Cover for SLOBIN: Chosen Voices: The Story of the American Cantorate. Click for larger image

Chosen Voices

The Story of the American Cantorate

Chosen Voices is the definitive survey of an often overlooked aspect of American Jewish history and ethnomusicology, and an insider's look at a profession that is also a vocation. Week after week, year after year, Jews turn to sacred singers for spiritual and emotional support. The job of the hazzan–-much more than the traditional "messenger to God"–-is deeply embedded in cultural, social, and religious symbolism, negotiated between the congregation and its chosen voices.

Drawing on archival sources, interviews with cantors, and photographs, Slobin traces the development of the American cantorate from the nebulous beginnings of the hazzan as a recognizable figure through the heyday of the superstar sacred singer in the early twentieth century to a diverse portrait of today's cantorate, which now includes women as well as men. Slobin's focus on the current nature of the profession includes careful consideration of the sacred singer's part in creating and maintaining the worship service, the recent relationship between the rabbi and the hazzan within the synagogue, and the music that contemporary cantors sing.

This first paperback edition features a new preface by the author. A thirty-five-minute cassette for use with Chosen Voices is available separately from the University of Illinois Press.

"A fascinating study showing the complexities of American Jewish religious life and the social and religious problems faced by professional prayer leaders within the synagogue context." –- Choice

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