McNeil Robinson - Interview with Louis Weingarden


McNeil Robinson

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The legendary organist of Park Avenue Synagogue observed changes in music tastes. He saw congregations beginning to remove organs, the slow demise of composed prayers, and the disinterest in Jewish life to promote the composition of Jewish music. Maestro Robinson discussed his personal story as a non-Jew invited by Jack Gottlieb to play at Park Avenue where eventually he would work under Hazzanim David Putterman and David Lefkowitz. He attributed his successes at Park Avenue to his own understanding of repertoire and learning how to improvise the Jewish modes. In discussion of his affinity for Jewish music while maintaining his Episcopalian beliefs, he opined that he has Jewish blood in him. He talked about the successes and failures of Park Avenue’s commissioning projects, offering deep criticism of those who detracted from the program. On the other hand, he offered deep criticism of synagogues that go to the extremes and appear like and behave like Presbyterian churches. He seemed committed to Jewish music created for Jewish purposes.

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


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