Alman, Samuel (1877-1947)

Conductor and composer

Samuel Alman is born in Sobolevka (Russia), in 1877.
Sixth child of a family of 14 children, his father is a talmudist and musician, and his mother is an amateur poet.
At the age of 5 he sings in the synagogue’s choral and quickly becomes a solist. He is nicknamed "the singing child of Sobolevka".
He learns to read music at the age of 10.
When he is 17 years old, he enters the music conservatory of Odessa and begins to write liturgical music.
During the four years of his military service, he belongs to the musicians of the Russian army.
He then attends the music conservatory of Kishinev.
Witnessing the pogroms that take place there in 1903, he decides to leave for London where is uncle is settled.
In England, he continues his musical studies at the Guildhall School of Music and then at the Royal College of Music.
He stops his PhD studies when the First World War breaks out.

He rapidly becomes choirmaster in the Great Synagogue of London and then, for 22 years, the choirmaster of the synagogue of Hampstead quarter.
He also conducts the London Hazzanim Choir and establishes the Halevi Choral Society, in which the repertoire is dedicated to compositions in Hebrew and in Yiddish.
In 1911 and 1912, he conducts concerts of synagogal music at the Queen’s Hall and the Royal Albert Halls.

In parallel to these activities, Samuel Alman composes music pieces for piano, organ (Eleven short pieces for the Organ), string quartet (Ebraica Quartet Suite, 1932), arrangements of popular Yiddish songs, as well as the first big Yiddish opera Melech Ahaz (The King Ahaz), created in 1912.

He also writes liturgical music for the synagogues in which he sings.
His compositions are often dedicated to great cantors of his time (Halter, Shechter and Boyars) and are for choir, cantor, piano and organ .
In 1925 and 1938, he publishes a two-volume compilation of music works for cantor and choir, entitled « Shirei Beit ha-Knesset », for the Sabbath services.
The first volume, published in Berlin, gathers 55 music pieces, with some of his own compositions.
The second volume is published by the Oxford University Press, and contains 97 music pieces for the yamim noraim.

In 1929, a concert of his works is given at the Wigmore Hall, which knows great success. It’s the first concert of Jewish music performed in this concert hall.

In 1933, he is asked to update the « Blue Book, The Voice of Prayer and Praise - A Handbook of Synagogue Music », published in 1899.
It is a completed edition of the « Shirei Kenesset Yisrael - A Handbook of Synagogue Music for Congregational Singing », published ten years.
Samuel Alman adds 58 music pieces, among them 15 of his own compositions.
It was planned that each member of the congregation, every worhshipper would have a copy of the songbook to follow the service.

Samuel Alman dies in 1947.

Considered as the greatest English composer of Jewish music, Samuel Alman influenced the entire London synagogal music.

Find sheet music by Samuel Alman

Jean-Philippe AMAR

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