TORONTO — Last July, Cantor Eric Moses of Toronto’s Beth Sholom Synagogue was sitting with colleagues Sol Zim and Yaakov Motzen over a late-night shwarma dinner in Manchester, England, where they were attending a cantors’ convention.
It was approaching midnight when the conversation turned to the idea of mounting a major cantorial concert.
Moses suggested having it in Toronto. “Let’s go big,” he remembers saying.
Now, after months of organizing “The World’s Greatest Cantors in Concert: The Present and the Future,” he’s still enthused about the project.
The event will take place Wed., March 28 at 7:30 p.m., at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Moses will serve as MC, and the event will be a fundraiser for Beth Sholom. Tickets start at $60.
“The idea of cantors performing together en masse doesn’t happen frequently,” Moses told The CJN. “This is a great opportunity to see all the great cantors assembled in one location.”
Two of the 11 cantors in the concert are based in Israel, while the rest work in North America.
He said that he has had calls from people in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles who want to attend. For him, it’s a “Grateful Dead moment,” like having fans of the rock band converge from afar.
Moses said that the “golden age” of chazzanut dates back to the early 1900s, when immigrants came to North America from eastern Europe. “The power of music speaks volumes to people.”
Because going to Broadway shows or the opera was not affordable for many immigrants, people went to synagogue “to get their week’s entertainment,” he said.
Moses noted that cantorial music transcends religious denominations. A case in point: he trained at the Tel Aviv Cantorial Institute, which is an Orthodox institution, but serves a Conservative congregation.
“There was always a common understanding, regardless of affiliation,” he said. “The love of the art form breaks down the barriers.”
Performers at the concert include “up-and-coming talent” Yanky Lemmer and Yaakov Stark, who are both based in New York, and Netanel Hershtik, from Westhampton Beach, as well as seasoned chazzanim Chaim Adler (Israel), Moshe Shulhof (Miami), Benzion Miller (Boro Park), Alberto Mizrahi (Chicago), Sol Zim (New York), Gideon Zelermyer (Montreal), Naftali Herstik (Israel) and Yaakov Motzen (Miami).
Adler, Miller and Motzen have all served Toronto congregations. Adler was at Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation, while Miller served Shaarei Tefillah Congregation, and Motzen was at Shaarei Shomayim.
For more information or to purchase tickets, go to greatestcantors.com, or call 416-783-6103, ext. 228.