Hazzan Leah Frey-Rabine represents ALEPH at European Cantors Convention

Left: Hazzan Leah Frey-Rabine. Right: A panel discussion at the European Cantors Association Convention in Rumbach Synagogue sanctuary.

AOP Hazzan Leah Frey-Rabine represents ALEPH and sings Hazzan Jack Kesssler’s Psalm 93 at the European Cantors Association Convention

by Hazzan Leah Frey-Rabine

In early November, I found myself at the historic Rumbach Synagogue in Budapest, surrounded by those who share my love of  “the music of Jewish prayer.” The 14th European Cantors Association Convention brought together presenters and panelists from Europe, North America, and Israel, along with choirs such as the London Cantorial Singers and the Kol Rina Choir from Jerusalem, and a diverse group of professionals, semi-professionals, and interested participants. This year’s theme was “Re-invigorating Nusach for the 21st Century with a focus on Shabbat.” Among the presenters and panelists were Deborah Katchko-Gray (Ridgefield, CT), Sofia Falkovitch (Paris), Beny Maissner (Toronto), Asher Hainovitz, Isodoro Abramowicz (Berlin), Netanel Baram (Los Angeles), Jeremiah Lockwood (New York), Amalia Kedem (Jerusalem), and Prof. Mark Kligman (Los Angeles).

I was scheduled to lead a master class together with my Women Cantors Network friend Debbie Katchko, but unfortunately, my plane was late and I arrived just as it had ended. However, in the panel discussion “What Has Lockdown Taught Us?” I was able to not only enumerate my activities on Zoom and other media, but also to point out that my ability to do so was grounded in my experience with online classes in the AOP world, beginning in those challenging pre-Zoom years.  I took the opportunity to emphasize the thorough and rigorous nature of our ALEPH Ordination Program’s Cantorial Studies. 

In addition to all the concerts, lectures, and panel discussions, services were offered daily, with Shacharit and Kabbalat Shabbat in the sanctuary and Mincha and Ma’ariv in the conference room. The choirs and chazzanim who led the Shabbat services offered excellent examples of the intersection of chazzanut, nusach, and congregational melodies. We also participated in “creative choral ensembles,” and after a few short rehearsals, presented the fruits of our labors in concert. 

I was further honored and delighted to present Hazzan Jack Kessler’s setting of Psalm 93 at the Gala Finale. Before I began, I paused to tell the audience that, as a former Wagnerian soprano, I was highly sensitive to “performing” on the bimah. I preferred to sing well outside my power range, my motto being “I don’t want to daven at you; I want to daven with you.” My presentation was a success, one I might not have had without the training I received from the AOP and from Hazzan Jack. He helped me find the balance between my opera voice and the spiritual intent of the psalm. 

Thank you, Jack, for your patience and your wisdom! Now, with your help, I may be ready for some more traditional chazzanut in time for next year’s conference, which will be in Hannover, Germany. 

Hazzan Leah Frey-Rabine: Born in Minnesota. Bachelor and Master of Music Indiana University, Bloomington. Smicha January 2014 ALEPH. Internationally acclaimed opera singer (dramatic soprano with European career as Wagnerian)and vocal coach, perpetual student, passionate teacher: Living “ledor vador” in the worlds of classical singing and Judaism.