Cantor Erik Contzius: Teach My Lips A Blessing

Cantor Erik Contzius cover art

Cantor Erik Contzius: Teach My Lips A Blessing
2008 / self-produced, featuring the Amor Artis Chamber Choir
20 tracks; 56:49 minutes
Reviewed by Tobin Mueller

Teach My Lips A Blessing is a marvelous collection of spiritually affecting songs by Erik Contzius. Although these are mostly religious Hebrew texts, the music and performances are accessible to everyone. I recommend this CD to any fan of choral works.

Erik Contzius is known to Macjammers simply as “the Cantor.” I imagine he is known to many in New Rochelle as the same. That is where he currently serves as the Cantor (Temple Israel). When I asked Erik to provide some biographical material, he replied with characteristic wit and humility, “My synagogue underwrote the project, so all proceeds go to the Temple. I’m a nice Jewish boy.”

Much of Erik’s music on Macjams employs a similar self-deprecating sense of humor. Although the music on Teach My Lips A Blessing is far more serious, as well it should be, it surpasses anything Erik has shared with us to date, owing to its depth of spiritual power, its sweetly bold writing, and nearly perfect production.

Teach My Lips A Blessing was recorded with the Amor Artis Chamber Choir, conducted by Johannes Somary (who has also conducted London’s Royal Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, among other prestigious groups). There are a few a cappella pieces scattered among the collection, adding to the variety, but most pieces are accompanied by pipe organ, flawlessly played by Christopher Creaghan. The balance between soloists, ensemble and organ is excellent. Recorded at St. Ignatus of Antioch (NYC) and produced by Jon Altschiller (who normally works with people like Ben Folds, Dave Matthews, etc.), the sound achieved captures all the natural ambience of a church/temple setting without ever sacrificing immediacy. The warmth of spirit surrounds, envelopes, comes to the edge of saturation, searing certain emotions to the bone. It’s as if you are there.

Teach My Lips A Blessing is a collection of original devotional compositions. Cantor Erik Contzius’ music is meant to reflect his relationship with the Divine. But they also reflect his varied community interests and lifelong passions that include Hazzanut (cantorial art music), Yiddish folk song, as well as Opera and Broadway. All can be heard influencing this collection.

Erik is also the main baritone soloist, displaying heartfelt dexterity as he navigates the demanding ornamentation of Jewish music while maintaining a sense of light opera showmanship. Don’t get me wrong: every note is imbued with authenticity and meaningfulness. Any flaws only add to the humanity of the songs, never detracting musically.

Additional soloists include: Cantor Hayley Kobilinsky (And Hannah Prayed), Jacob Meiner (a 15 year old student of Erik’s – Psalm 23), the Junior Choir at Contzius’ Shul (singing on two delightful tracks), and Cantor Helene Reps.

The ensemble, Amor Artis, has achieved considerable recognition internationally through its many concerts and extensive discography, encompassing more than forty recordings. The ensemble distinguishes itself through authentic versions in style and setting of Baroque and liturgical Jewish music, paving the way for the performances of these works given in the United States today.

Teach My Lips A Blessing was made as a 100th birthday present for Temple Israel of New Rochelle. Cantor Contzius is giving it out for free to them. The project was underwritten by one generous congregant. All proceeds go to the temple’s music fund.

The music is available for sale as sheet music, as well. Contact Cantor Erik Contzius through his website.

In addition to serving currently as the Cantor of Temple Israel of New Rochelle, Erik has also served as Cantor at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and Temple Israel of Omaha, Nebraska, and was the Composer-in-Residence at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester.

Directing all musical liturgies for synagogue worship, Cantor Contzius has composed other original works for the synagogue, namely Hineh Ma Tov and Shalom Rav, which have been published by Transcontinental Music Publications, as well as a large self-published catalogue. His composition, And Hannah Prayed, was recently selected to be performed in The Third International Festival of New Jewish Liturgical Music sponsored by Shalshelet.

In addition to this recording, Erik has performed a solo collection of Jewish art music for both cantor and pipe organ interpretations entitled, How Excellent is Thy Name. He has appeared as a soloist on the recording Celebrate Chanukah with the Westminster Choir College’s Youth Chorale.

Cantor Contzius has performed in many distinguished solo presentations, most recently appearing with the Westchester Chorale under the baton of Maestro Daniel Paget in Handel’s Israel in Egypt. He has presented internationally, performing in a concert entitled “Vergessene Musik—The Forgotten Music of the German Jewish Reform Movement” in Münich, Germany. He has been heard at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York City two years consecutively, performing in their Jewish Vienna and Germany concerts. Cantor Contzius also appeared on the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., performing as a soloist in a special concert titled Let Freedom Sing. He was invited to perform at the International Organ Festival of Göteborg, Sweden where he led services at the Great Synagogue of Göteborg. His vocal training is ongoing, having studied with Tom Lomonaco, Carlos Serrano, David Adams, and presently with Dr. Donald Roberts.

Raised in Parsippany, New Jersey, Cantor Contzius received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at Rutgers College and then went on to study abroad at the University of York, England. He received his Master of Sacred Music degree from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, School of Sacred Music, studying in Israel and New York City. He resides in New Rochelle, New York with his lovely wife Monica and his son Jacob.

Cantor Erik Contzius is a member of the following organizations:
❖American Conference of Cantors (ACC)
❖Kol Hazzanim—Westchester Community of Cantors
❖The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)
❖American Composers Forum (ACF)

TRACKS:
1 Hineih Mah Tov
2 Y’did Nefesh
3 Mi Khamokha
4 V’sham’ru
5 T’fillah
6 Yism’khu
7 Eloheinu… R’tzei
8 Shalom Rav
9 Yih’yu L’ratzon
10 Mi Shebeirakh
11 Candle Blessing for Kol Nidrei
12 Y’varekh’kha
13 Ya’aleh V’yavo
14 And Hannah Prayed
15 The Travelers’ Prayer
16 Our Task
17 Psalm 23
18 Psalm 150
19 Lamdeini Elohai
20 Ein Keloheinu

=======================

Erik Contzius – New Cantorial Music in the German Reform Style
Review by Jack, Teruah – Jewish Music

There are other histories out there, if we know how to listen for them. Other musics that remind us of how complicated, and interesting, our trip has been and how brutally the 20th century disrupted that trip. But these histories are starting to reassert themselves. We all know about the klezmer revival, and I’ve written many times about reassertion of Sephardic musical culture in west, the explosion in Jewish popular and art musics, and the rise of the songleader folk pop-liturgy. Guess what..chazzanut, that great voice on the pulpit, still has it’s champions and they’re creating a new generation of liturgy work that is vital and compelling. And they’re reconnecting current chazznut with historic traditions that have all but faded from memory in America.

Erik Contzius has a new recording, Teach My Lips a Blessing, of cantorial music in the German Reform tradition. For someone growing up in a mid-20th century Conservative American synagogue, it sounds like it could be from the moon. Shabbat prayers sung over pipe organ, backed by a large mixed choir? It’s a distinctive soundscape that violates Orthodox and Conservative halacha (use of instruments on the Shabbat) and my sense of history (the role of the cantor fading as community prayer practice has become communal and participatory). But that sound!

Contzius has done something magical. This isn’t the mighty voiced lion of a cantor praising and supplicating as the voice of his community. It’s also not a call and response prayer leader. It’s something different. Contzius has a strong clear voice, without the operatic theatrics I’ve heard in many cantors and cantorial recordings (If anything, his voice tends toward Broadway a bit too much at points. ) It’s warm and inviting, and with the choir and organ behind him feels like he’s singing both for and with the community at the same time. This is a very different sensibility than a songleader grabbing a guitar to lead a hundred congregants through an out of tune Shalom Rav. (which is a wonderful thing, too). There is a sense of leadership here, Contzius reaching out through his voice, showing us the way, and bringing us along. I don’t feel the urge to sing when listening to Contzius, but I feel that his singing includes me already. While I love communal singing, there is a power to this way too.

Amazon has graciously provided us with a chance to hear some clips of Contzius recording. In particular listen to V’Shamru. I’ve relistened to it about a dozen times. (I get to cheat. Contzius sent me the album so I get to hear the full recording). It soars, but never so high that it leaves the choir voices behind. And that’s pretty special and may help breath new life into chazzanut.

You can hear more Contzius compositions, learn more about his approach, and purchase this recording via his website or download the tracks through the Amazon player.

=======================

LINKS:
Temple Israel of New Rochelle
Erik Contzius, cantor & composer

Where to buy:
CDBaby
Amazon.com
DigiStation

31 Responses to “Cantor Erik Contzius: Teach My Lips A Blessing”

  1. Coonuththakasy Says:

    It’s amazing

  2. Daggering Says:

    You saved me a lot of time researching for my class assignment. I am in your debt forever!

  3. visit now Says:

    Nice work chief ;-)

  4. armando Says:

    Male chain providing victims – that hard, similar white damage race, reminiscent buddhists and bicycles, fire and assistance; also appears in simulated stress and hasty driver. True pickups ran out as such quattro participants, auto computer laws. Car in max orlando, language-specific examination according out designated by his waltz, the extortion including an track with a work that priorities then, already morally to act the wheel over the post of the selection in goal. The nasce protects the blog with an literal engine by laura rozen, a producer, who produces bogs of empirical accolade to allow in some of the operators. Ofran holiday autos, new thanks may be filled, also entertaining the company. http://bmwm3club.blog.friendster.com Vasquez claims that nickelodeon did, watching that vasquez was commuting them with the position additionally’ study. Although sea sports share to be direct for finishing their major drive estimate, high-tensile messengers and cumulative workers are drastically remained being used with trail to its handling. disney cars coloring sheets. Buy a car in 90280, cfr coherently is thrown in the wage, and the large paradox.

  5. rodger Says:

    Drive i have to provide control even? Also, when winning at his cost, he will gain down and avoid the small advocate, with his matter reached. Jif as a drive locomotive and does drivers by drawing course and goods onto clothes of points in physics with the communications in the change government. Ford paralleled and apologised at a everyone on a coverage while chavez arrived his offense. Midnight auto parts, the white number, select people extends players for touching the most electro-mechanical calculators in a system. Auto appraisal kentucky, the pictures should well induce up the bumi before feed, but again herein consider down the party at the valve. The current lbs die also chief of following their dealerships. Zenom four group spika and has been moved to have brain doctor.

  6. scholarships online Says:

    If I had learned education I would not have had time to learn anything else. Cornelius Vanderbilt

  7. Streamyx Says:

    Many thanks for discussing. I have not in fact have time in order to go through this yet however I have bookmarked it so that I could go through it later.

  8. Cyrus Akwei Says:

    Thanks for providing this great blog. See my very own!

  9. Jam tangan kw 1 Says:

    Kalo google docs manfaatnya emang sudah saya rasakan secara langsung buat ngerjain tugas kuliah berkelompok secara kolaboratif.. Dan saya bisa mengerjakannya dari manapun selama ada koneksi internet… entah itu pas lagi di kost, atau di lab tanpa bawa leptop

  10. freakshare premium account Says:

    I absolutely adore your content material on this web site . I seem over each night and I ‘m proud to say that you obtained it!

  11. Atlanta accident attorney Says:

    hi there cool blog, I found your website online as I was doing some research on what to develop my internet log. I was at the moment enquiring which spam pluggin you make use of for comments because MY PARTNER AND I get lots on your site.

  12. Shakia Mcraney Says:

    Im happy I discovered this site, I couldnt discover any info on this subject prior to. Also run a website and if you are ever interested in doing a bit of visitor writing for me make sure you feel free to let me know, im always look for people to check out my web site. Please stop by and leave a comment sometime!

  13. Telewizja Przemyslowa Says:

    Great goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely great. I actually like what you have acquired here, really like what you’re saying and the way in which you say it. Telewizja Przemyslowa You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it wise. I cant wait to read far more from you. This is actually a great web site.

  14. Antonia Crosman Says:

    It is an very good page and I am very sure that it would have taken large amounts of your superior quality time to produce such an exclusive and fresh blog post. Follows your website and will be valuable if you may supply more regular and organized weblog methods for newcomers like us.

  15. Logomocja - download Says:

    Can I just say what a aid to search out somebody who truly is aware of what theyre talking about on the internet. You undoubtedly know find out how to bring a difficulty to mild and make it important. More folks must read this and understand this side of the story. I cant consider youre not more widespread because you definitely have the gift.

  16. Retail control Says:

    Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog. Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Many thanks

  17. Electric Toothbrush Reviews Says:

    Interesting… I’ve truly been taking a check out your weblog out for a although and I genuinely like what you’ve achieved with it

  18. holdemaaguide Says:

    Hi! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Fantastic blog and great design.

  19. bankruptcy orange county Says:

    Superior day humidors reviews gives the most effective and most popular humidor accesories for todays humidor smokers its a website you need to go to

  20. Guernsey Wedding Planner Says:

    Hey friend

    A great article that made good reading.

    Keep these coming, very enjoyable.

    Thanks

    Sue

  21. marcus Says:

    This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like ?Mixview? that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you?re listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of ?neighbors? will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune ?Social? is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

  22. Chantel Alirez Says:

    Apple hardware upgrades can be handled as quick as any PC upgrade if your technician is knowledgable in handling Mac products. Another great benefit of choosing Mac that you do not get with a PC purchase, is that you know you are always getting the highest quality components.

  23. ipad car mount Says:

    Howdy! You some kind of knowledgeable? Good message. Could you tell me how to subscribe your weblog?

  24. web hosting Says:

    Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire~ All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

  25. your free file Says:

    Oh, give us the man who sings at his work. -Thomas Carlyle

  26. Percy Demps Says:

    Executing for a second time exercises on the subject of regular underside is actually exceptionally nutritious along with cases immense treatment solution into the fast and likewise coming.

  27. Maid2Clean part time cleaning positions Says:

    Obviously believe that that you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the web the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get disappointed while people think about worries that they really don’t know about. You was able to hit the nail at the top and even defined out the whole thing with no side-effect , people might take a signal. Will probably be back to read more. Thank you!

  28. fencing company Says:

    It really is good and includes quality info.

  29. Frank Says:

    Have you ever wondered how you could help those who are less fortunate than you?

  30. Myles Says:

    It’s fantastic that you are getting ideas from this paragraph as well as from our argument made at this time.

    My page – automotive jobs in california (Myles)

  31. Farm Heroes Saga hachazo Says:

    Between appointments, utterly fascinated with
    a wealth of history everywhere, I missed scarcely a guided tour
    anywhere within London’s area during the next several days.

    softie   softly   sogged   soigne   soiled   soiree   sokols
      solace. wrester  wrestle  wricked  wriggle  wriggly  wrights  wringed  wringer.

    Review my webpage … Farm Heroes Saga hachazo

Leave a Reply