Teach My Lips a Blessing
TEMPLE ISRAEL OF NEW ROCHELLE (established in 1908) has enjoyed a century of serving the Reform Jewish community of New Rochelle and the greater Westchester County. Our synagogue takes great pride in it's past musical traditions including a Men's Glee Club and a Sisterhood choir. We create new traditions today through our choirs, both professional and volunteer, our organist, an annual "Azkara Service" for the Holy Days with dramatic musical settings and narrations, an annual "Temple Follies," and a youth choir on the pulpit on a regular basis. There are so many ways that music is an integral part of the identity of our synagogue family. Temple Israel of New Rochelle has a rich history of cantors. As a cantorial student in 1951, Cantor Harold Orbach was the first to hold the role. Since that time, Cantors Sumner Crockett, Helene Reps, and Alaine Katzew have served the Temple well. As the present Cantor of Temple Israel of New Rochelle, I am in the position of upholding a legacy of very talented and well-respected colleagues. This recording was made to share my personal musical vision for the synagogue. I am privileged to work for a congregation that is receptive to the music I write and where my music is used in prayer on a regular basis. It gives me joy when we raise our voices together to give glory to the Divine. I believe music is an offering we have as Jews to give up to the Divine. It is a source of inspiration, celebration, and devotion. The core essence of prayer is to reach deep within, and to strive to reach beyond. Music has this power. BIOGRAPHY Demonstrating deep love and commitment toward his field of endeavor, Cantor Erik Contzius' unique sounds beautifully reflect his relationship with the Divine, which is clearly evident in his pulpit presence and original compositions. And while his passion for music ranges from Hazzanut (cantorial art music) to Yiddish folk songs, as well as Opera and Broadway melodies, Cantor Contzius is most at home on the pulpit leading prayer. Directing all musical liturgies for synagogue worship, Cantor Contzius has composed original works for the synagogue, namely 'Hineh Ma Tov' and 'Shalom Rav,' which have been published by Transcontinental Music Publications, as well as a large self-published catalogue. His music also appears on several recordings, including a solo collection of Jewish art music for both cantor and pipe organ interpretations entitled, 'How Excellent is Thy Name.' He has appeared as a soloist on the recording 'Celebrate Chanukah' with the Westminster Choir College's Youth Chorale. Cantor Contzius presently serves as the Cantor of Temple Israel of New Rochelle, and has served as Cantor at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and Temple Israel of Omaha, Nebraska. He has also served as Composer-in-Residence at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester. Cantor Contzius has performed in many distinguished solo presentations around the world, the most recent being his performance in Münich, Germany where he was invited to perform in a concert entitled: 'Vergessene Musik-The Forgotten Music of the German Jewish Reform Movement.' He has been heard at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York City two years consecutively, performing in their 'Jewish Vienna and Germany' concerts. Cantor Contzius also appeared on the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., performing as a soloist in a special concert titled 'Let Freedom Sing.' He was invited to perform at the International Organ Festival of Göteborg, Sweden where he led services at the Great Synagogue of Göteborg. His vocal training is ongoing, having studied with Tom Lomonaco, Carlos Serrano, David Adams, and presently with Dr. Donald Roberts. Raised in Parsippany, New Jersey, Cantor Contzius received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at Rutgers College and then went on to study abroad at the University of York, England. He received his Master of Sacred Music degree from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, School of Sacred Music, studying in Israel and New York City. He resides in New Rochelle, New York with his lovely wife Monica and his son Jacob.