Richard Botton - Interview with Mark Slobin


Richard Botton

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In his interview, Cantor Richard Botton discusses the present state of the reform cantorate. The interview comes after his tenure as the president of the American Conference of Cantors. He finds that the modern cantorate is struggling to find its way in the reform movement. He believes that there are less and less congregations that understand what the real cantor is capable of, and he states that today “rabbis want to raise the knowledge of the congregation in every area except the artistic one.” He sees synagogues as lowering standards, which he believes will be fatal to synagogues. Cantor Botton sees the cantor as the messenger of the congregation, and the rabbi as the interpreter of G-d’s word. He strongly believes that they are separate jobs. He also discusses the importance of spontaneity in kavana, something that he strongly feels the current cantorate has lost its ability to do. He offers a fascinating overview of cantorial musical examples through the lens of his great career. He discusses his use of the music of Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copeland, Max, Helfman, Picket, Fromm, Ernst Bloch, Max Janowski and “even Isaacson.” Additionally, he explains that it’s important to have an eclectic element in planning the music for the service.

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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