JUNE 1, 2017 – Cantor Elana Rozenfeld has been leading the musically minded Minyan-aires at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott since 2011. In addition to serving as cantor, she also works with the Temple’s youth chorus and composes and arranges her own music.
On June 25, as part of the congregation’s “Song of the Sea Soiree,” Rozenfeld will release and perform songs from her latest album, “Hallelu!”
“There are some upbeat tracks and there are also some more contemplative tracks that can help people listen to themselves, to relax, to look inwards,” Rozenfeld said.
From a Sufi rendition of “Psalm 150” to her arrangement of the Mourner’s Kaddish, she believes the album – and upcoming concert – has something for everyone.
“The concert will be a mix of songs from the album as well as other songs, both Jewish and secular,” Rozenfeld said, noting that the congregation’s teen choir, the Chai Notes, also will be featured.
“This concert will be two weeks after the Chai Notes and I sing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ at Fenway for Jewish Heritage Night [June 13],” she said.
Rozenfeld grew up listening to Cantor Jacob Ben-Zion Mendelson of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. While she was a devoted fan of the cantor, she never imagined herself joining him on the bimah, at least not when she was younger.
After some time spent at NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts, Rozenfeld enrolled in the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. She spent a year in Israel studying Hebrew and developing her musical repertoire, and then served as cantor of Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford, N.J., for three years. When she graduated from the seminary in 2009, she took a cantorial post at Manhattan’s famed Park Avenue Synagogue.
Though her path to the bimah may have started during her college years, Rozenfeld said her love of music began as a toddler.
“I loved music from infancy,” she said. “Listening to music relaxed me during bedtime. It was the only way I would fall asleep.”
As the granddaughter of a composer and arranger and a relative of pianist and actor Oscar Levant, Rozenfeld followed a family tradition pursuing a music career that allowed her to express her spiritual side.
“My father was … always playing “Rhapsody in Blue,” and every other Gershwin tune you can imagine,” Rozenfeld recalled. “At shul, I listened to a different kind of music: chazzanut, or chazzunus. My cantor was such a master at this style of music, and I gravitated toward it.”
As a student at a Hebrew day school, Rozenfeld had many opportunities to practice and perform Jewish spiritual music.
“Those moments when we sang in front of an audience were some of the sweetest moments of my childhood, and the teacher always had my undivided attention,” she said.