congregation to enter into it. Nowadays, he may be called upon to minister in other ways to the community beyond the synagogue services.
Over the many centuries and lands of Jewish dispersion, the style of the chant of the chazan ("chazanut") has varied greatly and has often been influenced by the surrounding culture. It is not surprising therefore that the voice-production and musical scales of chazanim from Morocco or from Yemen sound to our ears like that of their Arab neighbours. Similarly chazanim from Central Europe have sometimes aspired to be German helden-tenors. Since the prayer texts are more or less the same everywhere, we find a familiar picture richly painted in many alternative colours.

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The British Cantorate: what does the future hold? by Stephen Glass
(December 2004)
Everybody has a different expectation of a synagogue service, most often coloured by the experience they had growing up. When I was growing up in the UK in the 1960s and 70s, Shabbat, Festival and High Holyday Services were lead by professionally trained individuals. It was also a time when there was a shared musical heritage among Jewish communities across Britain - a core of congregational melodies as well as classics of the cantorial and choral repertoire, which everyone knew. Hundreds of children and adults received their first grounding in Jewish liturgy by being directly involved in services through singing in the synagogue choir. This provided them with familiarity with the text as well as an intuitive understanding of the changing modes for the different services and times of day, across the Jewish calendar.
But times, tastes and priorities change. It is no longer the norm for a congregation to engage a professional chazan. The knowledge that used to exist in the deployment of the appropriate nusach (mode/chant) at the right time, has been lost or in many places, sadly diluted. Nowadays, melodies often have to be simple or people apparently can't learn them, with little acknowledgement of the fact that much of the text does not call for toe-tapping, child-like tunes. Also, to equate "singing out loud" with "congregational participation" is to entirely overlook how intensely engaged and connected you can be to something, while remaining completely silent. Just because you're singing out loud does not in any way mean you understand what you are singing or are in any way concentrating on its meaning or intent. Automatic pilot is one of the great enemies of Kavanah (intention) in prayer!
And as to the future? How will future generations be lead to an understanding and love of the prayers and the music of the synagogue? Are we dedicating our efforts to the next generation? Where will our future choristers and cantors come from?
The JMI School of Jewish Choral and Cantorial Music hopes that it can play some part in addressing these issues. Its remit is to work with all existing cantors and choirs - with children in schools and synagogues; to establish Teenage Choirs; to present masterclasses for choir directors of all backgrounds, arrange Choral Festivals for British and visiting choirs and run cantorial masterclasses and summer schools. We will provide resources of musical arrangements and repertoire and present public concerts showing our cantorial and choral liturgy in the very best light.

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The Anglo-Jewish Cantorate by Victor Tunkel
(December 2004)

In this country, both strands of the Jewish people, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, are represented, and so is their liturgical music. The Sephardim resettled in England from 1656 onwards, establishing their first synagogue in Creechurch Lane and a burial ground in Mile End; the latter unhappily was soon needed when the Great Plague carried off many of the immigrants. The survivors then built their synagogue to its present site in Bevis Marks in 1701. By then, Ashkenazi Jews had begun to arrive, mostly from North Germany . Their first synagogue, 'The Great', opened in Duke's Place, Aldgate, in 1722. It was destroyed in a 1941 air raid.
The Bevis Marks community came from Holland , but were descended from ancestors who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492 (or who had remained there in pretended conversion). Their liturgical music (and secular ballads in old Spanish) reflects this. Their oldest prayer chants have still an Iberian flavour. But in the 18 th and 19 th centuries, a rich anglicised musical tradition developed with new compositions in four-part harmony. The Bevis Marks chazan's style is restrained and dignified. The Sephardi tradition of full congregational participation calls for their chazan to be a true prayer-leader rather than a solo performer.
The Ashkenazi cantor, on the other hand, is more of a virtuoso. He is expected to inspire the congregation with a depth of expression reflecting the nature and meaning of the many facets of Jewish prayer: pleading, confession, contrition, adoration, triumph, pathos, recollection of times past, hopes for the future, grief at loss beyond words. Within the traditional prayer modes he is allowed, indeed expected, to extemporise freely but always keeping within or returning to the applicable mode, its scale and cadences. This calls for considerable skill and flexibility and vocal dexterity.
The first London Ashkenazi chazan, predating the actual building at Duke's Place, was Yehuda Leib ben Moshe, of Lissa (1690-1706). The first to officiate in the Great Synagogue was Yechiel Michael ben Moshe Yoseph (1722-1750). Following him, Isaac Polak served for a record 56 years: 1746-1802. Under him served two renowned choristers: 'Leoni' (Myer Leon) and John Braham, both of whom were also acclaimed opera singers at Covent Garden .
The German Style : In 1827, Duke's Place appointed Heinich Eliassohn, of Darmstadt (the title of chazan had by now been anglicised to 'Reader'). He brought to England with him a 14 year-old boy singer, Julius Mombach. For the next half-century, Mombach under Eliassohn and his successors, Ascher, Green, and Keizer , dominated Anglo-Jewish synagogue music. Influenced by the 'new wave' of synagogue composition coming from Sulzer in Vienna, Lewandowski in Berlin and Naumbourg in Paris, Mombach composed numerous settings for the services of the whole year and formed and trained a choir of boys and men to support the chazan. Mombach's music, together with that of two other London chazanim, Wasserzug and Hast, constitutes much of the home-grown Anglo-Jewish repertoire to this day.
The Eastern Style : At the end of the 19 th Century, many Ashkenazim fled westwards from Tsarist persecution. Of those who came to England , many found the anglicised style of service and the German style of music unappealing. So they founded their own synagogues in which the Eastern Ashkenazic tradition was maintained. This was more fervent and participatory, but less orderly. The prayer modes and set melodies show more Asian and less European influence. The style of chazanut likewise is more intricate, melismatic, and florid. For the Jews in Eastern Europe , cut off from general European culture, concerts, opera, etc., the chazan provided a musical treat, almost an entertainment, to satisfy their senses. Chazanut there had developed to some extent for this very purpose, with non-Jewish tunes occasionally introduced, despite the frowns of rabbis.
In England , the arrival in 1903 of Samuel Alman (born Podolia 1878 and died London 1947) brought into the English synagogue an outstanding trained musician steeped in the music of Eastern Europe . In his many compositions he was able to absorb the Anglo-Jewish tradition and yet to add an eastern flavour, so that under his enduring influence the music of the English synagogue has become a rich hybrid of both styles. Sound Recording : In addition, the arrival of sound recording at the beginning of the 20 th Century had encouraged a series of Eastern European chazanim with remarkable voices to make gramophone records which were eagerly bought by the masses. The influence of recording may itself have excited these singers to indulge in the most extraordinary vocal acrobatics and coloraturas with prodigious flexibility, much of which may have been unknown before. The first chazan to record was the legendary Sirota in 1902. A golden age of recorded and concert chazanut followed, magnificent voices that we can still hear: Karniol, Meisels, Rutman, Kwartin, Katchko, Steinberg, Rosenblatt, Hershman, Vigoda, Rapaport, Shlisky, Roitman, Pinchik, the four Koussevitsky brothers, Chagy, Alter, Glantz. A later generation gave us Moyshe Oysher, Richard Tucker, Jan Peerce, Leibele Waldman, and others who were able to appear on the opera stage and in films. Some of these listed as well as many others were chazan-composers who reworked the traditional melodies and wrote new ones; and their recorded versions have become 'traditional'.
Chazanim, home-bred and imported : For many years the teaching of chazanut to English-born students was offered at the London Rabinical Training School , known then as Jews' College (and now as the London School of Jewish Studies) by such devoted chazan-educators as Mayerowitsch, Pincasovitch and Bryll. However, a steady flow of continental chazanim came to occupy the leading synagogues' positions. The flow greatly increased with refugee-chazanim from Europe before the war; and even after the war there were a few survivors who came. In the post-war years, a succession of outstanding chazanim arrived from or via Israel to positions in leading London synagogues including Malovany, Hainovitz, Herstik and Korn (sojourning here a while before moving to higher positions in Israel and North America. But as this evening's concert shows, we have not ceased to produce and nurture some talented English-born chazanim.
Chazanut and changing fashion : In recent years, some congregants have expressed impatience with traditional Ashkenazi chazanut as prolonging services, excluding participation, and being out of touch with modern taste. Yet sales of recordings and attendances at concerts tell a different story. Chazanut is a peculiar treasure of the Jewish people. More directly than any other means it enables us to glimpse a world we have lost and to share the experience and devotion of our forebears. For centuries, Chazanim preserved and evolved the deepest and often agonised expression of the Jew at prayer. For us today, they look to the past and to the future.
I hope this outline, necessarily compressed and selective, will help to give some idea of the depth and strength of the institution of chazan and of the music chazanim have created over the centuries.

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London Choirs participating in the Barry Weinberg Jewish Choral Festivals

(December 2003)
Children's choir
Jewish Youth Choir (JYC), Musical Director Vivienne Bellos
JYC rehearses every Wednesday from 5:30 - 7:00pm in North London . They sing Jewish music from around the world as well as pop cantatas and songs from the shows. They have performed at many prestigious London venues as well as at local residential homes and clubs but most of all they love singing. For more information or to join the choir please call Viv Bellos 07956 912567 or email vivienne.bellos [at] btinternet.com Male Choirs The Ne'imah Singers, Conductor: MarcTemerlies
The Ne'imah Singers was founded in 1994 by Marc Temerlies, together with chorister Jonathan Weissbart, and Cantor Moshe Haschel. The name "Ne'imah" ("sweet/pleasant melody") reflects their aim of glorifying prayer through beautiful song. The choir's music is based on traditional melodies, modes and styles (nusach) and includes works by the great American, British and European cantorial composers - Rosenblatt, Alman, Lewandowski, Dunajewsky, Sulzer, Mombach, Adler, Salomone de Rossi, Saqui and Zilberts. The majority of the arrangements are by Raymond Goldstein ( Jerusalem ) although the choir also sings arrangements by Stephen Glass ( Montreal ), Emmanuel Fisher and Marc Temerlies (UK). The Choir sings regularly with Cantor Haschel at the St. John's Wood United Synagogue on Sabbaths and Festivals. A highlight of the year is the Synagogue's Choral Midnight Selichot Service, fast becoming established as a focal point in the communal diary. The Neimah Singers have been chosen to appear at major civic and national services and events such as the first British National Holocaust Day Commemoration where they performed before royalty and national leaders and their performances have been broadcast on BBC radio and television. The Choir's CD is available from Jewish Music Distribution. Conductor Mark Temerlies trained as a pianist at the Royal Academy of Music and studied the cantorial art with the late Rev. Mark Hertzberg. He has acted as cantor in Hove and in London . Marc has a degree in mathematics is a chartered accountant and currently works for an investment bank in the City. He is married to Idit, daughter of Cantor Naftali Herstik of Jerusalem and they have a little daughter.
The Neimah Singers rehearse on Wednesday evenings 8:00 - 10:15 at St John's Wood Synagogue, Grove End Road , NW3. Music readers with an interest in Synagogue music are welcome to join. Enquiries to Marc Temerlies 07973 909 384 or email marc.temerlies [at] citigroup.com or see the Neimah Website www.neimah.freeserve.co.uk
The Shabbaton Choir, Conductor: Stephen Levey
The Shabbaton Choir was formed in 1986 especially for the young Music graduate Stephen Glass. It was called the Bnai Brith Festival Singers and performed arrangements of traditional and composed Synagogue music by Stephen Glass himself, with cantors Naftali Herstik, Stephen Robins and Geoffrey Shisler. They pioneered the re-introduction of the midnight Choral Selichot Service in the UK . After Stephen glass left for Montreal , Stephen Levey (a chorister since 1986) took over and conducted the Choir at the Induction Service of Chief Rabbi Sacks. Each year they are invited to perform beautiful Shabbat services at many places around the country with cantor Lionel Rosenfeld and continue to present the Selichot service at which the Chief Rabbi gives his New Year address.
The Choirs repertoire is mainly music by Stephen Glass whose innovative choral harmonies and arrangements are written with the aim of bringing out clearly the mood and meaning of the words. The choir has gained a reputation for a mellow sound, sensitive singing and a rich interpretation of the psalms and prayers.
In August 2002 a new CD Selichot LIVE! was released featuring Lionel, Shimon Craimer and the Choir. The Choir has recorded many times for the BBC and has been featured frequently on radio and television. Together with Shimon Craimer and Lionel Rosenfeld, they participated in the hugely successful "Solidarity Through Song" mission to Israel in February 2003, which was led by the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks. The mission featured a series of concerts, hospital visits and a choral Shabbaton.
The Shabbaton Choir remember at this time their revered colleague and friend, Barry Weinberg z"l, whose wisdom, talent and wit they all sorely miss.
Mixed choirs
The Zemel Choir, Conductor: Ben Wolf
The Zemel Choir, established by Dudley Cohen in 1955, has established an international reputation as a fine mixed voice Jewish choir. Its purpose is to explore a wide range of Jewish repertoire in many languages from the Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yiddish and Israeli Jewish music traditions, for concert performances. They are invited perform around the country for countless community and civic events and have travelled abroad extensively singing at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Zimriyah in Jerusalem .. They have made several TV and Radio appearances and of their many recordings the most recent is The English Tradition of Jewish Choral Music. The Zemel Choir's members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and enjoy being part of a warm and friendly social group.
The Zemel Choir rehearse on Monday nights 8:00-10:15pm at Hendon Reform Synagogue, Danescroft Avenue , NW4
New members are always welcome. Information on the choir can be found on our website at www.the-zemel-choir.org or phone the membership secretary, Doreen Havardi on 020-8868 8423.
Alyth Choral Society, Conductor: Vivienne Bellos
ACS was formed in 1982 by Vivienne Bellos their present conductor. This choir was designed to give Jewish amateur singers the opportunity of singing large scale choral works with orchestra without having to work with christological texts. Performances have included the Creation, Elijah and many of Handel's great oratorios in many prestigious venues. They also sing Jewish settings in Hebrew and have recently given the world premiere of a piece by Julian Dawes, The Death of Moses which the choir commissioned with the help of a JMI Millennium Award.
Alyth Choral Society rehearse on Tuesdays 8:00-10:15pm (temporarily whilst the North Western Reform Synagogue is undergoing building works) at the Unitarian Church Hoop Lane NW11. New members are very welcome and information on how to join the choir can be obtained by ringing the Membership secretary on 020 8455 1732 or email Rodnjude [at] yahoo.com

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Cantor Charles Lowy - CD and Book

'The Lost Recordings' and 'In and Out of Harmony'
A CD of newly discovered recordings by Rev Charles Lowy, has just been released. He was the cantor of the Hampstead Synagogue for 28 years from 1959. The CD is a treasure and aficionados have declared that it is very special to have retrieved some more recordings by one of Britain 's most respected and much-loved cantors. This is the 6th CD on the JMI Jewish Music Heritage Recordings label.
Recorded over forty years ago, the selections include Cantor Lowy's celebrated Sheva B'rochos recorded at London 's Hampstead Synagogue in 1960 during the wedding ceremony of Dudley Cohen, erstwhile choirmaster of Hampstead Synagogue and also founder of the Zemel Choir. Also discovered were renditions of three compositions by the cantor's late grandfather Oberkantor Lzr Lwy, who served the community in Ppa, North-West Hungary, as chief cantor for 40 years.
Charles Lowy, born in Pressburg, Bratislava , in 1911, studied in religious seminaries before becoming cantor at Munich 's Reichenbach Synagogue, while still studying music and voice production at the Trapp Conservatory. He became chief cantor in Szolnok, Hungary, and later served at Budapest 's Rombach Synagogue, and as assistant chief cantor at the magnificent Dohny Street Synagogue. In 1947, after an arduous period of forced labour in Hungary during the war, he was appointed cantor of the Queens Park Synagogue in Glasgow, Scotland and later joined the Hampstead Synagogue in London where he served as cantor for 28 years, retiring in 1987. He passed away in July 1998.
Also found and published by his family are Cantor Lowy's own stories of his life during the Hitler Era. In this slim volume, called In and Out of Harmony, Cantor Lowy transforms what was a horrific period of European life into 23 gentle, anecdotal tales of when the world went mad, told in a soft minor key. The flashes of humour and irony serve both to relieve his story and underline the darkness of the clouds that gathered around him, as well as to suggest to the reader how his spirit survived its time of trial.
Purchase: There is a special opportunity to purchase both the CD and the book. This would make a very good Chanukah present. The CD normally 12.50 and the book, usually 8 . As a package you can have the book and CD for 15.00 (all plus postage and packing).

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Tribute to Barry Weinberg my Uncle by Stephen Glass
(June 2003)
Barry was involved in all aspects of Jewish Music. He sang in our synagogue choir in Wembley, in the Zemel Choir and in the Shabbaton Choir. He played in a Jewish band and in Klezmer groups. He accompanied Cantors and played at wedding ceremonies. He lectured around the UK , attended international conferences and wrote articles for a host of publications. Largely self-taught in music, except for formal piano studies, Barry had a distinctive speaking voice and a singing voice whose quality was perfect for choral music. He loved all types of music. He was particularly fond of Ragtime and Klezmer music a well as the songs of Tom Lehrer and Flanders & Swann.
We sang together for years! Firstly in the synagogue choir (my Dad was in the group as well). In my middle teens I became the conductor of the group and he was always an incredible supporter of my work. In my early twenties, the Bnai Brith Jewish Music Festival (precursors of the Jewish Music Institute) formed the B'nai Brith Festival Singers for me, which evolved into the Shabbaton Choir. Barry was one of the founding members of the group. In addition, we both sang in the Zemel Choir at one point and toured Israel together as part of the choir. Barry even joined me in Montreal for my first High Holydays in Canada in 1990. Barry worked across the Jewish musical spectrum. He was personally comfortable collaborating with everyone and was universally accepted in that way. At this concert we remember Barry with admiration and affection.

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The Power of Synagogue Music by Stephen Glass
(June 2003)
Director, JMI Choral and Cantorial Music Section also Director of Music, Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Montreal, Canada
For me, the power of Synagogue Music emanates from the potent role that it can play in the act of prayer. Its job must be to make the words come alive and fly off the page of the prayer book, drawing on the traditional weekday, Sabbath and Festival modes. It's about perpetuating our musical heritage so that the music maintains its proper association with each Festival, in the same way as traditional foods play their role in defining the character of each of the different Jewish Holidays.
It's about interpreting the words in a way that is aligned with the mood, character and meaning of the text. It's about inspiring the congregant and embarking on a journey to a higher plane. It's about creating an environment that allows a conduit to be opened in order to reach a place beyond ourselves. It's about variety, so the same text is not mechanically reproduced, week in, week out. It's about participation, vocal, emotional and intellectual. It's about entertainment, about beauty and engaging the worshipper. It's about tradition and innovation and, unlike opera, popular music, or art song, in theory you are singing something you actually mean, not just reproducing a fictitious libretto, or playing the part of a certain character.
So, when we pray for peace, happiness, health, forgiveness etc; it is for real. It's not a re-enactment of something. It's a spontaneous, live request. It's like breaking news. It's not a recording. It's actually happening in the moment. There's nothing more powerful, particularly when the music is really engaging, which could be because of the beauty of the melody, the dramatic nature of the music, its 'catchiness', its simplicity or sophistication and so on.
In our choral and cantorial work, we will showcase some spectacular cantorial repertoire which will be but a glimpse of what is possible. There will be a good mixture of psalms and prayers, both from the traditional liturgy and some more modern additions that have come in to make the ancient tradition relevant to a new generation. We will include music of the wider repertory of the Chazan and Choir such as Yiddish and Israeli popular music.

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More information to follow here.

 

 

Last Updated : 7th April 2013