As we approach Rosh Hashanah, I’m excited to be featuring a cover story on Chazzan Benzion Miller and his son, Chazzan Shimmy Miller, of Temple Beth El in Boro Park. The two have been household names to chazzanus fans who appreciate their interpretation of the holy words with their singing and warmth. I remember the first time I went to a cantorial concert at the beautiful Beth El, at the age of 11, and paid $10. To hear those amazing C- sharp notes from Cantor Miller was something I’ll never forget.
As many of you know, I have been a chazzan and singer for the past 23 years, and I attribute my passion for music to my early days of listening to Chazzan Miller on Rosh Chodesh and Yamim Tovim. Although cantorial music has had its golden age, and today’s music is more fast paced – a different style which I also enjoy and sing – listening to a great baal tefillah gives you an unmatched feeling that uplifts while explaining the meaning of the words without having to interpret them to the audience.
I’m reminded of the story of a Rebbe who said of a chazzan( of the previous generation) who was not quite religious, “When chazzan so-and-so sings his Yom Kippur davening, even he has a thought of repentance.” One year, a while back, I was hired to be a cantor in Mexico City, and I remember thinking that it would be wrong to shlep out the davening, thereby ending services at 1:45 p.m. on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. After davening, a few people came over to me expressing their thanks and commenting on several pieces I sang. “Why the rush?” they asked me. “The High Holy Days are only once a year. Davening should take longer, so we can be even more inspired.” Needless to say, we finished at 2:30 p.m. on the second day!
Wishing you a shana tova and a gut gebenched yar.