through a sea of sound
Shabbat Shirah usually marks the beginning of Jewish Music Month. However, I’ve not seen any reference to it this year. Nonetheless, it is appropriate that this week marks the celebration of a significant anniversary in American Jewish music.
from חזן to opera star
The family in which I grew up was (to put it mildly) not particularly committed to Jewish ritual life. My father was an atheist who attended “Red Seders” (odd, I can find no reference to these on the Web) in his youth. My mother was an agnostic whose favorite “proof for the possible existence of God” was that people were able to create beautiful suspension bridges. While we attended Sunday School wherever our father taught adult education courses, we were not members of a synagogue until our father’s army buddy convinced him that I should have a Jewish education that would lead to celebrating becoming bar mitzvah. [“You never know, it might prove valuable.”] On Rosh haShannah we would attend services at a hall in Hollywood where Arno Tanney sang; I think our mother had a “crush” on him. After services we’d drive out to Venice Beach and spend the late afternoon watching to near equinoctial sun set in the Pacific ocean.
In later years we would skip services completely and listen to cantorial music. Among our favorites, even though it did not have High Holiday music was Richard Tucker singing Cantorial Jewels.
While Tucker was not the only Jewish vocalist who moved between opera and chazzanut (Jan Peerce immediately comes to mind), he is by far the most famous. He even has a “square” (actually a tiny triangle) named after him across from Lincoln Center in Manhattan with his bust.
In 2011 I noticed a couple of lapel buttons that referred to the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. I had never heard of it before. The year 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of his birth. The Foundation celebrated with a number of events. In particular a gala at Lincoln Center: Richard Tucker at 100: An Opera Celebration which will be broadcast on PBS Friday evening January 10, 2014 at 9:00 PM (check your local listings).
The Richard Tucker Music Foundation
your lapel buttons
Many people have lapel buttons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jacket you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any laying around that you do not feel emotionally attached to, please let me know. I preserve these for the Jewish people. At some point they will all go to an appropriate museum. You can see all the buttons shared to date.