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00:00:00

MORRIS HANDLER: Madame Chairman, may I congratulate you on being re-elected. It may be slightly chauvinistic to call you Madame Chairman, but I'm a little old fashioned. I wish you a good year and a very successful one. It is my pleasure this evening to introduce to you two gentlemen of our Hartford community who really don't require me to tell you too much about them except that there are some matters that I think we can cover in a minute or two to enhance the public knowledge of them because they are known in certain capacities. Berthold Gaster, as most of you know, is the managing editor and the publisher of The Connecticut Jewish Ledger. And probably most of you read his work and his editorials, and we 00:01:00are delighted that Bert has taken time off, especially on Tuesday night, because his paper goes to bed.

VOICE: Wednesday, today's Wednesday.

MH: Wednesday night. His paper goes to bed, and it looks like Bert will be burning early morning oil in order to cover this. Bert has been with us in our community for almost 15 years, and he's been an extremely cooperative and helpful man to us so many different ways and it's a delight that he would take the time now and come to us tonight to interview Cantor Arthur Koret. Cantor Koret, as you all know, is a native of Hartford. He was born here, attended...I can attest to the fact that he attended Hartford High, also Trinity College. And he has gained national repute, renown, in his work as a cantor and also for the fact that he does get involved in extra curricular activities from time to time. 00:02:00In fact, one of his great pride and joys is the fact that he has been able to transmit that glorious voice of his and his technique to some of his students who in turn are giving him great naches today In the past Cantor Koret has been recognized by his fellow cantors in the Connecticut Cantor Assembly. He is a Fellow of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America Cantor's Institute. And we know him as the voice of the Emanuel Synagogue, and when we think of Emanuel, we think automatically of Cantor Koret whom I would like to keep calling Arthur for many years to come. So, friends of the society, all you lovely people, will you please give attention to Mr. Gaster as he interviews Cantor Arthur Koret.

EMMA COHEN: The program just introduced by Mr. Morris Handler for the Jewish 00:03:00Historical Society of Greater Hartford will be added to its archives. It is being presented at the Hartford Jewish Community Center on Wednesday evening, June the third, 1973 at a regular meeting of the society.

BG: I would like to thank Moe Handler for this very nice introduction. We are about to interview, and although I'm prejudiced, I think I speak for many others, one of the great voices of America. And of great interest to the Historical Society and this community is the fact that he is the first native born cantor of Hartford. Arthur, tell us right from the beginning exactly where 00:04:00were you born and where did you spend your early years.

CK: Well, I spent all my years here in Hartford. And I was born at 62 Canton Street, not in a hospital, in the house, on the second floor. I think it was owned, the house was owned by a family named Miransky. And I was diagonally across the street from the late Herman Kopplemann's home. I always loved it as a child because it was always full of roses. They had a lovely garden. When I was about four years old or so, we moved to 127 Worcester Street and from there to the corner of Pavillion and Worcester Street where I remained until we got 00:05:00married. We were one of the last white and Jewish families to live in that neighborhood. That's about it. Do you want to know about my parents?

BG: Well, I would like to know because I know that you've mentioned to me when we discussed the matter of Jewish influence early in life the role that your mother played, and I think that perhaps you want to mention that because it certainly must have played a role in your later becoming a cantor.

CK: Well, I was deeply influenced by my mother who was a very strong person, had a strong personality. She was one of the old mold of women who would say on any given day to the children, there's enough food on the stove and if anyone stops by and is hungry, you open the door and let them in and feed that person. I have to go out and collect money for a woman who just became a widow on the next 00:06:00street. I'll be gone all day. And she'd go from door to door and she did such things. She died at a very young age, at the age of 44 in 1934. At the time that she was on her deathbed, she said to me, sing for me. And she was in a big ward at Mt. Sinai, and I was ashamed to. Then she said, promise me you'll become a cantor. I said, I don't want to be a cantor. I want to be a concert and opera singer. And it's always haunted me that she didn't live long enough to see her wish come to fruition.

BG: On the other hand, you were able to achieve what she wanted which, perhaps, many other sons who have been asked to do it have not been able to do. How about the early musical influences, both Jewish and also general musical influences?

00:07:00

CK: We had a very remarkable music system in Hartford when I was young. I've often said to my pupils and many talented young singers come to the Hartt College without actually knowing how to read music. This may sound insane, but it is true. And I've often said to them that I learned how to do all the reading of music during the third grade because we had that kind of teaching. We had a man named Ralph Baldwin who was the superintendent of music at Hartford, and he was a genius at inspiring young people. And I believe that he did most to inspire me from a musical sense. And it was when he came in without my knowledge 00:08:00and I was singing a piece of music that I found on the piano in room 36 and I think it was Grieg's "I Love Thee" and my back was turned to the door and I suddenly heard his rough voice say, you're going to be the soloist for the Christmas concerts this year, the acapella. And that was in December of 1933. And this coming December will mark 40 years of my first appearing as a soloist.

BG: Before you became cantor of the Emanuel, I know you were tenor soloist for five years, and from what I understand a man by the name of Julius Epstein played a great part in molding your career at that point and also your connection with choirs.

CK: There's a fascinating story. I think, as I recall it, if you remember in the 00:09:00early Thirties a lot of our Jews were very leftist in inclination. And I think I was singing at an open air gathering somewhere in Bloomfield. And of all things I was singing a baritone aria, "De Provenza Ama." And I think one of his daughters, Mrs. Max Rosenbaum, was there and heard me there and then told her dad about it. She said, he's singing a baritone aria, but I think he's a tenor, or something to that effect. And he first engaged me and we sang that year in the Garden Street Shul. And we used to meet in his house on Bedford Street for rehearsals. And we'd start rehearsing about Passover and meet twice a week and 00:10:00work right through the summer and sing the holidays. And I would get $50. And that was pretty good. I remember I had a very beautiful solo on that occasion, and when the cantor, and I can't remember his name, he was from out of town, came in and heard me do the solo, he said he would take the solo. And when he caught cold after Rosh Hashanah, I said G--d punished him for taking away the solo. The second occasion when I sang under Mr. Epstein's direction...He was a very kind person and a very fine musician and very much of a traditionalist in the kind of music. He had a marvelous collection of music. The second time it was with a cantor whom I adored by the name of Rodsvillav, and I see his 00:11:00grandson here, Iz Radvo, I saw walk in, I think. Rodsvillav had been a very great cantor in Odessa, one of the truly great cantors of Europe. At the time that I sang in his choir or under him it was in the Agudas Achim Synagogue. I think that was in 1936. He was about 75 years old. And his baritone voice was one of sheer magnificence, even at that age. And he liked me very much. He was very concerned about me. When I came in eating ice cream one day to rehearsal, he lectured me for a half hour on how bad ice cream is for the voice.

BG: Arthur, I wanted to...Before we go on to another topic which is of interest and which we want to cover, we don't want to forget about the fact that you don't live alone. We want to know who your wife is, your children, 00:12:00grandchildren, how many, so we can have that for the record.

CK: My wife is Beatrice Teicher, the former Beatrice Teicher. We've been married 33 years. We were married very young. We have three children of our own, Jerry, Robert and Deborah, and two children whom we consider as our own, Donald and Arlene Stolberg. Of the five children, the one with the big vocal talent is Donald who has officiated as a cantor here in town and will officiate these coming High Holidays at Temple Beth Hillel in Bloomfield. He's very talented in that direction. My other children have done well and we're very happy with them.

BG: Before we continue the story of you as becoming the cantor of the Emanuel 00:13:00and what you have done both within the synagogue and also in the community to help other cantors, I think we'd like to know...

CK: You know, I have to interrupt you.

BG: Yes.

CK: I have to say something more about my wife.

BG: All right.

CK: Just for the record. She's a very talented artist.

BG: Right.

CK: And from a historical sense, half the synagogues in the area have trees of life that were painted by her. And she's done some beautiful sculpture. And she should exhibit more and she should cast more of her things. But, be that as it may...You were saying...

BG: Yeah, that's all right. No, you made a very comment. Going back a ways, both to your childhood and perhaps even before from what you were told, how about the 00:14:00cantors and the status of the cantorate in the Hartford community? How were things way back then?

CK: The cantorate in general was undergoing a very dismal phase here in this country, not only in Hartford but everywhere, because if you look up the lives of the few cantors who have lived here and have officiated, you'll find that they were all combination men with the exception of the late Rodsvillav who came here having been purely a cantor. But most of these other cantors that we've had have had to be...You'll find after each name, cantor, shochet, mohel, scribe and 00:15:00so forth. And they had their businesses and they had to struggle. As a matter of fact, only within the last 25 years or so with the entrance and the growing importance of organizations like the Cantors Assembly of America have the cantors achieved status. And a great deal of this has evolved because we have strengthened our placement policies. We do not place a young cantor today for less than a certain minimum wage. We will not place a cantor today unless he is guaranteed retirement because we have the well known stories, at least among the cantorate, of such great cantors as Carneoil who actually was starving and destitute and for whom a number of the famous cantors a couple of generations 00:16:00ago ran benefit concerts. And that was one of the tragedies of the cantorate at that time. I have some very short biographies of some of the older cantors that had been here in Hartford if you wish to hear them. One that I found interesting was Israel Baumstein who is listed as a cantor, scribe and shochet. But I remember him best as a scribe. And he used to take part in the dedications of Torahs. And I went to such a dedication when you write in the last few words and there's great joy and there's dancing. And I attended one such as a child at the Mahl Avenue Synagogue when he finished a Torah. His son, Sol Baumstein, was a great lover of cantors and went to concerts all over the country wherever he 00:17:00could and often brought me back programs from New York and so forth. I was amazed when I did a little research to find how many of the cantors had been cantors at the Ados Israel. It seemed that they must have liked a great deal of variety because it seemed that every cantor who had officiated here in Hartford had officiated at the Ados Israel. Among them were such as Baumstein and a Mayer Cohn in the early l900's. Mayer Cohn, very interestingly, is the grandfather of Joseph Cohn who is now at Beth El. Joseph Cohn first came to me in the early Fifties and asked my advice about voice and so forth, and I sent him to my friend and colleague, Edward Gehrman. I suggested that he study voice with him. 00:18:00Then I gave him a job in our choir at the Emanuel. And when we needed overflow cantors because we had to run three simultaneous services for many years, I encouraged him to study. And when I was convinced that he knew enough, he took over the leadership of the congregation, the young people's congregation, that used to meet at Weaver. Getting back to -10- the old time cantors, a cantor who was at the Emanuel from 1921 to 1930 was Paul Discound. He died in 1952. He was more important as a composer and he really is an important composer in relation 00:19:00to the entire cantorate of America. It was only when he died in Los Angeles that they discovered that many of the compositions that have been attributed to great men such as Rosenblatt, Kvartin and others had actually been written for them by Discound, but in his modesty he never really claimed ownership of these compositions. Without ever having known me, in 1950 he wrote me a very nice letter and said, I've heard nice things about you and I'd like to send you some music. And he sent me a whole pile of very beautiful music which I use to this day, most specifically for the High Holidays. And that was an unusual thing in 00:20:00those days. One of the problems cantors had in general was the paucity of music. Each cantor guarded his music as if it were some great treasure. And a great deal of the music was hand written. I should perhaps have brought some, a pile of some of the manuscripts which I have transcribed and copied by hand also which goes about five or six inches high when you consider that they're thin transparencies representing months and months of work. I brought in to illustrate that factor a book which is in the rear, all written by hand which was given to me by the children, Judge Schwolsky and his son, George, and the general, by the children of the cantor, Louis Schwolsky, who also had officiated at the Ados Israel in his youth. Incidentally, he was my mohel. Getting back to 00:21:00Paul Discound, he left in 1930, I think mostly because Emanuel couldn't afford him at that time. And he went to Youngstown. After he was there for several years, and I understand this as a true story, he officiated at the funeral of the parent of the father of the Warner Brothers, and Jack Warner told him that if he ever wanted to move to California, he would give him a position for the rest of his life at Warner Brothers. And he did move and he became a staff composer and he held that position for the remainder of his life until he died. And he officiated only on a part time basis in synagogues in the Los Angeles area. In 1951 I heard that they were going to publish some of his major works, 00:22:00and I was so grateful that he'd sent me this other music the year before that I contacted some of our members, and as it happened the largest single contribution toward the publishing of this book which was started in California and published by Block here in the East, but the largest amount of money came from members of the Emanuel. So even though I never met him, we had established a very lovely relationship. I never met him personally. I had gone to the Emanuel as a child and heard him as a cantor. There is Abraham Greenberg who was primarily a farmer but he was the first cantor of the Agudas Achim at the beginning of the twentieth century. A very interesting cantor, I wrote down his name, who was a cantor at the Beth Israel, Theodore Ginsberg, for a few years 00:23:00beginning in 1870, I understand that he left because he felt that they were going too leftist for him. He was more traditional. He became the cantor of the Rodeph Sholom and became a prominent cantor in New York circles. A cantor whom I loved but was not known here really as a cantor but deserved that appellation was the late Simon Greenberg who was a Lubovitch Hassid who died in 1959. He served as a cantor in a number of the Orthodox synagogues. He was a meshgiach for Kosher Best in their hot dog factory. He worked very hard. He had a heart condition. He was always exhausted, although he looked like a big brawny man, 00:24:00but he'd suffered severely under the Nazis. He also davened for the Young Israel. And for the last few years of his life he was officiating at the old people's home. He was a remarkable man. He was one of the great authorities on Lubovitch Hassidic melodies. And to this day I regret that I did not follow through on a project that I planned. You know, we procrastinate and sometimes we find things are too late. I did bring him over to my house and I did ask him to sing for me. And I do have a tape at home with a number of things that he did. But I felt that he was too self-conscious and what I planned to do was to go to a few men, get some money and buy him a tape recorder and let him record at leisure at home because I felt he had a store of melodies which was unique to 00:25:00him. And then he died before I could put this project into effect, and I always regretted it. There was Harris Kopplemann. He was cantor for 15 years at the Ados Israel, perhaps longer than any other cantor there. He also davened at the Israel Akorets. That was on Suffield Street and that's where I was bar mitzvah. And I loved that synagogue and I resented very much when that name disappeared because that's where my name came from, Korets. And he also davened at the Shaare Torah. There was a cantor who died very long ago and left a widow at an early age, Bernard Lipman. He was also a shochet and a mohel and a Torah scribe. 00:26:00And one of the Torahs that he wrote was the first Torah used at the Ados Israel. And they still read from it. His wife was the late Dora Lipman who was also known as the mother of the Yeshiva and was a beautiful and wonderful lady who had at least one rich son, two, but one in particular, who in her honor would give large sums of money for Torah education and so forth. She was very Orthodox, but she lived on the second floor of the house right next to the Emanuel Synagogue on the corner of Greenfield and Woodland Street. When the weather was good because I would always open up the windows fairly wide on that side because she had told me in great confidence that she sat beside the window 00:27:00to hear my services and she loved it. And, of course, since someone else was davening with an organ and she wasn't touching the organ, it was all right. So she enjoyed our services till the day of her death, and she told me that several times. A cantor who was here for one year at the Emanuel, and I was one of his choir boys, was a man by the name of Max Wallberg. And he seems to have come and gone and people have really forgotten him. But he was a man of very great significance. -14- He didn't have a very good voice at that time. As a matter of fact, he sang better later on. But when he had an evening when he would sing completely in tune, we in the choir would rejoice. And he was a very learned 00:28:00man. I say he sang very well after he left the Emanuel. He did study and he straightened out his intonation problems. He is the only cantor in the world who has gotten an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary because he's one of the most learned men in the world in Jewish studies, cantoral or otherwise. He is on the faculty there. He is a great composer. And he is a past president of the Cantors Assembly which means that the Emanuel Synagogue is the only synagogue in America that has had two presidents of the Cantors Assembly. That's something unique. In later years there was Eli Fishman at Beth David who 00:29:00was there for 15 years. He had a rather strong personality, and I think he's much happier doing what he's presently doing. He's a rabbi in New Jersey. He had smicha before he became a cantor here. It's interesting to note that at least one--third of the cantors in the Cantors Assembly are ordained rabbis, but they love to daven so they're cantors. Pollack was at the Agudas Achim for 15 years. Israel Tabatsky who is in the synagogue in Manchester, Beth Sh0lom...He is a Hartford born boy, became a cantor a few years after I did, sang in one of the 00:30:00choirs with me under the late Julius Epstein. He was a boy alto at that time. Most recently we had Jacob Barron at the Ad5 Israel: but he was more or less of a retired cantor, still functioning. And there was Louis Rosen who was well known to many Hartfordites because he was in New Britain for 24 years. A young cantor, he was young when he was in New Britain who was well known to Hartford for a few years before he went to the New York area, was Sholom Nelson. I have to also mention Nat Cramer because we used to go to New York together using each other's car alternately to study with the late great cantor and teacher, Adolph Kotchko. Nat Cramer had one of the greatest voices I have ever heard. He had 00:31:00problems psychologically in terms of tensions. He had problems musically, and it interfered with his becoming as good a cantor as he could have become. Kotchko told me on several occasions, he said there are moments when he's the greatest cantor in the world. There are others, well, when he's not. He was inconsistent because of that. There's a very fascinating story about him that very few people seem to realize, but I put two and two together. When he was young, he took a year out to see if he could make it as an opera singer, a concert singer, and he worked with Pandolfe. And Pandolfe built a production of "Cabloria Rusticana" around Nat Cramer which he produced at the Abery. And that's when I first heard 00:32:00Nat Cramer. And every now and then I heard a glorious phrase that made my hair stand on end, but I knew that he was deficient in some qualities. But that's not the importance. It was because of that event. The importance of that event was that Pandolfe, because of his experience in producing that opera, got the idea of starting the Connecticut Opera Company. So Nat Cramer was responsible for that. And I think the angel for that production of "Cabloria Rusticana", I'm quite sure was Joe Mott. I think that gets me through all of the cantors. About the choir directors, I have to mention Edward Gehrman who was a very great singer in his own right, had sung in great choirs in Europe, had sung with 00:33:00Sirota as a matter of fact. I have already mentioned quite thoroughly Julius Epstein. Then there was this director by the name of Ponish. And it was when he was conducting a choir, I think at the Coritzer Shul, as a youngster I thought that to sing in a choir in a shul would be the greatest thing in the world. I think, incidentally, I should mention the fact that it was a famous cantor by the name of Koretsky in Kiev who probably was related to us. Also, my mother told me that one of our family names was, on her mother's side, was Alexanderovitch, and at our most recent cantors convention this Misha Alexanderovitch who had a hard time getting out of Russia and who had been a 00:34:00famous singer in Russia, he had sold 25 million records in Russia, I understand, he sang for us, and I said to myself, he has to be part of our family because he looks like my mother. And his name was Alexanderovitch. And he thought there was a good possibility because there weren't that many Alexanderovitchs in Russia.

BG: Arthur, I wanted to get a comment from you while you're speaking of choirs before we leave the subject to return to your career at the Emanuel as cantor. You mentioned singing in choirs. You were in a choir yourself at the Emanuel for five years. Now, when we think back to the old style service, not too many years ago, it might have been weekly but certainly at the time of the holidays, the setting was the cantor up there surrounded by a choir. This scene is fast 00:35:00passing from the American scene. And to what do you attribute this?

CK: Well, I think it's because of the importance of getting maximum amount of seating in new sanctuaries for one thing. Budgetary problems, although Jewry is richer than ever in its history. The synagogue often is the first part of Judaism that feels the pinch. There is also a great deal of experimentation musically. We're going, some congregations have gone into congregational singing, but that doesn't work. I like what we have at the Emanuel. We have 00:36:00professional singers for the Friday night service. We have no choir when I officiate for the Sabbath morning or for the festivals. And there I have a combination of many congregational melodies, but I lead the service by myself. A lot of it has to do purely with budget. Well, I'll just be as frank as I can be. Over a great period of years someone on the finance committee or on the ritual committee would say, well, if you'll abolish the choir, we'll give you the differential, and I didn't want to do that. I'm looking at the name Edward Gehrman who conducted my choir for so many years. When he retired we did not replace him. I just trained one of my choir singers to take over the job of 00:37:00giving the downbeat, but I would have to work harder in preparing the choir and so forth. Beth Israel has a magnificent choir, but that's because most of their budget goes into the choir and they have very little budget for a cantor. They only have a part time cantor. I feel they should have a full time cantor. It's an opinion I've had for a long time because I think it's one of the great congregations and they should be leaders in that aspect as well. I think I should mention another young cantor, Gerald, Jerry Karpmar, Jerome Karpmar, who's a pupil of mine who is in Ohio in Dayton and is doing remarkable work. He is...His great strength is in that he does amazing things with children. He has perhaps the finest children's choir in America. At one of our conventions he 00:38:00appeared with his choir at the same time that we had the famous Columbus Boys Choir. And he held his own very very well. As a matter of fact, we had a great concert here this last year, this Emir Koral. And I was going to bring them back next year. But now I'm about to change my mind and bring in Jerry and his choir. I think Hartford would be delighted to hear him. And I owe it to him because he's a Hartford boy. And I think that you should all hear his tone. In thinking of Edward Gehrman before, I thought for a moment of a good friend of his who is a very talented singer and well known in Hartford, Jules Schwartz. He was a magnificent singer and a very good friend of mine. And incidentally he had a 00:39:00brother, Joseph Schwartz, who was referred to by Bruno Walter as perhaps the greatest baritone of this century in Europe. I think that should cover all the cantors.

BG: Go back now to your career at the Emanuel. Your becoming a cantor was actually a big decision because as tenor soloist you were there strictly part time and you were in a rather lucrative and interesting field. What would you like to tell us briefly about?

CK: I was doing very well. I was selling, I was on sales and promotions for Columbia Records. It was fascinating work. I used to meet all the top artists. I had to entertain them because we had the Bushnell 00:40:00and we had the State Theater. And I had a very exciting job, and I enjoyed selling because I enjoyed meeting people and I was good at it. But as I sang in the Emanuel choir, the feeling for the synagogue became stronger. Rabbi Silverman from year to year would encourage me and ask me would I train enough so that I could take one of the overflow positions because he had difficulty filling them. And I was beginning to want it very much. But the thing that pushed me over the edge, and this is not known, was that they had a cantor by the name of Arthur Singer one year, and his voice grated on me horribly. They used to bring in cantors every year at the Emanuel. At that time they didn't have a full time cantor. And I was thinking of doing it within a couple of 00:41:00years. But when I heard that he was going to be the cantor for the following year, I said to the rabbi, I'll study and I'll do the vestry for next year. That pushed me into it. Now, it's an amusing story but it's true. And as I studied it seemed to grab hold of me. Then a circumstance arose. Rabbi Silverman had his 25th anniversary and with that he got a sabbatical. And he approached me knowing that I knew the service backwards and forwards and said, is this wise? He said, we're going to have a series of rabbis. You know the service. Would you instruct them as to what our service is from week to week and will you please officiate from the pulpit? And so unofficially I officiated from '48 after the holidays 00:42:00until March l when I became the cantor in fact of the Emanuel, March l of 1949.

BG: For those who will be hearing this tape many years from now, Arthur is in his 25th year which is, I believe, the longest tenure of any professional cantor in this community.

CK: I think so. In 1949 just when I signed the contract, a number of interesting things happened. Well, first of all, when I left the selling of records with Columbia and the people in the home office of Columbia heard about this, they couldn't believe it. And I had some records made of a concert I had given for 00:43:00the women's club which contained some operatic arias. So I sent it with Stan Kavan. I said, let them hear this to prove that I'm singing. I'm not lying when I'm telling them I'm becoming a cantor because I never spoke about my singing to them. And a man by the name of John Ball heard these recordings and he was overwhelmed. At least that's what he professed. I'm sure he was sincere. And he arranged for me to audition for some operatic impresarios in New York. And I was interested enough and flattered enough to do that. And I was offered a contract to become a member of the New York City Center Opera at that time. And also me. He used to have open air there was a man, Salmaggi, who heard operas in Brooklyn and in New York. He was quite a flamboyant man. At the same time, Temple Emanuel 00:44:00was looking for a cantor. And they heard about me through Rena Oppenheimer who was my accompaniest at that time whose father-in-law at that time was the chairman of the music committee of the Temple Emanuel. I went down there and auditioned just to see what it was like, and I was offered the position. And a very amusing incident took place then. This little music department, looked like said, what are we going to do written for a baritone? This man with a white mustache who man, Seminsky, who was the head of the Otto Preminger and acted like him, he with all of our music worth $140,000 man's a tenor. And there was a little was the movie characterization of what a multi--millionaire should look 00:45:00like, and he was, and he was very charming, a white wax mustache, white hair, and he says, oh, what the hell! And this was in the sanctuary. I was young and naive and I was startled because this took place in the sanctuary with Dr. Marks who was a rabbi there and Dr. rabbi. Pearlman, I believe was the assistant

VOICE: Perelman.

CK: Perelman. He said, oh, what the hell! We used to have horse drawn trolley cars. Now we have buses. So we had baritones. We'll have a tenor. It's a sexier voice and maybe we'll get more women to come to services. Well, I sent them a letter and thanked them and that was that. I still have a letter home offering me the position. Then things began to happen. I was very happy at the Emanuel. I gave up considerable income to become cantor of the Emanuel. They offered it to 00:46:00me first on a part time basis for $4,000. I said, I need to study a great deal. There's a lot that I don't know. Give me another thousand and I'm your man. So I took about an $8,500 cut in income at that time which was a lot of money. But I've been very very happy and many good things have happened since that time.

BG: Well, actually during this time over the years you've been involved in a number of endeavors in the community such as the Hartford Jewish Music Festivals, the radio program that you conducted for many years, your connections with Hartt College and so on. We're coming down the home stretch, but I think we'd like to hear a little from you about this.

CK: For 15 years we had some remarkable festivals and it was a glorious period in the history of the Hartford Jewish community in terms of the music at any 00:47:00rate. Our first festival was in the Emanuel and it was jammed. Then we went to Weaver. And 1,500 people couldn't get in. And T. H. Parker thought it was so remarkable that the story was on the front page of The Courant the next day. And then we went on to bigger things. We eventually went into the Bushnell. I have to mention at this time the remarkable cooperation of Moshe Paranov, the Hartt Symphony, later on Dr. Gottshalk conducted, and much great talent that was furnished through the Hartt College of Music. We reached our zenith, I think, during the American Jewish tercentenary when we had well over 3,000 people. One 00:48:00of the great things that we performed was the Block Sacred Service with a full chorus and symphony orchestra for the first time in Hartford's history. We had a number of world premiere performances, Yemenite and New England performances. There was a Jacgues Press wedding suite which was a world premiere. We had many New England premieres such as the "Yemenite Suite" by Jacob Weinberg, olev hasholom, a great composer. I sang at all of these festivals. We also introduced some amazing talent like the remarkable young virtuoso violinist, Florik Remuchay, who played the Mendelsohn violin concerto at one of these festivals when she was only eight years old. I frankly decided to drop my chairmanship 00:49:00when we came...Money began to become scarce and we went to Weaver and other areas. And then the Community Center with whom I worked in very close liaison who was of great help during all these years decided they wanted to have their festivals here in the Center. I didn't like the small size of the hall. I felt that not enough people could come. And I hate the acoustics of this hall for music. And so I also felt that others could perhaps come in and do a good job, which they did not do, even though Nathan Gottshalk was a chairman for a while and , but I found that they were playing Bach and Corelli, and I didn't know what that had to do with Jewish music. And I think it's just faded out into nothing except that the annual concerts that I have at the Emanuel in effect are my celebration of Jewish music as well as raising money for charitable purposes. 00:50:00And also in 1951 I was the first cantor in America to have a concert on behalf of the Cantors Institute so that we could train young cantors. And these concerts have become a national thing and we annually raise many thousands of dollars throughout the country and I've, also as a consequence, sung all over the country in relation to these concerts. I received a very beautiful illuminated award from the seminary for having done this work. Incidentally, it was my younger son, Bob, who brought to my attention that the man who did this illumination died, and there was a big story in the New York Times that his 00:51:00illuminations were worth from $400 up. So, you see, I got some benefit out of all that work in terms of things of value.

BG: Did you also get benefits in a different way through not only the financial help that you gave the institute and other cantors but the fact that you, through your teaching, have encouraged a number of students to become cantors over the years?

CK: As a matter of record, I have encouraged more young men to go into the cantorate than any other cantor in America. This year alone I'm sending three young men to the School of Sacred Music. They all want to become Reform cantors. I'm very happy about it. Two of them are fairly well known in the community because they're known as the Coachlight Singers, Mark Lipson and Barry Abelson 00:52:00and then this young boy who just graduated high school, Bernie Gutcheon. All three are very fine young men, all pupils of mine. This year the Connecticut Opera auditions had five winners, and three of them were my pupils, a soprano, a tenor and a bass. I was proud of that. Incidentally, I should mention the fact that in recent years, many of my concerts I have taken a great part of the money also for Camp Ramah scholarships to help out with Jewish education. Also, with all these things happening, in 1954 I made the first LP record of Hebrew liturgy. And that's a fascinating story because I got a total of $135 for my 00:53:00work on that. And for two years it was the only album on the market that was sold internationally. The producer of the record made anywhere up to $200,000 on that record. I still keep bumping into people wherever I go who have that first record, "Song of the Synagogue."

BG: How about another word of community activities that you carried on, the radio program and also some of the projects to help people. I know you and I worked together on one of them.

CK: Well, for 19 years I was producer and narrator of "Hartford Jewish Life" which had a wide listening audience. I consider it a great tragedy that it's no longer current. One of the things that I would do, in addition to playing recordings of Jewish interest, would be to make announcements of interest to the 00:54:00community. And one day I picked up your paper while we were getting ready to do a recording. I noticed an interesting story about a community in Alaska trying to get some money together for a synagogue. So I read your story. And within two weeks I had enough money to buy them a Torah, to buy them prayerbooks and other paraphernalia to the point where I had to tell them to stop. Before that when there was this disastrous flood that destroyed the synagogues in Winsted, Ansonia and so forth, we raised several thousand dollars, quite a few thousand dollars, through the program. The Ledger did very well in that direction too. I loved that program. I felt that it was a very important part of our community 00:55:00life. And it would cost so little to keep it going, even today, that it's really a shame.

BG: What about the status...You spoke earlier of having helped raise the status of cantors, particularly Conservative cantors through the Cantors Assembly. What about the status today of the Orthodox cantorate, of the Reform cantorate?

CK: The Orthodox cantorate is still in pretty bad shape although in recent years, the latest school to be organized is the one at Yeshiva University. They don't have a very strong placement commission. The problem with Orthodox, the Orthodox cantorate, is that most Orthodox congregations are so small and find that they can't afford a cantor. The Reform cantorate has strengthened 00:56:00considerably in recent years. The strongest cantorate today in the world is in the Conservative movement. As a matter of fact, we're entitled according to law to parsonage, but because of some interpretations there have been some cases where the Internal Revenue has picked up one or two men where there was a question or two, and we have furnished the lawyers to fight this. And we won each case overwhelmingly in federal court. And the Reform cantors don't have the resources to pay for these lawyers. We have had it. We've done many things. We have commissioned works. We have performed works. We have encouraged composers 00:57:00such as Secunda, Miron, Lazar Weiner. As a consequence, I might mention that I have sung a number of world premiere performances, Lazar Weiner's "The Last Judgment," Secunda's "Yizkor," Abe Elstein's "Redemption." And a number of these things were put on national broadcasts and I've performed on CBS, ABC, NBC. As a matter of fact, the most exciting performance I ever was part of was the one I did with Elie Weisel on a program called "The Jews of Silence" about two or three years ago. I have a picture in the back. It was a remarkable experience because I lived with him practically for two days. And he was at his best, I 00:58:00think far better than he was when he was here recently in Hartford. And I don't think he was in his best form in that lecture at Beth Israel. He doesn't respond to large large groups the way he does in a small atmosphere. And that was a very important thing for me. There is also a picture in the back there that is of importance to me of a large large group of 250 cantors. That concert took place in Madison Square Garden before about 16,000 people. And this was organized by the Orthodox cantors of New York. They invited two Conservative cantors from throughout America to be soloists. One was Jacob Arkin. The other was myself. And there is a recording of it, the best of ' that festival, in one of the albums, one of the LP albums there.

00:59:00

BG: As a wind-up of a sort, although I know there is, you have enough material to take about five tapes of this sort, what would you tell people who are going to listen to this tape some years from now as to the contribution you feel that the cantorate has made in this community in the past and is making today, specifically to the retention of Jewish musical values, in synagogue attendance? It's a big order. You can give it to me in a minute or two.

CK: Well, I can only speak in terms of what I've tried to do myself. Almost 25 years ago I recognized the importance of a more direct approach to cantorial 01:00:00singing. Even though I had the range and flexibility, I decided not to use the virtuoso approach and a more direct approach. I also preached to my colleagues throughout these years that you don't have to have five and six big compositions in a Friday night service or a Sabbath service in order to prove yourself, that it's important to intersperse whatever you do with congregational melodies and congregational participation. Today that's the big thing, but we have presaged that for years.