Abraham Lopes Cardozo - Interview with Mark Slobin

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Abraham Lopes Cardozo, the great Sephardic hazzan, begins the interview by offering a distinction between a “hazzan” and a “cantor." He explains that a “Sephardic hazzan is not called cantor because a Sephardic hazzan is not known for his voice while the Ashkenzic cantor is more renowned for the beauty of his voice.” He offers a history of his life in Amsterdam and in the United States as the chief hazzan of Congregation Shearith Israel. Throughout the interview he discusses the origins of certain melodies that he chooses for services and sings examples of them. He expresses the fact that it is very difficult to change customs at Shearith Israel, yet he believes that the survival of the Sephardi community is due because of the support of the Ashkenazim, who have added certain flavors to the congregation. He believes that the role of the hazzan is to maintain the strict Sephardic tradition exactly the way of the past. According to Cardozo, the real hazzanut cannot be changed. He is very strict when it comes to new melodies. He shares a great story about the time he tried to introduce a new melody during the musaf service, he was severely criticized. This explains the attitude of the congregation and he believes that it’s important for all hazzanim to understand this type of congregation.

Summary by Vladimir Lapin (April 2014), 4th year cantorial student in Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, HUC--JIR, NY


Access to archival quality sound files is restricted. For permission to obtain copies of these, please contact Mark Slobin at mslobin@wesleyan.edu.

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