Posted by: howardnevision | December 22, 2009

The Joy of Prayer, A Musical Collaboration Between Cantor Howard Nevison & Composer Martin Kalmanoff

Throughout Temple Emanu-El’s 164 year history many new liturgical works were commissioned and premiered. Cantor Howard Nevison respected this tradition and felt a tremendous responsibility and commitment to maintain this musical heritage.
A few years prior Cantor Howard Nevison’s appointment at Emanu-El , he became friendly with the American composer Martin Kalmanoff. Mr. Kalmanoff composed operas, songs, and several Jewish thematic works. Cantor Howard Nevison recalled hearing one of his songs sung on the old Firestone Hour. It was Kalmanoff’s version of Psalm 23.  Cantor Nevison was smitten by the beauty and majesty of the song and decided to pay home to it to it by adding it to his repertoire.
Every singer makes an tiresome attempt to find music that fits the individual voice. Cantor Nevison recalls,” this wonderful version of Psalm 23 fit me like a glove.”  Kalmanoff’s version of Psalm 23 was one of the songs I sang for my audition at Temple Emanu-El and since then has continued to bring me luck”.   Cantor Nevison had a second sense that this kind of music would be suitable as a “Sacred Service” realizing that the American melodic style of Kalmanoff was exactly what he was looking for. Cantor Nevison approached Kalmanoff with a special inquiry to find out if he would be interested in writing a Sabbath Evening and Morning Service for the Temple. Kalmanoff  considered the length of the work and thus, accepted the great challenge.
At the time there were 2 major works of Sacred Service for the Synagogue, one by Darius Milhaud and the other by Ernest Bloch. Cantor Nevison had performed the Bloch and wanted a work written in a similar style by an American composer. Kalmanoff recognized that Cantor Nevison had specific ideas about the work, so he invited him to his studio to collaborate on this new creation. The work was scored for Baritone Cantor, Chorus and Orchestra similar in length to the  Bloch.
Cantor Nevison helped to orchestrate the music leading Kalmanoff into areas that he might not have gone. After working together for nearly a year the score was finished. The length of the work is over 1 hour and 30 minutes. It was dubbed  THE JOY OF PRAYER.
Martin Kalmanoff and Cantor Howard Nevison
The world premiere performance was scheduled on March 10, 1982. There was a great deal of publicity and we were optimistic about the outcome. The Temple Emanu-El Sanctuary has 2500 seats; two thousand on the lower level and five hundred in the balconys. Cantor Nevison recalls,”When I came out onto the altar I couldn’t believe my eyes. Every seat in the sanctuary was taken.” I was surrounded by a one hundred vocal choir and  full compliment of the American Symphony Orchestra, with Kalmanoff at the podium.
However  to make matters more difficult, outside on 5th avenue the Greek Independence Day Parade was going on at the same time. Fortunately the Temple security ensured that they stop performing as they passed in front of the sanctuary. “Exactly how the audience managed to file into the Temple with the parade going on outside was simply amazing, but I guess that they were determined to be at this world premiere,” claims Nevison.
The commission and world premiere of Kalmanoff’s JOY OF PRAYER is one of Cantor Howard Nevison’s fondest memories of his career as Cantor and Music Director of Congregation Emanu-El of New York City.
Cantor Howard Nevison commissions Kalmanoff Joy Of Prayer Cantor Nevison performs World Premiere, Howard Nevison Teacher Howard Nevison Opera Singer Cantor Howard Nevison


  1. I always had profound respect for Howard who hired me almost unheard to sing in the Temple Emanu-el Choir. He also was a teacher of mine and I looked forward to hearing him sing at every service. I participated in the Kalmanoff Premiere as well. Bravo Howard!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: