Shomeah Tefillah: Prayers of the High Holy Days
A 'resonant mezzo' cantor, Lois Welber, tackles head-on the music of famous 20th century composer Cantor Israel Alter -- see recent review below: Music critic George Robinson writes in mid-September, 2006, in his High Holiday roundup column (published in the New York Jewish Week, the Detroit Jewish News and Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles): 'Sometimes the simplest music has the greatest impact. Consider 'Shomeah Tefillah', a CD by Cantor Lois Welber of Temple B'nai Israel, Revere, Mass. Almost all of the music on this recording is from Israel Alter, one of the great Conservative cantors of the 20th century. Hazzan Alter didn't write classical chazanut; his compositions are devoid of the coloratura pyrotechnics of the Golden Age cantors. Rather his settings of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgies, published 35 years ago, are straightforward, emotionally direct, and comparatively simple. In her recording, Cantor Welber opts for an equally simple and powerful approach. Accompanied only by organist Ernest Rakhlin or pianist David Sparr, she tackles Alter's music head-on, not with flash but great feeling. Welber has a resonant mezzo voice, not glitzy but profoundly effective. The result is a tribute to the power of simplicity.' Rating: **** 1/2 Lois Welber has been the Cantor of Temple B'nai Israel in Revere, Mass. Since 2000. Prior to that she served as Cantor for the Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel High Holiday services and the Worship and Study Congregation for 18 years. A mezzo-soprano, she studied voice and hazzanut for eight years with Cantor Gregor Shelkan (z'l) and has trained with opera singers Roberta Janelle and Ellen Chickering. An officer of the Women Cantors' Network, she also tutors b'nai mitzvah students and officiates at weddings, funerals, and other life-cycle events. Ernest Rakhlin (organ accompanist) studied piano, composition, music theory, and musicology at Moscow Conservatory Music College and Moscow Gensin Musical Institute. After teaching in Moscow for almost 20 years, he moved to the U.S. where he created the Rakhlin Chamber Orchestra & Ensembles in Buffalo, N.Y. He is a substitute organist at Temple B'Nai Israel and he continues to work as an accompanist and give private lessons. His compositions have been performed in Russia, Bulgaria, England, and the U.S. David Sparr (engineer and piano accompanist) has owned and operated Little Dog Studios in Malden, Massachusetts for over ten years. Since joining Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts as accompanist/music director, he has become increasingly involved in performing and recording liturgical music, including recent recordings by Cantors Robbie Solomon, Elias Rosemberg, and Robert Scherr. He also plays keyboard with Boston-based bands Thaddeus Hogarth Band and Urban Renewal. Israel Alter (composer, 1901-1979) was born in Lvov. He served as a cantor from the age of 20, first in Vienna, then in Hanover and Johannesburg. In 1961 he moved to the U.S. where he began teaching at the School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College. Between 1966 and 1971, he notated the complete musical settings for the Sabbath, Festivals, and Holy Days. His arrangements were published by the Cantor's Assembly making the hazzanut repertoire easily available to anyone who wanted to learn them. Dedications: To my wonderful mentors Rabbi Ben-Zion Gold and Hazzan Gregor Shelkan (z'l) Credits: This recording contains High Holiday music composed by Cantor Israel Alter from the 'The High Holy Day Service' and the Sh'ma Koleinu prayer from 'The Selichot Service', both published by the Cantors Assembly, (c) 1971. An additional prayer, B'Sefer Chayim, composed by Israel Goldfarb (from Shirei T'shuvah -991900, Transcontinental Music)is included.