Category: Performer Biographies

Romance is in the Air: Efrem Zimbalist & Alma Gluck

By , June 25, 2014 9:26 am
Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist

Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist

Before there was Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt…before there was Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall…before there was Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton…There was Efrem Zimbalist and Alma Gluck.

A little over100 years ago, a nice Jewish boy who happened to be a violin genius  met a lovely Jewish young woman who was making a name for herself as a singer. I guess you could say that when these two Jewish superstars of classical music fell in love they were destined to make beautiful music together.

The Zimbalist-Gluck romance provided lots of material for the gossips of their day. While the idea of such a wonderful pairing of talents was thrilling, there were those who pointed out that Gluck was six years older, as well as a divorcee with a daughter. Scandalous!

 

Read more about Alma Gluck’s relationship with Efrem Zimbalist.

Read more about Efrem Zimbalist.

Browse 40 recordings the talented couple made together.

Cantor Elias Rosemberg

By , May 28, 2014 11:56 am

Rsemberg photo Growing up in a family of Hazzans and Klezmer musicians, Cantor Elias Rosemberg may have been born to perform.

From his early days as a wedding singer in Buenos Aires to his present position as the Cantor for Temple Emanuel in Newton, MA. (the largest Conservative synagogue in New England)  his talent and energy have made him a stand-out performer. No stranger to radio, television, and the recording industry, he won the “Argentina Sings for Israel” vocal contest in 1998.

Since coming to the United States in 2000, he has continued to receive honors and recognition for his talent as a great singer and as a gifted Hazzan. His repertoire includes Cantorial, Israeli, Yiddish, and Ladino, as well as opera and Broadway selections. True to his Argentinean roots, he also enjoys singing Tango. At the Cantors Assembly Convention in 2002 he was asked to sing the memorial prayer at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

You can visit his YouTube channel to see live performances.

The Judaica Sound Archives is proud to include these four  wonderful recordings by Cantor Rosemberg. Click album cover to play.

Let my people singShabbat aliveHoly Daysprayers

Cantor Joseph Gross

By , March 10, 2014 11:41 am

Cantor Joseph Gross is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about Jewish liturgy, Cantorial music, Cantorial voices and the history of the Cantorate in North America.

A delightful gentleman who has stored  a lifetime of learning into his diminutive frame, Cantor Joseph Gross showed up at the Judaica Sound Archives a little over three years ago wondering if he could be of any help. His warmth and his big smile took us in immediately.  But what captivated us was his encyclopedic knowledge of all things Cantorial and liturgical.

As he spoke I could not help but think that he has probably forgotten more than most of us will ever know on the topic. But as he continued, I realized that he is blessed with almost perfect recall.  Not much seems to have been forgotten at all. You may have heard of people with photographic memories, but Cantor Gross is the only person I have ever met with “phonographic  memory,” i.e. he can recall voice and music impeccably.

A master cantor and composer, Joseph Gross has been a regular volunteer at the JSA for over three years now. Several of our Cantorial music restoration projects have been possible only with his guidance and help.

The JSA has created three albums from the original tape recordings of Cantor Gross.  These recordings are not available anywhere else and have never been commercially released.  They were restored under the vigilant supervision of the Cantor himself.

RebbeSoul: Jewish roots, world music

By , January 14, 2014 10:04 am

Deeply emotional and rooted in the ancient songs of Judaism, the music of RebbeSoul brings a modern vibe that re-imagines the music of our ancestors. This is not your grandmother’s Jewish Music.  This is not some crazy mash-up of eclectic sounds.  This is spiritually-based music with modern sensibilities and a deep respect for the past.

After earning a degree in engineering, Bruce Burger (aka RebbeSoul)set off to explore L.A.’s music scene.

Leaving parental expectations and  upstate New York’s brilliant autumns and wintry snows behind him,  it was in L.A. that he finally found his sound….and his voice.

At the age of 22, after sharing a Shabbat dinner with an Orthodox family he was inspired to write “Sister Sarah.”  Despite having been a secular Jew for many years, this experience touched him so deeply that he was moved to take on the name RebbeSoul.

As he added the melodies of nigunim and prayers to his repertoire he made a decision. “Every time I play as RebbeSoul, I put something on my head….To the great Rebbes, a nigun, a melody, is something that comes from the heart and goes straight to heaven without anything getting in the way.  So when I do it, I want to make sure there is something on my head, out of respect.”

To strengthen his connection to the Jewish people even further, Burger made aliya in 2007. Now residing in Zichron Ya’acov, he is exploring his musical roots and enjoying where his musical journey is taking him.

The Judaica Sound Archives at FAU’s Wimberly Library is delighted to be able to add Bruce Burger as our newest JSA featured performer. Click on any album below.

 

Can “Boardwalk Empire” era Jewish piano rolls still find an audience?

By , October 14, 2013 8:35 am

Vintage Jewish piano roll boxes

Player pianos, pianolas and piano rolls were all the rage during Prohibition. 

By the early 1920’s new advances in piano-roll technology gave rise to a complex, performance-oriented style of music that became the soundtrack of an era.

All types of music were recorded on piano rolls, from Ragtime  to folk songs; from Jazz to Cantorial masterpieces. So….can these “Boardwalk Empire” era Jewish piano rolls still find an audience in today’s  fast-paced electronic world?

Can these relics of another age resonate with a modern audience?

The Judaica Sound Archives at FAU Libraries invited Bob Berkman, one of the last great piano roll aficionados, to demonstrate his skills before a live audience….and…..his appearance was a huge success!

Yet, relatively few people have ever had the pleasure of  attending  a live pianola concert featuring Bob Berkman and his authentic piano rolls.

A wonderful opportunity

Bob Berkman

Now the JSA is giving you the chance to peek behind the scenes, get a front row seat and enjoy the experience of a by-gone era.

These clips were created from video taken at Bob Berkman’s performance during FAU Library’s 2013 kultur festival by Alethea Perez, FAU Recorded Sound Archives operations coordinator.

(1) Bob Berkman explains how the pianola works.

(2) Bob Berkman sets up the pianola.

(3) Bob Berkman shares some historical facts about the pianola and plays some tunes.

Related Links:  Bio     Online Collection

 

 

Pianola pushed up to piano and ready to play.

 

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Sophie Tucker: Last of the Red-Hot Mamas

By , September 16, 2013 10:00 am

 

Known as the Last of the Red Hot Mamas, Sophie Tucker had a career that began in vaudeville, embraced the new jazz age of the 1920’s and lasted well into the 1960s.

Widely known for her bawdy humor (which may seem tame by today’s standards) and her big personality, she never lost touch with her Jewish roots.

Sophie Tucker ‘s original Decca rendition of My Yiddishe Momme, recorded in 1928, featured an English version on Side A and a Yiddish version on Side B.  Among the recordings she made on the Mercury label beginning in the 1950s was this rendition of My Mother’s Sabbath Candles, also in both English and Yiddish versions.

Sophie Tucker quotes

I couldn’t make [Momme] understand that it wasn’t a career that I was after. It was just that I wanted a life that didn’t mean spending most of it at the cookstove and the kitchen sink. (Some of the Days, 1945)

Everyone knew the theater was to be closed down, and a landmark in show business would be gone. That feeling got into the acts. The whole place, even the performers, stank of decay. I seemed to smell it. It challenged me. I was determined to give the audience the idea: why brood over yesterday? We have tomorrow. As I sang I could feel the atmosphere change. The gloom began to lift, the spirit which formerly filled the Palace and which made it famous among vaudeville houses the world over came back. That’s what an entertainer can do. (Concerning the November 19, 1932 closing of the Palace theater in NYC, i.e. the end of vaudeville.)

Selected items from our collection of Sophie Tucker recordings.

Sophie Tucker’s performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Autographed inside flap from copy of Tucker’s autobiography

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High Holy Days in a Conservative Synagogue

By , August 22, 2013 12:59 pm

 

5774     A new year.  In case you haven’t noticed…the world is changing.

I’ve heard it a thousand times, “things just aren’t the way they used to be!”

The future is unpredictable. Like a wind storm moving things helter-skelter, we never know where things will end up.

The past, on the other hand, is well-known and stable. The values, traditions and  perspectives of our parents, grandparents and ancestors do not change. We may cherish the past or we may discard it.  You get to choose.

Ask yourself, “What happens to the past when you are no longer around to remember it?” Does it disappear? Or does it remain as a treasure trove of discovery for  future generations?

High Holy Days in the Conservative Synagogue  sung by Cantor Moshe Schwimmer is just one example  of how the Judaica Sound Archives attempts to bring the unique qualities of early 20th century European liturgical music into the present. And, hopefully, the future.

This wonderful recording was created by the JSA from the private recordings of Cantor Moshe Schwimmer and can only be heard on this website. Moshe Schwimmer was a cantor whose beautiful voice and soulful singing touched audiences for decades. Yet, his voice might have been lost forever were it not for one man’s strong desire to cherish his brother’s memory and protect his legacy.

Zalman Schwimmer (a.k.a. Sydney), personally hand-carried his brother’s private tape recordings (along with some memorabilia and biographical information) to the Wimberly Library on Florida Atlantic University’s Boca Raton campus. He told us about his brother, “He never made any commercial recordings.  That wasn’t for him. He didn’t want to be famous. He didn’t try to please others.  He was just always striving for perfection.”

The Judaica Sound Archives is proud of its role in the preservation of Jewish culture. We believe that by bringing the unique qualities of early 20th century European liturgical music into the present we contribute to its survival into the future.

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L’dor vador: From generation to generation

By , August 14, 2013 3:28 pm

One family’s ancestor remembered…a shared culture preserved.

The music of the traditional synagogue in America has strong roots in the culture and shtetls of 19th and early 20th century Eastern Europe. Like many of the greats of the Golden Era of Hazzanut Cantor Gedalie Bargad was a gifted hazzan who grew out of the chassidic environment.

Born in 1898 on Kol Nidre evening in the small town of Slavuta (Volhynia Province, Russia), his promising career as a cantor was disrupted by war, civil strife and his family’s struggle for survival. Eventually Bargad and his bride were able obtain travel documents and arrived in Boston on May 25, 1921.

He found work in the shul in Lynn, MA almost immediately, and by 1926 he was officiating at the Elm Street Synagogue in Chelsea, MA. where he sang until 1963. His son, Dr. Warren Bargad, former director of the Center for Jewish Studies, University of Florida – Gainesville, reminisced about those days. “As a youth I remember the shul packed with people – about 500 – 600. . . My father was a commanding presence on the bima. When he sang he would often send shockwaves through the eardrums of the choirboys who stood near him. . . There was a bit of the actor in him. . . [but] he was also down-to-earth, a great story-teller, and often quite comic (album liner notes, 1980).”

Cantor Bargad went on to serve at Temple Emanuel in Chelsea, MA until his death in 1968. His grandson, Robert Bargad (Professor of Jazz piano at Karntnerlandeskonservatorium in Austria) remembers his grandfather “leading the congregation in the singing of prayers with very beautiful melodies, many of which he himself had composed and arranged.  I recall how sometimes his voice would suddenly swell and sustain such a great and mournful note, causing the entire congregation to wait for his release before continuing. . .  In those moments I was completely overcome and I remember thinking that the walls of the temple were shaking from the emotional power of his voice and the pure magic in his performance. I believe the impact of Gedalie’s singing has influenced me to this day – as I try to infuse my own compositions and performances with that kind of tradition and soulfulness.” (Personal communication, 2013).”

A recording of the September 23, 1962 service at the Elm Street Synagogue was preserved and then meticulously restored by Chicago record producer, Barry Serota in 1980. The Judaica Sound Archives at FAU Libraries is proud to follow in the footsteps of Barry Serota who devoted his life to the preservation of great Cantorial music. Streaming audio of this album is available only on our website.

 

Robert Bargad

RSA Guest Blogger, Robert Bargad, is a Professor of Jazz Piano at Karntner Landeskonservatorium in Austria, he is the grandson of Cantor Gedalie Bargad. 

Cantor Stephen Texon

By , July 29, 2013 10:22 am

Equally at home on the opera stage and in the synagogue, Stephen Texon’s successful and distinguished singing career spans decades.

The Judaica Sound Archives is delighted to add the voice of Cantor Stephen Texon to its distinguished online collection of Cantorial and operatic recordings. A native New Yorker, Texon studied at Yeshiva University and NYU. His rich baritone voice was a natural for the opera stage and he was inspired to pursue operatic training in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Met in NYC.

Growing up during the heyday of the Catskill Mountain resorts, Texon was chosen by Sholem Secunda (legendary Yiddish theater composer and conductor) to be the baritone soloist in his choir at the Concord Hotel.

His operatic talents allowed him to perform on stage with such stars as Richard Tucker, Robert Merrill, Placido Domingo and Jerome Hines. But it was the experience of actually performing in a full dress rehearsal performance of “La Traviata” as the understudy for Robert Merrill that remains both a personal and professional highlight for Stephen Texon.

Click here to listen to the music of Stephen Texon.

Molly Picon

By , May 20, 2013 2:38 pm

Defying expectations, changing the rules, and making us laugh.

The Judaica Sound Archives at FAU Libraries honors the work and life of Molly Picon. Compiling 58 of her earliest songs produced on 78 rpm records and four of her LP albums produced later in her career, the JSA invites you to revisit the talents of a truly great Jewish female icon.

Who was Molly Picon?

She was an actress, singer, and comedian whose career spanned over 70 years. Debuting in the Yiddish Theater at the age of 6 she emerged as a respected American actress, performing in Come Blow Your Horn (1963) with Frank Sinatra, and having starring roles on Broadway in Milk & Honey (1961) and  film, Fiddler on the Roof (1971).

Molly Picon’s career followed Yiddish culture from the shtetl into mainstream America. Small and very youthful-looking she often had to fight to be taken seriously. She wore male clothing as a disguise through most of her breakout performance in Yidl Mit’n Fidl (1936) and many of her other early roles, including the well-known “Yankele.” In today’s world she might be considered to be a voice for women’s rights.

Click here for Molly’s LP albums.

Click here for Molly’s 78 rpm recordings.

Click here to see film clip of a very young Molly Picon singing the title song from Yid’l Mit’n Fidl.

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