HAZZAN ALBERTO MIZRAHI
When I became a member of this community of hazzanim, I was, at the time, the youngest member of the Cantors Assembly. Looking back on my career I see clearly the tremendous influence my mentors Meisels, Rosenbaum, Silverman, David Kousevitsky, Moshe Ganchoff and so many others had on me. When I “daven,” I still think to myself, “Is that how Ganchoff would have done it?” How does anyone become a hazzan without a guide, a mentor, without a chain of tradition to follow? Yes, I owe much to this family, our family\ of inspirational and devoted professionals who continue to uphold and transmit not only “nusach hat’filah” but the entirety of a 3,000 year old culture and “m’soret!”
Over the centuries, our profession and calling has have witnessed dramatic paradigm shifts. Our people and culture originated in the Middle East, in “Eretz Yisrael.” Those exiled to Eastern lands were able to keep the musical and cultural traditions fairly static throughout the years. The experience of diaspora to Western lands, however, reshaped the entire scope of life for our people; food, clothing, language and, certainly, music. It was the hazzan who carried forth the modes of the "bet hamikdash" into strange lands and adapted those modes to the ears of a people now surrounded by completely different sounds. Hazzanut (the cantorial art), as we know it, was forged by the initiative and intuitive genius of our colleagues over a thousand years. Then, 16century, Salomone Rossi,19thcentury ,Solomon Sulzer, Louis Lewandowski; paradigm shifts on the level of volcano eruptions! Jewish music could never be the same again. And yet, “nusach” based on the ancient modes of our Holy Temple were and are still with us.
Ah, so here we are in the United States of America, with a freedom of expression that Jews may have never known in any other land of our dispersion. The great migration to the United States made hazzanim invaluable. Our people needed their soothing and arousing sounds to pray. Today, the music of Reb Shlomo Carlebach, Debbie Friedman, Craig Taubman, Joshua Nelson, Joanna Dulkin, among many others, have influenced the younger generation and a throng of adults to count on participation as the core principalin prayer.
The world moves at such an insane pace that one hardly knows which challenge to tackle before being presented with another! As an assembly of professional hazzanim, it is incumbent upon us to chart these waters with sails at full furl. To quickly grasp the enormous amount of new material and new ideas before us and embrace those whose sounds we feel will fit with our individual style of “davening” and bring about the “nusach masorti.” Not watered down , but prayer enriched and made accessible to the 21st century Jew, young and old! A melding of ancient beautiful tradition with modern sounds that seamlessly present our congregations the ability to sing as well as listen to nusach and hazzanut; what I call, aesthetic spirituality. I refuse to believe that artistry must be sacrificed to the gods of modernity.
When you chant Hineni, your congregation forgets about your Bar Mitzvah instruction and hospital visitations for a time, and expects a spiritually transforming experience from their shli’ach tzibbur) There is nothing like being a Hazzan AND Educator / Hazzan AND Music Director / Hazzan AND Youth Director / Hazzan and Rabbi). Thus, through continuous vocal training, continuing education, melded with innovation and vision, the hazzan can forge invaluable partnerships with their congregations, their rabbis, and their communities.
Let us sing, work and learn together to make our profession and calling even stronger and more relevant into the next hundred years. I ask you to join with me, your officers and colleagues in building and strengthening the 21st century hazzan and the nusach masorti.
Contact: Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi