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A new take on cantorial music for all tastes

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Cover of 'Crossroads,' the new album from Beth Sholom Synagogue Cantor Eric Moses
Cover of 'Crossroads,' the new album from Beth Sholom Synagogue Cantor Eric Moses

Beth Sholom Synagogue Cantor Eric Moses is behind two musical endeavours he hopes will resonate with fans of both traditional and contemporary music.

About a year after healing from his successful vocal surgery, Cantor Moses produced a musical album called Crossroads. Although this is the third album he’s released, he said Crossroads is different from anything he’s done before.

Moses teamed up with the Ruach Singers, an a cappella group that Beth Sholom incorporated into its Shabbat morning services once a month, in an attempt to attract a younger demographic to the shul.

“It’s a fusion of the old and the new, and it’s meant to inspire a new generation. I think every religion is looking for ways to engage people, and we don’t want to be complacent and think that if we just keep doing the same thing year after year, week after week, people are going to keep coming.

“We’ve relied on that for too long and we need to show people a reason to come that inspires them. I’m not saying this is the end all and be all and the one answer for everybody, but if we find multiple ways to inspire people, then we have a shot at the future generation of Jews,” Moses said.

“I was not a believer in the beginning. But it’s a really good, unique sound, and it’s amazing – people love it. We get calls from people who book their bar mitzvahs three years in advance… They’re calling and asking for the Ruach Singers too… It’s really taken off with people. That’s why we said we have to do an album and put it out there so people can enjoy it and get to know the tunes.”

Eric Moses
Eric Moses

Moses said he collaborated with the Ruach Singers on the album, which was launched on Erev Purim, to create “a new sound set to traditional texts and melodies.”

Crossroads reflects the vision of blending the old and the new to create a deeply soulful experience down to the core of our tradition,” he said.

Moses praised the Ruach Singers for their beat-boxing talent, or “mimicking instrument sounds or different sounds that create the experience as if you’re almost hearing a band… J-M Erlendson, the beat boxer, is like a band in and of himself.”

In what he called a “completely different experience,” Moses spoke about the April 6 concert he is organizing and promoting, called the World’s Greatest Cantors Concert, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

“One of my passions is traditional chazzanut, and that’s something that Toronto has truly been a leader in… This is a way to showcase something that I think is really important and nostalgically important and a part of the Jewish music of Toronto,” he said.

He said this is the third time he’s run a similar event, but in the past, he has hosted the generation of chazzanim who are older than him.

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“This time they are all my generation… These are all guys in their 40s, including the chief cantor of the Israeli army, Shai Abramson. It was a challenging feat to get him to be here because of his many responsibilities in Israel, but we’re happy to be able to have him,” he said.

Seven of the best-known cantors from Canada, the United States and Israel will be in Toronto, as well as Israeli conductor Eli Jaffe, who will be backed by the 50-piece Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra.

“What’s unique about this new brand of cantors is that they’re out there… for example, Yaakov Lemmer. You look at him and he looks like he stepped right out of the shtetl because of the way he dresses. But he sang the U.S. national anthem on the sixth night of Chanukah at the Barclays Center, at the basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons. And he sounded like a total pop singer. He belted out the Star Spangled Banner. You’d never think this guy sang cantorial music,” he said.

“This is the first time in at least two to three years that we have a really major cantorial concert… I’ve never embarked on one this large.”

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