Pinchas Spiro - Interview with Louis Weingarden


Pinchas Spiro

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Cantor Spiro was born and grew up in Jerusalem. As a boy, he worked under a famous Cantor and was enrolled at a Cantorial institute as well as attended Yeshiva. In Spiro’s words, “Once I was bit by the Cantor bug, there was no going back.” As he grew up, he went from the m’shoririm choir to being the Cantor after his bar- mitzvah.

In addition to the Cantor work, Spiro went onto obtain his teaching certificate and continued on from his conservatory in Jerusalem to studying at Julliard in NYC. Spiro later admits in the interview that he had no idea what a big deal it was to be studying at Julliard; he just thought it was another school. As a result, when Spiro was offered a full time job as a Cantor in Syracuse NY, he felt it was no big deal to drop out of Julliard and go and take the job. There, he met his wife, and finished his college degree as well. From there, it seemed that Spiro jumped from congregation to congregation: from Syracuse to Philadelphia to Los Angeles to Cleveland to Iowa. He ended up all of over the country. In every place he went, he never seemed to find quite what he was looking for.

At his current position (back in 1984 that is) he was talking a lot about the books on nusach for children services and how proud he is of that work. In the words of Spiro, “Nusach is the cement that holds synagogue music together.” He seemed to be especially proud of his weekday nusach book (the one that we all learn from during the Year in Israel). He takes pride in teaching the nusach to the young people of his congregation as well as to the youth of the movement (Conservative) at large. He loves seeing how the books are used in day schools as well as the summer camps.

When it comes to talking about his own musical style, Cantor Spiro wanted to make it clear that he does not repeat words; he does not believe it fits in with the tradition. He also made it clear that he does not let his congregation dictate his music or force him to try out new musical fads. Spiro is a firm believer in nusach and believes that musical fads come and go, but certain things are here to stay.

In conclusion, nusach and the future of nusach seem to be Spiro’s two main focuses. In the writing out of the nusach and the teaching of it to children, he is hoping that it will continue for generations to come.

Summary by Laura Breznick (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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