Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cantor Yosef Gottesman, Opera in the Synagogue!

Whew, I haven't posted since Monday but not for lack of material. I was just out late smoozing with other conference goers and trying to find out if I was in trouble for a little ruckus I caused at one of the conference panels. I told a bunch of emperors they had no clothes. Yikes. I normally keep my little rants to myself or my friends. This time I said it into microphone in front of about 100 people.

Anyway, I'll be heading home tomorrow, so I thought I'd get in one more post about Jewish music in Florence. Today's feature is Cantor Yosef Gottesman. According to his bio, he was born in Florence, educated in England, and attended yeshiva in Israel. He tours regularly and has five albums out and (drum roll please) "His cover version of the title track from the Titanic movie "My Heart Will Go On" sung in Hebrew, is becoming a staple song for Jewish Weddings all across the world."

I don't think I needed to know that there's a Hebrew version of music from the Titanic. Sigh.

Anyway, sappy love songs aside, Cantor Gottesman has fine voice and sings in the operatic cantorial style that once lit up synagogues all over America. Here are a few of his sample tracks that I particularly enjoyed. (yeah, I guess I can get sappy too).

Kevakrath (From Gotteman and Sons)

Tevienu (From Yosef Gottesman sings Carlebach with Sthimme)

And here it is, in all it's smaltzy glory...
Titanic - Eshet Chail (From Opera in the Synagogue)

If your interested in purchasing one of Cantor Gottesman's CD's, you can contact him through his website. He also performs at all sorts of festivals and events. He even does weddings.


GV said...

Jewish music again descends to new lows in the pursuit of finding the easy way make a song without a stitch of originality or moral conscience.

I've actually made a living for over a decade primarily on recording and performing Jewish parodies from American pop music. I have often faced the decision of performing lyrics paired with music from songs far too inappropriate for the words, religiously, morally or artistically (often all three).

I may not have always made the best decisions in choosing the songs I performed, but I can proudly say my judgment never allowed me to sing the holy sabbath praise to a woman with a world famous tune composed specifically to commemorate one of the most infamous tragedies in recent history.

Argue all you want, but it's very simple: The name "Titanic" connects directly to the tragic loss of over 1500 innocent people (including Jews).

The movie's love story was a vehicle to convey the perspective of that tragedy, which is the main reason why the the movie's theme song affects us so deeply and so appropriately.

The praise & celebration of "Eishes Chayil" should have nothing to do with this terrible event, except when creative shortcomings and laziness forces someone to apply cheap and insensitive appeal to idiots whose first reaction may be "ooh, I love that song." I feel it also insults the intelligence of the woman being praised.

How loudly would Jews protest if someone took the theme from "Schindler's List" or any other song associated with a large, historical, deadly tragedy and turned it into a love song?

I can conclusively declare myself as an experienced and successful performer and writer of Jewish parodies. In that capacity, I say that this is a horrible indication of what insensitivity and arrogance brings when mixed with a lack of musical talent. No...a good voice does not make a man musical. It can, apparently, dull his ability to think.

Jack said...

Hi GV,

Whew. Not a fan, huh. I'm not either, but merely on aesthetics. I'll admit that I completely missed the fact that Cantor Gottesman was singing another lyric on top of the Titanic melody. I thought it was just a translation. Now that you've pointed out which specific lyric he's singing, I would agree that it's an odd choice. (Folks, if you don't know Eishes Chayil, check out this explanation. I don't think I'd beat him up about it quite as much as you are, but only because I find that strange combinations can sometimes work well. Not necessarily this time, mind you.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what other folks think. Any fans out there want to speak up?

GV said...


Pardon my extreme commentary, but I believe the sad state of the Jewish music today is due to the those who, out of desperation for something fresh, have turned to the copying other songs.
Instead of creating or finding unique and appropriate musical influences, they insist on the easy way out...riding the "pop train" for free. OK, some make clever parodies and others use that music as an artistic influence, but it seems now that "people who can't, just copy."
We've fallen into a famine of originality, encouraged by closed minds and forcing our kids to sing shallow songs and resulting in a well-earned disrespect of Jewish music.
More and more, Jewish words are pounded together with unrelated music like two pieces of a puzzle that don't fit. Just because the arrangements are large and the song is a secular favorite, doesn't make the lyric and music can identify with each other.

Sure, there's a place for parodies... often it works beautifully, but not everyone can do it well. Lenny Solomon (Shlock Rock), Rabbis Seymour Rockoff and David Orlovsky, the writers of Variations (not always me), Wierd Al Yankovic, Allan Sherman, etc. There really are skills involved. It requires work and lyrical experience.

Too many are trying to take the easy way out, making shallow songs, selling them alongside the real stuff, causing the audiences to disrespect the entire shelf.

The Jewish people deserve better, but too many of them don't realize it.

Thanks for listening.

Jack said...


I really feel your frustration. One of my first posts on this blog was asking where all the good frum Jewish music was. I'd just found out about this big industry of Jewish music I'd never heard of before (remember I'm a Conservative Jew, not Orthodox or Chassid). So where was the good stuff.

And, of course, I've found some along the way, but only a fraction of what I'd expected. There is, without a doubt, a lot of crap on the Judaica store shelves. Partly it's inevitable. You name a genre, and most of it is crap. Only a few musicians and songwriters in any area are really first rate, there are a lot of hard working second stringers, and an ton of want-to-be's.

But frum Jewish music has some particular challenges. The constant haranguing from folks who place historical and thematic limits on what frum Jewish music can be have created, I think, an environment where most musicians feel like they can't be creative with offending someone. Look what happened to Lipa recently. Most of the energy seems to be coming from Ba'al Teshuva's (folks who were not frum from birth). But those folks are under lots of pressure to conform as well. I'm not in a position to comment if that's how halacha (religious law) says it should be but it's a bad thing for the music. And, I think, the community.

So I agree with you wholeheartedly and have no idea what to do about it or what will come of it. It's a shame.

Anonymous said...

Really I am so happy because of the Jewish music. It is something special and different.It makes me feel that I am not living on earth. While I started listening to the Hebrew songs I had left everything . I remember that I have some work to do at this time. The first nice jewish singer was Zohar Argov but I don't mean that he was nice only in the past never . He is the king and will be the king . Zohar is the most wonderful singer in this world in my opinion.I hope that I can get the movie which contain Zohar's life story . I saw some scenes but I wish to have this movie soon. I am sure if Zohar still alive he would become the top in Israel . I will learn Hebrew because of Zohar. I also started to search for more Jewish music . At last I listened to Yosef Gottesman . He has a very good voice and I liked his style so much. Honestly , the Jewish songs have its own magic .