A group of cantors from the Chabad-Lubavitch community is going on tour.
OK, it's not quite a cross-country trek, more like a cross-town one. To prepare for its Rosh Hashanah concert, chazzanim from the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., recently put on an educational program in Manhattan for cantors and vocal enthusiasts.
Billed as a "Chazzanus Master Series," the event was held at the West Side Institutional Synagogue on New York's Upper West Side, where the cantors teamed up with that synagogue's Cantor Zevi Muller.
David Babinet, director/vocal coach for the group, also helped organize the event, which was attended by about 60 people.
Babinet said the "Council of Chabad Cantors" was formed a decade ago by Levke Kaplan as an unofficial way to help young cantors in their education, to provide performance opportunities and even to help with job placement.
More recently, the group has been making public appearances. It held its first concert this spring in Crown Heights, which Babinet called "our introduction to the community."
With the July 29 event, Babinet said he hopes to encourage other cantors because "they need to be part of a community of cantors. In order to grow, you need to be part of a group."
Charlie Bernhaut, who attended the presentation, said "the cantors each displayed talent, energy and promise for the future. There has been much talk about the demise of chazzanus. What we may be witnessing is the beginning of a revolution."
Dr. Akiva Wulkan, a professor of radiology at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, was also there and thought the concert was "spectacular."
"I heard a wonderful group of well-trained vocal music—the group should be proud of its accomplishments," said Wulkan, who studies voice and performs as well. "I was privileged to have attended the meeting and hope to attend many more. The lecture was inspiring and the performances stellar."
Sharing Their Music
Here's what happened at the Manhattan synagogue.
The session began with Muller discussing ways to make services more energized and inspiring through prayer and song. The goal was to enhance the davening experience.
Muller, the nephew of well-known Cantor Binyamin Muller from Antwerp, Belgium, has served as the synagogue's cantor for more than 10 years now.
After Muller's discussion, cantors were then encouraged to share their music; Babinet likened it to an open forum or practice. Suggestions were shared privately in what was described as a casual atmosphere for people at all different levels.
The evening ended with a master class led by Babinet.
A classically trained singer, Babinet holds a master's degree in vocal performance from a Cincinnati conservatory. He worked in numerous opera programs and even performed in Los Angeles with the famed Spanish tenor Placido Domingo.
Babinet has said he decided to transition to cantorial music while performing in Israel when he heard a cantor in the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem.
At the forum, Babinet covered such areas as musical interpretation, diction and vocal technique with the cantors in his master class. Those watching could also get some instruction while observing the process.
Speaking before the class, Aryeh Hurwitz, a member of the council, said he was looking forward to learning about vocal techniques, hearing from experts and picking up performance tips. "It's also a good opportunity to meet other people and have new experiences," he noted.
And while it's good to have those experience any time of the year, it's especially helpful to have them in relative proximity to the High Holy Days, according to Hurwitz.
There's something else he looked forward to: "We're going from our local shuls in Brooklyn to other communities. It's exciting."
Aryeh Leib Hurwitz: Elokai Neshama - Rosenblatt
Cantor Zevy Muller Modim (Hershman)
Cantor Shui Samuels
Retzeh Mibnuchoseinu from Cantor Moshe Genchoff
Cantor Rabbi Levi Kaplan
Ki Keshimcha Cantor Weintraub
Cantor David Babinet Bless this Shul
Grand finale - Shiur Hamalos by Yossele Rossenblatt
For additional information about singing opportunities, vocal training, or sponsoring an event please call Dovid Babibet at 718 772 3543. Free Voice Class Wednesday's 7-8pm 415 Lefferts Ave #C3.