Leibele Waldman


1907 – 1969

Cantor Louis Waldman was born on June 22, 1907 in New York of a family of Galician immigrants. Growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Leibele (Louis) Waldman was recognized as a “wunderkind”, officiating at the pulpit with a choir by the age of nine.He began his studies as a youngster at an institution later known as the East Side Talmud Torah and subsequently at the Yeshiva of Rabbi Shlomo Klieger. It was during this period that his inherent musical and hazzanic talents were first noticed.

Affectionately referred to as Leibele (as he would be throughout his career), the young hazandl began to appear with frequency in a number of local synagogues. Realizing the importance of a musical background he then studied music and sulfeggio (sight reading) with a local East Side musician, Shabbtai Weingarten.

Befriended and influenced by the great Cantor Yossele Roseblatt, Waldman went on to develop his own distinctive style which is still influencing cantors today. A lyric baritone, Waldman’s amazing vocal range, coloratura, flawless falsetto and sweet voice allowed him great flexibility interpreting prayers that have become “standards”. His renditions of Ki Lekach Tov, Sarfe Maloh, Odom Y’sodo Meofer, L’fichoch Anachnu and Hineni (s’firah) are just a few of the many Waldman masterpieces. His skilled improvisations at the pulpit prompted one cantor to state, “When listening to Waldman, I felt as though I was being transported into another realm as Waldman pleaded for his congregation.”

Waldman was a pioneer in phonograph recording, radio and Jewish Movies (“talkies”) all of which showcased his cantorial talents to an appreciative audience. His extensive travels throughout the United States and Canada invariably drew large crowds to the synagogues and concert halls where he appeared.

Waldman’s recordings of liturgical compositions, Yiddish folk songs and Hassidic melodies earned him fame and recognition. He was heard live for twenty years, twice a week, on Radio Station WEVD. The warmth of his voice, his stage presence and personality made him a favorite among his listeners. His guest appearances at Madison Square Garden delighted Jews and non-Jews who also attended in great numbers.

While still a young man, Waldman concertized with Zavel Kwartin (in his eighties at the time) and Yossele Rosenblatt. In fact, Rosenblatt shared the stage with Waldman during his final concert in the United States before his death in Palestine.

After the success of “The Jazz Singer” in 1929, motion pictures or “Talkies” as they were called, became quite popular. Waldman performed in twelve Jewish “short subjects” between 1931 and 1942. The Library of Jewish Film at Brandeis University has restored many of these Waldman films and offers them for sale.

During World War II, Waldman entertained Jewish troops stationed in the United States. He officiated at several thousand wedding ceremonies as he was greatly sought after because of his unique musical style. One cantor was quoted in the New York Times saying, “When you had Waldman you had the best”!

In the Fall 2004 edition of “Classic Record Collector” magazine, Waldman was listed as one of six legendary cantors in the article: “Cantorial Roll Call: The BIG Six.”

(This biography is taken, with permission, from the official
Leibele Waldman Blog, which I highly recommend:http://leibelewaldman.blogspot.co.uk/ )