I need to get this off my chest, the pressure is just too much.
(Chazan Itche Meir Helfg-tt of the Park East Synagogue, NYC)
I attended a um, um, um, ahem, CHAZZONUS CONCERT Sunday night, and I loved it. The singing was wonderful, with the heights he reached something out-of-this-world. The crowd loved every second of it.
You see, I've been deprived my whole life, never having been to any musical concert before, and I had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the absolute best. Orchestra seats 15 rows behind the stage, one row ahead of Norman Lamm and Charlie Besser, son of you-know-who. It was something special.
My question is as follows:
The Rabbeyim and Chassidim in general were not fond of Chazzonim, period. The reasons abound, especially when the Chazzen is the one leading the davenen, not just performing at a concert. Their lack of basic Yiras Shomayim was legendary, with a few exceptions, and the davenen was considered superficial, staged, and lip-synched. While I was sitting there, watching and listening to Itche Meir Helfg-tt sing, and sing he did, I couldn't help but think about the Rabbeyim, and about how they would feel about my sitting there, not to mention the other Anash sitting there.
A story that crept into my mind during the event is when the Rebbe Rashab and the FR נ"ע visited the Altneu Shul in Prague. The RR commented about the pillars of the old Shul being אנגעשטאפט מיט תפלות , (stuffed with prayers) of the Jews who prayed there over the centuries. At first it was thought to be a compliment, commenting on the fact that so many pious Jews had prayed there, but the Rebbe had something else in mind. "The pillars here are stuffed with Tefillos because of dishonest and insincere (non-erlich) Chazzonim that were supposed to elevate our prayers but did not. I am not accusing Itche Meir Helfg-tt of being non-erlich, we were actually quite impressed that he sings with his Chassidic dress, which in his case includes his pants being tucked into his socks, albeit quite neatly, but still. I guess Chazzonim have to live with that stereotype, much like accountants and lawyers.
Should I have felt bad about my attending the concert, especially on Erev Yud Tes Kislev?
[That feels better already....]