Friday, July 11, 2008

Cantor Leib Glantz: The Man Who Spoke To God

Book Cover of 'The Man Who Spoke to God'"In theory, the cantor improves and beautifies the prayer service, organizes the service, raises it to a level of Hit’la’ha’vut (enthusiasm), and to an enlightened musical level. Therefore, an analysis of cantorial must begin with the personal human attributes of the cantor."

This is my week for cantors. First, I reviewed Cantor Erik Contzius album. And now I run across the new book "Cantor Leib Glantz: The Man Who Spoke To God" by Jerry Glantz, the son of Cantor Glantz. The quote above is the start of Cantor Glantz essay titled "The Essence of Cha'za'nut." The essay, an apt inclusion in a book that is as much a personal biography as a collection of work, is one of many reprinted in the book. The book is accompanied by two CDs with 30 recordings of Cantor Glantz. I don't have the book yet, but it's now on my wish list.

Here are a couple of samples. I enjoyed listening to them and then going back to listen to Cantor Contzius samples in my previous post. It's a wonderful contrast. Where Contzius comes out of the Reform cantorial tradition, with pipe organ and full choir, and sings with an inclusive warmth. Cantor Glantz comes from the Orthodox operatic cantorial tradition, where the cantor packed 'em in the pews acting as rock-star showman and humble servant in equal measures. The difference in the vocal styles is striking. Go back and listen to Cantor Contzius for a minute or two and then listen to these two recordings of Cantor Glantz.

She'ma Yis'ra'el - Hear O Israel!

Le'chu Ne'ra'ne'na - Let Us Sing to the Lord

Great stuff, and such a difference in style.

For more info on the book including more essay and musical samples, check out "The Man Who Spoke To God" website. Here's the rest of the "The Essence of Cha'za'nut." essay sample.

"Cha’za’nut is not just a musical profession. It is not just a trade. It is wisdom (Choch’ma). Wisdom in all its aspects: Wisdom, understanding and knowledge. The integral mission assigned to the cantor consists of demands that are not necessarily musical. A cantor is undoubtedly a singer. However, a singer is definitely not a cantor, even when he performs cantorial in a synagogue. A classical soloist, highly respected by great conductors, can be a wonderful soloist, but he is not a cantor. The greatest Italian opera singer, in order to excel, is not required to be knowledgeable about the Italian people, their history, their customs and their culture. The cantor, on the other hand, must be a complete Jew in spirit and soul. He must be a scholar of Jewish history, ancient Jewish literature, the written and oral To’rah, the Ha’la’cha (interpretation of the laws of the Scriptures) and the Mid’ra’shim (Jewish commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures). He must be familiar with the literature of the middle ages including its Pay’ta’nim (poets) and Pi’yu’tim (liturgical poems). He should be familiar with modern Hebrew literature. This Jewish consciousness is the primary basis for the wisdom of Cha’za’nut, and serves as the principle attribute of the cantor’s mission.

A second attribute, one that is no less important, is the cantor’s standard of morality. Many singers and artists conduct their lives in what is often called “bohemian” lifestyle. They frequently indulge in alcohol and unrestrained social behavior. This kind of lifestyle does not disqualify the secular artist. Cantors, as leaders of their communities, are measured according to their morality. Their behavior must be a model for the public. A cantor is not just another member of the community, but an example of which to follow. His singing must originate from holiness and purity.

A third important aspect of the Cha’zan is his credo (A’ni Ma’a’min). He must be loyal to his people and to their holy values. His religious faith must be unabridged, as he must believe in the words he is uttering, as he is required to be an interpreter of those texts.

Excerpt from: The Essence of Cha’za’nut, by Leib Glantz, 1958."

Amen to that.


Anonymous said...

I thought you might enjoy this this cantor

Jack said...

Shira, Thanks! I certainly do. I just posted it.