Cantor Samuel Malavsky was born in Russia in 1894. Like so many cantors of his generation, he learned the cantorial trade as a meshorer, or chorister. When he came to the U.S. at age twenty he was taken in by none other than Yossele Rosenblatt, the most famous cantor of the “golden age” and—to many—the supreme exemplar of the Eastern European cantorial tradition. The path laid out for Malavsky could not have been clearer. He had a beautiful voice, an established reputation as one of Europe’s most promising young cantors, and the support of the most famous cantor in the world. That he could become one of America’s most sought-after cantors was a given. But Malavsky came to have something else: six children with voices that matched his own. Under his tutelage, Malavsky’s children developed into fine singers and he eventually formed the Malavsky Family Choir. The family travelled the country singing Samuel Malavsky’s arrangements of Eastern European cantorial music. But because the family included his four daughters, it limited the venues in which they could perform.
Newly available on our website this month is an oral history with three of the Malavsky sisters recounting memorable experiences and reflecting on how their father sacrificed a stable career in order to sing with his family.
Related: On his Conversations blog at the UCLA Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience (MAJE), musician/scholar Jeremiah Lockwood has been sifting through and writing about a Malavsky family scrap book that was donated to UCLA last year. His latest find is a manuscript for a radio drama about an immigrant cantor who has fallen on hard times.
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