Four female cantors who sing together as “Divas On The Bima”, will perform an array of Jewish liturgical music, including songs from the Yiddish Theatre, as well as songs from musical theatre and popular songs in a program titled “Cantors And Cocktails” taking place on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Beth Torah Congregation in North Miami Beach.
According to Cantor Elizabeth Shammash, one of the four “Divas” performing in concert, the quartet of cantors was formed as a female response to the Golden Age of the Hazzanut (Hebrew for "male cantors") who toured to American audiences outside their congregations in the 1930s and 40s.
“Female cantors were not widely known or hired for most of the twentieth century, so part of the reason all four of us decided to tour and sing together is to promote the beauty of Jewish music and our love of being cantors. We want audiences and the congregations they represent to appreciate the importance of the cantor and her roles in leading the congregation in prayer,” said Shammash.
The four “Divas” each bring a unique background to her ability as a cantor and singer.
Cantor Jen Cohen of Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill, N.J. began her career in popular and Jewish music, living in Nashville and touring the United States with a band before studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary and becoming a Cantor in 2009.
Cantor Magda Fishman, who is currently the Senior Cantor at B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, is both a jazz singer and trumpet player, serving with the Israel Defense Forces.
“I love playing the trumpet and know that playing an instrument in addition to singing enhances a prayer service,” said Fishman.
Cantor Alicia Pomerantz-Boro of Congregation Beth El in Voorhees, N.J. is the only “Diva” to have a lineage of rabbis and cantors in her family with deep roots in Jewish music.
“It is wonderful to have grown up hearing Jewish melodies and prayers ever since childhood,” said Pomerantz-Boro.
Shammash of Tifereth Bet Israel in Blue Bell, Pa. is a classically trained singer, a soprano who enjoyed a career in opera before becoming a cantor.
The “Cantors And Cocktails” 90 minute concert will feature the four “Divas On The Bima” performing both in four part harmonies as well as in solo performances.
Highlights of the concert include Fishman singing and playing on trumpet the popular song “What A Wonderful World,” Pomerantz-Boro singing “I’m A Hazzan,” her parody of the song “I’m A Woman,” as well as the Hebrew prayer “Mo Dim.”
In addition to a selection of favorite songs by Shammash from her album “Great Songs From The Yiddish Stage” and Israeli songs from the “Eurovision” competition, the cantors will also sing musical theater songs from “Phantom Of The Opera” (“Music Of The Night”), “Wicked” (“Defying Gravity” in four part harmony and “For Good”), the Hebrew prayer “Ma Tovu” and a selection of songs from popular music songwriters Carole King and Carly Simon.
Despite their title being “Divas On The Bima,” the four cantors express themselves with humility in concert.
“I am a role model as are my colleagues as cantors. Our primary role is to lead our congregations in prayer, officiate at births and at funerals, and to counsel as well as help students with bar/bat mitzvahs and religious education in our schools,” said Pomerantz-Boro.
Tickets for the Sunday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. concert at Beth Torah Congregation, 20350 NE 26th Avenue in North Miami Beach range from $36-54 and can be ordered online at eventbrite.com or at btbrc.org or by calling 305-932-2829.