Chazzan Shlomo (Sol) Barondes was born May 15th 1902 in Zbaraz, which was then in the Polish part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (modern-day Ukraine).
Young Shloimele was brought over to the U.S.A. around 1920 by his older brother Nathan, who was a junk dealer in Quincy, Massachusetts. But neither Quincy nor the junk business appealed to him, so he soon moved to New York City with the hope of becoming a professional singer. He settled in the lower east side of Manhattan, which then had a thriving Yiddish theater. Here he worked as a waiter in restaurants in the theater district and hung out with various artists. Later on he got a job as a salesman in a clothing store.
He married Yetta Kaplow (Kaplowitz), an immigrant from Kraisk (Belarus), who coincidentally also came to the U.S.A. by the help of an older brother. Both Sol and Yetta came from big families (each with eight children) and in their upbringing they were guided by the Jewish traditions of that time. They had little formal training in the European shtetels, but were literate in Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian. As immigrants they went to night school and became fluent in English.The couple moved to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, where their son Shmuel (Samuel) was born, who made a successful career as a in neurobiology and psychiatry.
In Brooklyn Sol Barondes set up a store called “Sol’s Remnant Shop”, selling remnants of various fabrics. The store eventually turned into an interior decorating store and was renamed “Sol’s Brighton Interior Decorators”. While being an entrepreneur he finally found the time to invest in the singing career he had always pursued. He worked at his store, but only enough to make a satisfactory living, and in his spare time studied singing with some distinguished teachers (including the teacher of Richard Tucker, who he was friendly with) and took jobs as a Chazzan for the High Holy Days (often in a vast auditorium used for such services at the Brighton Beach Baths, but also out-of-town in places such as Providence RI) and also for Passover (usually at the Raleigh Hotel in South Fallsberg, New York). He would also give concerts from time to time to raise money for various causes, and liked to perform weddings and occasionally sing at funerals and memorial services. He was talented, but never became a full time Chazzan.
He was a very independent man who wanted to live his life in his own way, without the strict adherence to Orthodox Judaism which would be required if he took a full-time job in a synagogue. Throughout his life he was a well-known and beloved member of the Brighton Beach community. After his retirement Chazzan Barondes moved to Miami Beach, Florida, where he suddenly died of a heart attack in January of 1969 at age 66.
Chazzan Barondes was a very spiritual man, who loved to sing in the synagogue; he had a sense of holiness while he sang the prayers and had a terrific n’shomo. But he saw himself more as a socialist than an Orthodox Jew. He was proud of his Judaism, an ardent Zionist, but hated religious fundamentalism.
Chazzan Barondes had a rich tenor voice, which thankfully is preserved for future generations by two professional recordings he made on the Tikva label. On these recordings he sings liturgical compositions and Jewish songs.