It is unusual, for a Chazan of international stature to serve one congregation for an extended period of time. Solomon Stern, who was considered one of the finest Cantors of his time to grace the Anglo-Jewish scene, was Cantor of the United Hebrew Congregation in Leeds for more than 28 years.
Chazan Stern was a native of Czechoslovakia and as a young child he studied with Yossele Rosenblatt and sang solos in Rosenblatt’s choir in Muncaz. As well as having a Yeshiva education, he studied music in Kharkov and the Conservatoire in Moscow.
It is difficult to trace the exact course of his early career but he appears to have held posts in Bratislava (also called Pressburg) and Szaszregen (Romania). During the first world war he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army and was wounded three times.He was taken prisoner and interned by the Russians. His reputation was known in Kursk, in West Central Russia, and the Synagogue officials sought and gained permission to have him released to serve as their Chazan.
He was appointed Chief Cantor to the Leipzig Hebrew Congregation at the age of 27.
He made a number of world tours, giving many concerts at which he drew enthusiastic crowds, and in 1926 he became Chief Cantor at the Great Synagogue of Bratislava, where he succeeded his own teacher, Rosenblatt.
This was a very large Synagogue that could seat some 2500 worshippers, and the buuilding was packed week after week.
In 1930 he came to the United Kingdom where he was Chazan of the United Hebrew Congregation, Manchester. Three years later he went to the United Hebrew Congregation in Leeds, where he remained for the rest of his career.
Chazan Stern became a very popular figure in the Leeds community, not only for his outstanding Chazanut, but also for his involvement in the wider community. He was one of the founders of the Leeds Mizrachi Association and a member of the Leeds Zionist Council. He was Chaplian to the Leeds Herzl Moser Hospital and the Leeds Home for Aged Jews. He was also a member of the Leeds Board of Gurdians.
Cantor Stern retired in 1961 and went to settle in Israel. Unfortunately owing to his ill health he returned to England and settled in Southport where he remained for a short while before his death in February 1963.
Solomon Stern was a Cantor of international repute and wherever he went to give a concert, he would be sure to fill the hall. He wa salso a very fine musician and recorded many of his own compositions. Among those that have become well-known are his Ki Lekach Tov, that lends itself so well to being sung as a duet, Shema Yisrael from the Musaf Kedusha and Rachem Na from bensching.