Accession consists of records documenting the life and cantorial career of Rev. Alexander Steinberg, and to a lesser extent his son, Ben Steinberg. Included are photographs of Cantor Steinberg, fellow cantors and the Shaarei Shomayim cheder class; Cantor Steinberg's scrapbook; hand-copied solo and choral music books; correspondence; and materials relaing to Ben Steinberg's cantata Echoes of Children memorializing the children who perished in the Holocaust.
Chazzan Alexander Steinberg was born Eliyahu Steinberg in Zhitomeir, Ukraine in 1893 to Chava and Chaim Steinberg. His father was the owner and operator of a lumber yard and, as a devout Jew, brought his son Eliyahu regularly to the synagogue where he developed a love of chazzanut and, in the then traditional apprenticeship method, studied the skills which would lead him eventually to a lifetime career in the music of the traditional synagogue.
At the age of 15 he emigrated to Winnipeg, Canada and worked in a men's clothing store until he could find employment as a cantor. He began his professional life as a visiting cantor in the 1920s, travelling to smaller communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan, officiating at services for Shabbat, High Holy Days and the Fesitvals, as well as presenting concerts of Hebrew and Yiddish song.
By the 1930s, he officiated regularly at the Atereth Yisrael Synagogue in Winnipeg and appeared as a concert cantor throughout the western Canadian provices (Lethbridge, Regina, Prince Albert, Edenbridge, Melville, Edmonton, Calgary, etc.) as well as Ontario (London, Hamilton, Kitchener, Sarnia, Ottawa, Fort William and Toronto) and as far away as St. Louis, Missouri and Detroit, Michigan.
He was appointed cantor of Atereth Yisrael Congregation of Winnipeg in 1930 and maintained a relationship with that Shul throughout his time in Toronto, visiting regularly to daven and present concerts.
After the death of his first wife, he married Polly Shapiro in 1928, and in 1933 he moved his family including four children (three, Sam, Ida and Laurie from his previous marriage) to Toronto, where for a time he served as cantor at Goel Tzedec Congregation.
In Toronto, Cantor Steinberg became renowned for his beautiful tenor voice and his knowledge of the liturgy. He was much sought after and officiated througout the Toronto area in synagogues such as the Hebrew Men of England, Ostrovtzer, Beth Jacob, Kiever, Goel Tzedec, Palmerston, Anshei Minsk and Lubavitcher. All this activity brought him to the attention of various synagogues in the United States as well and he travelled to Detroit and Rochester on several occasions.
In 1941, he was appointed Cantor at Shaarei Shomayim on St. Clair Ave., a congreation he served until 1950. He continued to serve outlying congregations in Hamilton, London and Sarnia until he was invited in 1953 to establish the King David Congregation in Toronto, to serve the unaffiliated during the High Holy Days. His cantorial career came to an end in April 1960 when he experienced a heart attach in London, Ontario while leading that community's Pesach service. He died at home in Toronto two days before Yom Kippur in 1960.
Benjamin Steinberg is a composer, conductor, organist, and teacher. He was born in Winnipeg on 22 January 1930 and received his Bachelor of Music from the University of Toronto in 1961. He and his wife Mildred have two children.
A soloist at age 8 in the synagogue choir conducted by his father, Cantor Alexander Steinberg, he began conducting choirs himself at age 12. At the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto from 1948-1951 and 1957-1960 he studied composition with John Weinzweig, piano with Samuel Dolin, and voice with Weldon Kilburn. After teaching from 1953-1958 in public schools in the Toronto area and studying music education at the University of Toronto, he served from 1961-1964 as head of the music department at Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute and from 1961-1964 and in the same capacity at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute from 1964-1986. He was director of school music (1950-1960) and music director (1960-1969) at Holy Blossom Temple, and in 1970 he became music director at Temple Sinai. His method for youth choirs, "Together Do They Sing" (New York 1961), was commissioned and published by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
Steinberg's music includes five sacred services (four published - 1963, 1969, 1969, and 1990 - by Transcontinental Music); works for choir and/or soloist and organ or orchestra (some published by Transcontinental Music and Israeli Music Publications); The Vision of Isaiah (1970) for tenor, choir, and organ or instrumental ensemble; Yerushalayim (1973) for soprano, choir, and orchestra; Echoes of Children (1979), a cantata for soloist, narrator, chorus, and orchestra (which won the International Gabriel Award and has twice been televised on PBS); and instrumental works including a suite for flute and string trio based on Israeli folksongs. Steinberg was invited by the city of Jerusalem to be an artist-in-residence in 1978 and 1980; he received the Kavod (Honour) Award of the Cantor's Assembly in 1983, and that same year received a composer's award from the American Harp Society for his Suite for Flute, Viola and Harp (1981, commissioned by Suzanne Shulman). A number of temples, synagogues, and congregations in the USA commissioned some 18 works from Steinberg between 1980 and 1991. He has also received commissions from Paul Brodie (Suite Sephardi 1980), the Chamber Players of Toronto (Suite for String Orchestra 1983), and Lawrence Cherney (Invocations 1990). Baritone Richard Allen recorded several of Steinberg's works on the cassette A Ben Steinberg Concert. (ca 1989, Transcontinental unnumbered).
Of Steinberg's music Michael Isaacson wrote, 'While conservative, pragmatic and always well-mannered, it is also gratefully mindful of its tradition in a deeply lyrical way' (Journal of Synagogue Music, June 1973). Steinberg has presented Jewish music on the CBC, has published articles on it, and has given many lecture-recitals on it in Australia, Canada, Japan, and the USA. He is a contributor to EMC, a member of the CLComp, and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.
Biographical Note: Further biographical information on Ben Steinberg is available with the accession record.