Negro Organist Composes Jewish Liturgical Music; Makes Debut in Temple

Worshipers at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun here heard the temple’s cantor and choir perform yesterday a one-and-one-half hour religious service, the music for which was composed by the temple’s Negro-Baptist organist. The organist, 20-year-old William Farley Smith, made his debut as a composer of Jewish liturgical music after working for six months with the Reform temple’s cantor, Joseph Posner, in creating a musical setting in a modern idiom for the traditional responses during the service.

Mr. Smith, who does not read Hebrew, explained that by listening and getting accustomed to the tone of the language he was able to set the transliteration to music. Noting that he used Jewish modes and the resources of the Hasidic idiom, he said that the melodies were “not of traditional source, but they are definitely Jewish. ” Mr. Smith is the sixth organist in the 114-year history of the congregation.

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