Robert Kieval - Interview with Mark Slobin


Robert Kieval

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Cantor Kieval comes from a traditional Jewish background. He married a Julliard musician, also traditional Jew, who conducts the synagogue choir. Kieval's family life has been woven into the cantorate. While his family tree has various cantors his father in law was also a very prominent cantor. Kieval does not do much composing, and does a little bit of arranging when necessary. Halacha is avery important to Kieval, and he sees the Jewish communities of America as gradually sliding into a less observant and less educated Jewish population. This is a reflection of his traditional upbringing, which he explains presents an emotional barrier to change of music and religious practice in his community. Kieval spent a large portion of his interview discussing his training as a cantor. Kieval started as a student at HUC, then finished his training at JTS. He has spent his entire career working in the Conservative movement. Kieval started at HUC right out of college. At that time the school was still guided by the ideology of JIR and Stephen Wise, and all students were compelled to learn the Katchko nusach and modern synagogue compositions. Kieval moved to JTS to study with Davidson, and because the HUC environment was becoming to "Catholic." Kieval is a staunch defender of nusach and at one point got into a an argument with the interviewer about new music in the synagogue. Kieval described himself as a traditionalist, who disapproved of using campfire melodies that were popular at Camp Ramas in the synagogue service.

Summary by Jay O'Brien (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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