Posted by: howardnevision | November 3, 2009

Cantor Howard Nevison’s Road To Congregation Emaunu-El of New York City

Cantor Howard Nevison’s Road To Congregation Emaunu-El of New York City
Looking back in time, Cantor Howard Nevison’s Road to Congregation Emaunu-El of New York City is a story worth telling. The story of Cantor Nevison tells the life and road of a single man’s passion and journey to become a Cantor.  This journey is told here in a story about Cantor Howard Nevison’s life and also can be seen in Cantor Howard Nevison’s photo gallery.
In 1977 when my wife, Fern Nevison and I were residents of Brooklyn. I was the Cantor of a small shul in Brooklyn, New York called Progressive Shareh Zedek. My wife and I read in the New York Times, that a Cantor of long standing at Congregation Emanu-El in New York had recently passed away in summer 1977. Congregation Emanu-El in New York had world famous reputation as Jewish Temple, therefore I was certain that many of my colleagues were applying for the position.
The first thought that crossed my mind, was this certainly would be an opportunity of a life time – to land a Cantorial position of this level of importance at Congregation Emanu-El. At first Cantor Howard Nevison was reluctant because he figured the politics in landing this position would certainly play into the candidates who eventually were chosen.
Cantor Nevison sent Congregation Emanu-El his resume and a recorded tape of his vocal repertoire, which was required as part of the interview process. Congregation Emanu-El contacted me about 3 weeks later, informing me that that I had passed the first round of the interview process and that I would eventually be invited to sing before the Rabbi’s and the Music Committee. I was simply thrilled at both the honor and opportunity to have made it through Congregation Emanu-El’s first part of the interview process.
Congregation Emanu-El then decided not to hold auditions for one-year after the death of the prior Cantor, out of respect for him and the Jewish tradition. It was not until February of 1978 that Cantor Howard Nevison had his first audition. “The winter of 1978 was a brutal one” recalls Nevison. That aside, I was determined even in the chill of the New York winter cold to venture outside to every audition that Congregation Emanu-El requested I attend.
I eventually carried on with 3 auditions for Congregation Emanu-El and ironically every time I arrived to sing it was during a heavy and bleak New York City snow storm. At that point I named myself, Snow Cantor Nevison. During one of my auditions at Congregation Emanu-El, I was given a list of cantorial pieces to prepare and was also asked to sing a composition of my own.
Although it was freezing cold outside, Congregation Emanu-El’s sanctuary did not hold the promise of being much warmed. As a result of severe oil shortage the sanctuary of Congregation Emanu-El was not heated. There I stood, all prepped in my suit and tie, standing in the Cantor’s pulpit about to sing an audition in the chilled sanctuary.
To give you an idea of how cold Congregation Emanu-El’s sanctuary was, I noticed that as I began to sing  smoke came pipping out of my mouth in white rings.  After the audition at Congregation Emanu-El was complete, I had the fortune to be interviewed in a much warmer room and tea was also served.
One of the members of the committee noticed that I was shivering and asked, “Cantor Howard Nevison, are you always so nervous.” I replied, “I’m not nervous I am freezing!” Whenever a Cantor, Opera Singer or Vocalist sings, the energy creates perspiration and when you are cold that perspiration makes you even colder.
I was asked to sing as part of the audition, two more times at Congregation Emanu-El during the month of March 1978. Each time I sang at Congregation Emanu-El it involved at least an hour interview and the last time I sung I was invited to lunch with the current Rabbis.
Cantor Howard Nevison felt like he was being interviewed for a partnership in a law firm. It turned out that I was the 96th Cantor to audition for the position at Congregation Emanu-El out of 97 they chose to interview. The Committee had traveled around the world, to find the right Cantor for this very important, historic position. In addition to a Cantor, Congregation Emanu-El  needed a person who had an astute musical background and formal training to also be the Music Director for the Temple.
As a Curtis Institute graduate Cantor Howard Nevison had the necessary skills and experience Congregation Emanu-El was looking for within this new found Cantorial position. And as luck had it, Cantor Howard Nevison became the seventh Cantor in the 133 year history of the congregation on June 1, 1978.  The next 28 years for Cantor Howard Nevison was filled with joy, creativity and a huge feeling of accomplishment. One of the Music Committee members commented to me after I started work there, “just think we traveled around the world looking for a Cantor, and all along you, Cantor Howard Nevison were right in our backyard; of Brooklyn.”
Cantor Howard Nevison at Congregation Emaunu-El, Congregation of Emaunu-El of New York, Cantor Howard Nevison’s road to become a Cantor, Cantor Howard Nevison in Brooklyn, Cantor Howard Nevison, Howard Nevision the Opera Singer, Howard Nevision the Teacher


  1. Very nice presentation – So proud that you and Fern are our friends. Looking forward to keeping in touch. D & E

  2. Howie – I am honored to know you – you are a fine human being

    • You have been fooled. Watch The documentary Rewind. And see him for who he really is.

  3. My family and I have been privileged to know the Nevison’s for over 40 years. I have enjoyed the beautiful G-D given talent of Cantor Nevison in both his capacities as Cantor and opera singer. I still have my copy of the CD that was made when Cantor Nevison performed for the Pope. Thank you for being a good friend for so many years and I wish you and Fern good health and a long, happy life. Very impressive blog. Keep up the good work. One suggestion would be to include audio downloads of your singing. I never tire of hearing you sing.
    Love, the Robinson’s

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