For the Socialist labor lawyer (1892-1982), see Louis Waldman. For the American art historian (born 1965), see Louis A. Waldman.

Louis “Leibele” Waldman (June 22, 1907, New York – August 31, 1969, USA) was a Jewish cantor (“chazzan”), composer and actor, the only American born cantor who may be considered as belonging to the great cantors of the so-called "golden age of jewish cantorial music".[1]

Biography

Louis Waldman born on June 22, 1907 to a family of Jewish Galician immigrants living in the Lower East Side of New York City. Early on he was recognized as a "wunderkind", officiating at the pulpit with a choir by the age of nine. He studied with local musician Shabtai Weingarten. Affectionately referred to by his Yiddish acronym "Leibele", Waldman was the choir leader in the Wayne Street Synagogue of Jersey City (1924), the Livonia Street Synagogue of Brownsville (1925), the Flatbush Jewish Center (1925–26, with Cantor Samuel Katzman) and in the Galician Synagogue of Passaic in 1927.

In 1928 he assumed his first adult cantorial position, officiating on the High Holidays at the Beth Israel Synagogue on Columbia Street in Cambridge, Mass. In 1929 Walman became the cantor of Temple Emanuel of Passaic, where he remained until 1934. Waldman then served one year at the Mount Eden Jewish Center.

At this point in his career, Waldman elected not to accept full-time cantorial positions, instead working on the High Holidays in many prominent venues, including Hunt's Point Palace (1936 and 1937), the Bronx Winter Garden (1938), the Concord Hotel and Grossinger's Catskill Resort Hotel in the Catskill Mountains (New York), Laurel In The Pines in Lakewood (New Jersey) and The Breakers (New Jersey).

In addition to singing in the synagogue, Waldman developed an extensive film career, appearing in a dozen motion pictures, including “The Voice of Israel” where he appeared with world famous cantors Yossele Rosenblatt, Mordechai Herschman, and David Roitman. In addition he began to develop a radio career, singing for over a quarter of a century on the airwaves, appearing on stations WTBS, WMCA and WEVD, the station of the Forward Association.

During WWII, Waldman sang for Jewish troops stationed all over the United States. The Smithsonian Institution has preserved recordings of Waldman singing “Ich Dank Dir Gott far America” (I Thank You G-d for America), and the other was “Venn Di Zihn Vellen Kommen Tzurick” (When Your Son Will Come Back From the War). He also performed for many Jewish organizations, including Israel Bonds, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and the Anti-Defamation League.

Waldman initiated a series of recordings, produced by Moses Asch, and issued on his label, ASCH Records. Waldman later recorded for Stinson, Disc, Banner, and following the second world war, RCA Victor. In the 1950s Waldman recorded for ABC and later for a private label, MALOH Records. During most of these years, he recorded with Oscar Julius as his conductor and Abraham Ellstein as his accompanist.

While still a young man, Waldman concertized with the renowned cantor Zavel Kwartin (in his eighties at the time) and Yossele Rosenblatt. In fact, Rosenblatt shared the stage with Waldman during his final concert in the United States before his death in Palestine in 1933.

Leibele Waldman died on 31 August 1969 and was buried at Beth David cemetery, Long Island, New York.

Legacy

In the words of Waldman's son Harvey:[2]

Befriended and influenced by the great cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, Waldman had a distinctive style which still influences cantors today. A lyric baritone, Waldman's amazing vocal range, coloratura, flawless falsetto and sweet voice allowed him great flexibility interpreting prayers that have become "standards". His renditions of Ki Lekach Tov, Sarfe Maloh, Odom Y'sodo Meofer, L'fichoch Anachnu and Hineni (s'firah) are just a few of the many Waldman masterpieces.

Filmography

  • 1950 Yiddish Comedy Sketches
  • 1941 Mazel Tov, Jews
  • 1940 Motel, the Operator
  • 1939 Kol Nidre
  • 1937 I Want to Be a Mother
  • 1936 Liebe und Leidenschaft
  • 1933 Abraham Our Patriarch
  • 1931 A Cantor on Trial (Waldman plays multiple roles in this spoof of a synagogue committee in search of a chazan for the High Holiday services)

Autobiography

Waldman published his autobiography, entitled Song Divine, in 1941.

Footnotes

  1. ^ "Cantorial Roll Call: The BIG Six.", Fall 2004 issue of "Classic Record Collector" magazine
  2. ^ The Official Leibele Waldman blog