TV Matters BV
I've searched long and hard for this album, not knowing whether or that it existed but hoping that it would. Now that I've finally stumbled upon it, it's turned out to be everything I imagined and then some. Recorded in Amsterdam's historic 17th century Portuguese synagogue, Cantors: A Faith in Song is an absolutely spine-tingling Jewish-style The Three Tenors event in a live setting masterfully recorded. Getting Alberto Mizrahi of the Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, Naftali Herstik of Jerusalem's Great Synagogue and Benzion Miller of Young Israel Beth-El of Brooklyn in front of Netherlands' Theater Orchestra, under the baton of Jules van Hessen and backed up by London's premier Jewish male choir, the Ne'imah Singers, was not only a massive stroke of genius but probably an organizing nightmare of the first order.
Thanks to Benedict Weisser, musical director and arranger, this event not only took place but was captured for posterity and our repeat enjoyment. To envision its profundity, think famous soundtrack to Schindler's List with its heartbreaking melodies of the Jewish repertoire rendered by Itzhak Perlman's lyrical violin. Now replace the small instrumental ensemble and background status of the soundtrack with symphonic forces recorded in a cavernous acoustics, fronted by three of the most famous Jewish tenors dishing out divine adoration and Yiddish folk humor by the ladle-full, glorifying the Heavenly King and the Yiddish Mame, the otherworldly Jerusalem and a balalaika-playing skirt-worshipping youth.
It's the passion of Black Gospel gussied up Middle-Eastern style: Different religious expression, same power. It's Mozart's Requiem without the formality but suffused by a revivalist spirit of jovial folklore instead. It's heroic unamplified tenors straight from the opera house, solo or duetizing, who veritably grab a huge congregation by their buttoned-up lapels to pour the spirit of the sacred occasion into them at the top of their lungs and lifting a few skullcaps and hairs in the process. This raw force conjoined to memorable melodies is moving beyond belief. Heathens and abstainers, believers and skeptics alike won't be able to help but shed a few tears and iron down goose bumps.
Unlike the parallel tradition of Arabian muezzins calling the devout to prayers, Jewish Cantors sing Western-style. Echoes thereof can be found in popular musicals like Fiddler on the Roof. Enjoying A Faith in Song thus doesn't require familiarity or sympathy with quarter-tone scales but takes place in a regular symphonic song context. Its 18 tracks give the lime light to the three soloists in succession or medley form. Rumbling tympani rolls, brass fanfares, Russian-style solo violin, dance cymbals and elegiac woodwind solos are but a few elements that make their appearances between thunderous audience applause.
You see, many people would feel far closer to religion were it not for certain conceptual 'blind belief' misgivings they harbor about the various faiths. Cantors is getting back to basic and down on the knees. It's not about mental concepts and esoteric complexities at all but letting the spirit move inside one's chest. And Messrs. Mizrahi, Herstik and Miller don't just gingerly knock on doors. They break them down like a glorious armada of berserk musical Vikings. It's a christening of epic proportion that I recommend to one and all without reservations - religion in the true sense of the word as re-ligio which re-connects us with that which is beyond words, thoughts and ideas.