It seems appropriate on Shabbat Shirah to acknowledge the recent passing of one of American Orthodoxy’s great cantors and cantorial scholars: Cantor Macy Nulman.

Over 20 years ago, I studied to be a cantor at the Belz School of Jewish Music at Yeshiva University in NYC. Although Cantor Macy Nulman was retired by that time, he was already a revered figure. His articles and books have continued to be a source of learning for me up to the present day.  

Yeshiva University Mourns Passing of the Former Director of the Belz School of Jewish Music

The Yeshiva University community mourns the passing of Cantor Macy Nulman, z’l, former director of YU’s Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music and co-founder of the Cantorial Council of America, who passed away at the age of 88 on November 30, 2011.

During his accomplished life, Cantor Nulman, a pioneer in cantorial and Jewish music education, spread his passion for Jewish music and liturgy across the globe. In March 2005, Cantor Nulman received the Distinguished Scholarship for Fostering and Enhancing Jewish Music, Prayer and Liturgy at the 50th anniversary dinner of the Belz School.

The author of numerous articles and journals on Jewish liturgy and Jewish music education, Cantor Nulman wrote several critical books, including “The Concise Encyclopedia of Jewish Music,” “Concepts of Jewish Music and Prayer,” “Wedding Service,” “Sabbath Chants,” “Maariv Chants” and the award-winning “Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer.” He also served as editor of “The Journal of Jewish Music and Liturgy.” [1]

I recommend his writings to anyone interested in a wider knowledge and deeper understanding of the traditional musical elements that are used in Jewish services.

Abraham W. Binder (1895-1966) was another great Jewish music composer, educator, and author. Aside from his actual musical compositions, an anthology of his articles, “Studies in Jewish Music: Collected Writings of A.W. Binder,” was published by Bloch Publishing Co., Inc., © 1971. 

A.Z. Idelsohn’s “Jewish Music in Its Historical Development” is arguably the main text in the field — parallel, in its way, to what G. Scholem’s “Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism” has been in the study of the development of Kabbalah.

Finally, Alfred Sendrey’s “Music in Ancient Israel,” perhaps less well-known than the others, is as comprehensive a presentation of its particular subject-matter as any that can be found.

These few authors and resources are certainly not the only ones available. I mention them to introduce them and others, in Cantor Nulman’s spirit, to all of us who want to learn more about our Jewish musical traditions.