Herman Wohl, who was instrumental in the musical development of American Yiddish theater during its early phases, was born in Ottynia, in the province of Galicia (now northwest Ukraine), and spent his youth in a Hassidic environment. That experience may have influenced and informed the melodic character of his own songs, many of which were written for operettas with religiously related themes or subjects, with European settings. Before coming to America as a young man, Wohl directed synagogue choirs for prestigious cantors; and in America he pursued a dual career as a Second Avenue songwriter and composer and as a synagogue choirmaster and liturgical composer. For many years he conducted the choir for the most widely acclaimed and revered cantor of the time—and probably of all time—Yossele Rosenblatt. His many cantorial-choral compositions for Sabbath, High Holy Days, and Festivals remain in manuscript, and the whereabouts of many of these are not even known.
By: Neil W. Levin