January 2019 ADULT ED NEWS

Hazzanut: The Jewish Cantorial Tradition — Past, Present, and Future

Hazzanut — the cantorial rendering of Jewish liturgy — has roots going back centuries, in both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities. Originating in the rather humble figure of the shaliah tsibbur — the congregant who would lead the public prayer service — the cantorial role went on to become gradually professionalized. In recent times, the Hazzan emerged as a figure whose vocal qualities were sought after and whose presence in the prayer service might rival that of the rabbi.

The so-called golden age of Hazzanut in the first half of the twentieth century is associated with ‘celebrity’ hazzanim such as Yossele Rosenblatt, Moshe Koussevitzky, Richard Tucker, and Jan Peerce. Their mastery of liturgical performance, which resulted in countless recordings and stage appearances, was placed on a par with operatic virtuosity.

Our January 27th program aims to foster an appreciation of Hazzanut and its vital role in the Jewish prayer service. We will listen to representative recorded selections by several of the great Hazzanim. We will then move on to a discussion of the somewhat diminished role of the Hazzan — and, arguably, of Hazzanut itself — in recent years and collectively reflect upon the proper place of liturgical performance in the Jewish prayer service broadly speaking, and in the ‘local’ context of Kol Rinah.

Here we will have occasion to share our thoughts regarding the dramatically-transforming Jewish community and the very nature of our Jewish identity.