Voice of the Turtle: Singing the Music of the Spanish Jews

A native of Tallahassee, Florida, Cantor Rebecca Garfein, mezzo-soprano, is the Senior Cantor of Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City. She has appeared in numerous recitals throughout the United States, Israel and Europe, and made her New York City debut with the New York Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra at Cami Hall.

Garfein has been a participant in the opera program at DiCapo Opera in New York City and at the Aspen Music Festival. Cantor Garfein was also a participant in the Young Artists' vocal program at the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts. Cantor Garfein has researched the music of the Sephardic Jews and written an annotated bibliography of Sephardic music.

On November 12, 1997, New York mezzo-soprano, Cantor Rebecca Garfein sang in concert at the Judische Kulturtage, Berlin's annual Jewish Cultural Festival . Singing liturgical music previously sung only by males, Garfein was also the first female cantor to sing in Germany as a soloist. The concert was performed in the Centrum Judaicum auditorium, housed in the former Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue, in what was once the women's gallery. Garfein was accompanied by organist, Arnold Ostlund, Jr. (from Yonkers, New York) and Berlin's nine-voice Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue Choir.

We include here the musical composition Kiddush (Prayer of Sanctification) by Kurt Weill, sung by Cantor Garfein and choir. Composed in 1946 for tenor solo, chorus, and organ, Kiddush was commissioned by the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, where it was first performed during a Friday night service by Cantor David Putterman. The melody and arrangement is cabaret style. Weill dedicated the score to his father Albert, who survived the Second World War and became a citizen of the new state of Israel.

Click to hear Kiddush by Kurt Weill

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From: Sacred Chants of the Contemporary Synagogue. 1997. Permission of Bari Productions, Inc.
Kiddush: Sanctifying the day over a cup of wine, by Ismar Elbogen.

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