The Cantorial and Synagogue Music Archive Project
The Cantors Assembly has launched the Cantorial and Synagogue Music Archive (CSMA), a digital hub for the preservation, dissemination, and worldwide engagement with cantorial manuscripts at https://archive.cantors.org.
The CSMA project was founded in order to meet a pressing cultural danger. A generation of cantorial elders are reaching retirement and old age, and many possess significant collections of precious handwritten cantorial music. These manuscripts represent the pedagogy, artistry, and individuality of working cantors in the height of their creativity. The CSMA gives access to these treasures to scholars, prayer leaders, and cantors for study and musical inspiration for the future.
The project began with the collection of Cantors Assembly past-President and former JTS Faculty member past-President, Cantor Robert Kieval z”l, and is now expanding with manuscripts from Cantor David Lefkowitz and more cantors across the country. This searchable archive currently contains over 8000 manuscript pages of rare music by Moshe Ganchoff, Jacob Rappaport, and a dozen other cantors. It also will feature ongoing exhibits of new musical interpretations of the manuscripts in a series of featured “Animating the Archive” videos, and currently includes selections from Cantors Jack Mendelson, Eliana Kissner, Elana Rozenfeld, Judith Berkson, and Yanky Lemmer, with instrumental impressions by Frank London, Stuart Bogie and Jordan McLean. New videos from a wide variety of cantors and artists will emerge on the website and social media in the months ahead.
“The goal of the CSMA is to create a digital portal for the preservation, study and re-interpretation of cantorial manuscripts, and eventually to become an online hub for academic, musical, and spiritual engagement with hazzanut,” said Project Director, Cantor Matt Austerklein. “Over the next decade, we hope the CSMA will grow to include diverse collections from all over the world, including from both male and female cantors. We aspire to create an online community between cantors, cantorial mavens, and musical Jews worldwide to study, reclaim, and revitalize this beautiful heritage.”
The Cantors Assembly commends the work of the CSMA team, Dr. Jeremiah Lockwood (lead researcher), Cantor Joseph Gole (lead consultant), Jamie Katz (web designer), and Cantor Matt Austerklein (project director), for bringing this project to light over the past eighteen months. The CSMA has been supported by the Cantors Assembly Foundation, together with Cantor David and Joan Lefkowitz, Cantor Joseph Gole, Park Avenue Synagogue and the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience. The project is actively seeking funding partners to extend its ability to add new collections and expand the capabilities of the website.
Cantor Joseph Gole shares, “The inspiration for this project comes from my love and respect for the holy art form of Hazzanut that our people created and that has existed for centuries. It is the musical language we use to dialogue with our Creator. Hazzanut is an art form of personal expression and emotion that transcends time and space. Its loss would be a tragedy. Its preservation is a blessing for all time.”
A musician and scholar of cantorial revivalism, Dr. Jeremiah Lockwood has spent the last year working closely with cantorial families on their precious collections, identifying, digitizing, cataloging, and creating online exhibits of this unique music. He said, “The CSMA is more than a repository of old musical manuscripts. It is a testimony to the persistence of sounds of the past, as preserved through the unique critical process of elder professional liturgical artists. The materials held in the CSMA bear witness to the unique aesthetics of Jewish musicians in the early 20th century immigrant era. The CSMA archive is both a historical treasure and an act of enticement, seeking to draw living artists into communion with the past through performance of old works of sacred music that have been lost to time.”
The recently launched archive is a lasting home for the unique collections that cantors have spent lifetimes building and an opening to the world of hidden sacred musical treasures. The CSMA offers tools to researchers, cantors and musicians who wish to access the legacy of Jewish sacred music. Beyond preservation and research, the CSMA seeks to renew the cantorial arts through inspiring new musical interpretation and engagement with the amazing and expansive cantorial art form.
Users can begin browsing here: https://archive.cantors.org/Browse and begin your deep dive into the cantorial legacy.