Meet the Chazan
“You don’t have to be Pavarotti to enjoy Shabbat services” says Chazzan Shlomo Gerzi.
Shlomo was born in Tel Aviv in 1953 and has been living in the UK since 1977. He graduated in Chazanut from The London School of Jewish Studies and has a Masters Degree in Management and Teaching from Webster University, as well as a Masters in Sacred Music.
His cantorial and musical career began in Cricklewood Synagogue. It continued later at Kenton and then as a ‘freelance’ Chazan in Europe and the United States.
Shlomo’s chief aim is to support and encourage congregational singing and participation.
Since his appointment, the results of his approach are joyfully apparent. His fine tenor voice has coaxed the once-reticent Shabbat congregation to raise their voices in song, and recently even to attempt harmonies and new tunes. “I take great pride in empowering our community to join with each other in prayer as Jews, and also to join in singing with a Chazzan, because that way they can better enjoy the rich musical heritage that Jewish music has to offer”, he explains. “My core style is traditional with diversion where possible to modern light Chazzanut. I enjoy and use Carlebach, traditional and Israeli tunes, and other melodies including my own original compositions.”
Shlomo believes that music is therapeutic, soothing and uplifting to the soul. “After a week of hard work you are entitled to relax and unwind. My message to the membership is: come to Friday night services and have fun singing and joining us in welcoming Shabbat with a special mixture of Carlebach, Israeli, and traditional melodies. Singing is such a pleasure, uplifting yet relaxing for the body and soul. Give yourselves an hour of spiritual treat – I am sure you deserve it!”
Shlomo hopes of a much greater interaction with the children of the community. He has plans to teach pre-Barmitzvah boys the opening part of the Friday Night Service. “As a cantor I have the opportunity to lift the community to a higher spiritual level, since Chazzanut is the food of the Jewish soul. I believe the youngsters of the community can participate and learn singing, and toddlers can come and sing Adon Olam with me on the Bimah. And why stop at Adon Olam? I love to teach tunes and voice coaching”.
Shlomo will spend three weeks out of every four at Hampstead, as well as festivals and simchas. In addition to these duties, he is currently training a new choir and working individually with members of the community, coaching them to sing with him or participate in services.
September saw his first large experiment – a communal Singing Workshop to prepare members to participate more fully in the upcoming festival services – “I relish the opportunity to innovate exciting and stimulating programs of education and communal participation’. Further workshops are planned.
Shlomo is married to Joy, and has three sons and many grandchildren.
He has sung for the UK radio station Spectrum Radio where his music has been greatly enjoyed by the listeners. His first production was the educational cassette “Shabbat Shlomo”, which combined traditional and modern approaches to music and focused mainly on synagogue services specifically catering for the youth.
Shlomo’s latest CD “the Jewish Mantra” brings a new style for the new era of the Jewish music genre. It is based to some degree on biblical texts, incorporating modern and traditional chanting.
Rabbi Gerzi obtained a semicha in 2012.