The ongoing war between the cantors and the congregants usually turns to a cease-fire when the High Holy Days arrive. For a few days each year, even the most fervent would-be singers are content to let the pros handle the more difficult repertoire. (Especially on an empty stomach.) But on the CD turntable, the tension between liturgy as performance and liturgy as prayer goes on. These recent recordings, mostly of prayer and Biblical texts run the gamut from “follow the bouncing chazan” to “shut up and listen.”
Charlie Bernhaut has been instrumental in the survival and revival of traditional cantorial music. As the cofounder of Cantors’ World, now in its fifth year, he has been a part of dozens of standing-room-only concerts of contemporary cantorial music. Last year his donation of over 15,000 recordings to the American Society of Jewish Music was a massive windfall for that organization.