After an Injury, Judaism Helped a Singer Find His Voice

February 29, 2024 | Mark Glanville
About the author: Mark Glanville, a bass baritone, has performed with England’s Opera North, Scottish Opera, Lisbon Opera, New Israeli Opera, and on the recital stage, and is the author of The Goldberg Variations, a memoir.

Almost a decade ago, the British classical singer Mark Glanville wrote in Mosaic about visiting Berlin, the city where his mother was born and from which she had fled, about the love of Schubert that she had bequeathed to him, and his Schubert-inspired Jewish-themed song narrative Yiddish Winterreise. In a recent essay, Glanville explains how a vocal injury earlier in his career prompted his turn to creating and performing Jewish music.

I hit a rock singing Iago in Verdi’s Otello for Haddo House Opera, a role I inhabited at the cost of excessive vocal stress, leading to a hemorrhage of the cords and a polyp on my larynx that had to be surgically removed. I had to abandon all future work and learn to sing again.

Judaism became a refuge. I began singing in Westminster Synagogue, first as a member of the congregation, picking up the liturgical melodies along with the Hebrew until, identified as a singer, I was called to sing as hazan from the bimah, accompanied on organ by Harold Lester. Singing the Ne’ilah [closing service] music on Yom Kippur was like discovering Schubert for the first time. I felt deeply connected to the ancient melodies that evoked the history of my people’s suffering (and joy) like nothing else. In Jewish prayer I was able to express the deepest essence of myself. Song had, once again, become art.

Read more on Jewish Chronicle: