Many thanks to Steve Justa, our concert photographer. Posted with his permission.
Sunday June 11, 2017, 7 o’clock PM
The Massry Center for the Arts at the College of Saint Rose
With guest artist Cantor Meir Finkelstein
Meir was born in Israel, the son of the late Cantor Zvi Finkelstein. The family emigrated to England when Zvi accepted a cantorial position in London. Meir showed outstanding musical abilities, and at an early age began accompanying his father and older brother, Aryeh, at services. The boys and their father recorded two albums of original liturgical music which were released in the USA under the Mercury label.
At the tender age of 14, Meir became the youngest cantor in Europe when he accepted a post at a synagogue in Glasgow, Scotland. At 18, Meir became Cantor at London’s prestigious Golders Green Synagogue. During this time, he also attended the Royal College of Music on a scholarship, graduating with top honors in Singing, Piano and Composition. In 1974, Meir emigrated to Wilmette, Illinois, when Beth Hillel Congregation discovered his musical talent and engaged him as their cantor.
In 1982 Meir became Cantor of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California, which he served for 18 years. During this time, he also enjoyed a successful career as a Hollywood composer/arranger. Meir scored numerous television shows including episodes of “Dallas” and “Falcon Crest” as well as many TV movies of the week. He collaborated with Steven Spielberg, composing music for the Visual History Foundation’s award-winning documentary, “Survivors of the Holocaust” for which he was nominated for a Cable Ace Award.
Meir is one of the best-documented composers of contemporary Jewish music. He has composed over 150 settings for the liturgy, and Meir’s compositions are sung all over the world, his most famous settings being “L’Dor Vador” and “V’al Kulam”. On November 6, 2010, the American Conference of Cantors performed his “Modim / V’al Kulam” compositions in Rome, Italy in front of Pope Benedict. In 1987, he composed a Jewish Requiem, “Nishmat Tzedek,” which has been performed in various cities throughout the United States. Three years later, he premiered his large-scale cantata “Liberation” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. Written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps, it featured the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, many well-known soloists, and the entire evening’s performance was hosted by Billy Crystal.
After the live performance, Meir recorded a CD of “Liberation” with the Israel Philharmonic. More recently, he performed the work with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yoel Levi. In 2007, Meir debuted his Passover Seder rock musical, “Matzah Do About Nothing”. He also composed a new cantata featuring both Jewish and gospel choirs entitled, “I Won’t Forget You O Jerusalem”. Over the years, his colleagues have commissioned Meir to compose many original compositions. Additionally, he has produced and arranged numerous recordings for them.
Meir possesses a beautiful lyric tenor voice, and has taught and mentored many young cantors. He is also an authority on the History of Jewish Liturgy, and he has lectured as a Scholar in Residence at synagogues throughout the country. Meir believes in physical fitness and healthy eating, and when not working out he enjoys a good game of golf. He has been the cantor at Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston for three years. Meir is married to Monica and they have two children, Noah aged 17 and Emily aged 16.
Steve Justa’s photos from our 2016 annual concert, posted with his permission.