Julius Mombach was born in Pfungstadt, Germany in 1813. In 1828 he came to London and studied music with Enoch Eliasson.*When Simon Ascher became Chazan at the Great Synagogue, Mombach joined his choir, eventually taking over as Choir Master, a position he held for some fifty-two years, until his death.
Throughout his years at the Great Synagogue, Mombach was held in great esteem. He strove to improve the musical service of the synagogue and was influential throughout England. He acquired a reputation for being a fine pianist, and composer of synagogue music. He taught Chazanut at Jews’ College and he also taught singing to the pupils of the Sabbath classes of the Association for Religious Instruction. He conducted concerts at the Jewish Workingmen’s Club in Aldgate, and served as a member of the Committee for the Diffusion of Religious Knowledge.
Mombach was called upon to arrange choirs for all the main events that took place in the religious life of the Ashkenazi communities of London and the Provinces, and many of his pupils went on to become Chazanim in English and colonial synagogues.
His music was widely accepted and performed in the Ashkenazi Synagogues of England and the English colonies. With the exception of those selections written in the traditional modes, most of his settings are a blend of the popular German and English folk song.
In 1881 his main work, Ne’im Zemirot Yisrael (The Sacred Musical Compositions of I. L. Mombach) for the entire Jewish year, was published.
A great deal of the Ashkenazi synagogue service music was composed by him and he remains a consistent source of melodies for services throughout the Jewish year (see “The Voice of Prayer and Praise”, United Synagogue, London, 1933).
Some of his compositions, such as Mechalkeil for Yamim Noraim, Baruch Haba (procesional), and Ladonai Ha’aretz (Psalm 24), have become ‘standard’ pieces in the Anglo-Jewish communities, where they are still regularly sung.
Mombach died in London in February 1880.
*(A condition of the appointment of Binom Elias of Darmstadt to the office of cantor of the Great Synagogue, London, colloquially known as “Duke’s Place” was that he should bring a boy accompanist with him. The Chazan could not tolerate English weather and only remained at this post for two years (1827-1829) but left the lad behind him. His son, Enoch, later a Director of Concerts at the Lyceum Theatre, was the Eliasson who undertook the musical education of this boy, Julius Lazarus Mombach.)