Joshua Lind was a prominent cantor, a prolific composer of traditional synagogue music as well as secular Hebrew and Yiddish settings, and a teacher to many aspiring cantors. Born in Rawa Ruska, near Lemberg (Lwów), Galicia, where his father was the Lemberger shtothazzan (town cantor), he began singing in his father’s choir as a young boy. He was soon invited into the traveling cantorial choir of the eminent hazzan and composer Zeidl Rovner (1856–1943), whom Lind later credited as his de facto teacher, and the style of Lind’s hundreds of compositions bear the stamp of his years with Rovner.
Lind immigrated to America in 1913, where he was soon engaged as a cantor on New York’s Lower East Side, beginning a long and productive career. At the onset of the Great Depression, Lind took his family on the road as the Lind Family Choir, performing throughout the United States as well as in Canada—including on “Jewish Day” at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair for an audience of nearly 80,000 at Soldier Field. He then settled in Chicago, where he became a fixture of that city’s Jewish musical life, and where his three sons became prominent cantors.
Lind was instrumental in perpetuating what used to be known as a volakh style—an unassuming tunefulness associated with cantors and choirs in Volhynia—and his compositions retained typical eastern European flavors and idioms. Apart from Rovner’s tutelage in cantorial art, Lind was completely self-taught in harmony, composition, and other musical skills, but he instinctively knew how to harmonize in a traditional and conservative way that nonetheless sustains musical interest. There is no pretension to high-art sophistication or 20th-century progressive harmonic language, but rather a tasteful expression of the emotional parameters of the texts, approached with warmth, charm, and wit. Lind had an interesting sense of humor. When he wanted emotional intensity in a certain passage, he sometimes marked it with the musical symbol mf—followed by the words in parentheses “mit feeling.”
By: Neil W. Levin