Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dear Friends: I am proud to announce the birth of my first WEBSITE! Bill T. Ayton, a wonderful artist and friend, has generously set this up for me and done a magnificent job. The site will give you an opportunity to see some of the products I have produced with love and, I hope, musicality and if you so wish - purchase them. Where I will be singing next and the availability of some of the performance programs I am a part of will be there plus pictures and samples of the CDs and the DVDs - well go and see for yourself - thank you - happy cyberspace traveling! Shalom, Bob

Friday, July 4, 2008


Actually I do a column called Cantor Banter for the Temple Emanuel Bulletin - a monthly pub. - but the editor thought this was more bloggish - so I am pasting it in here for your reading pleasure. A Glorious Fourth to all. Enjoy!

CANTOR BANTER by Cantor Bob Cohen – JULY 4, 2008

You probably know well how in the old days a Bar Mitzvah boy (in the patriarchal days of Reform Judaism) would start his speech by saying “Today I am a fountain pen!” – which I think reflected that he would receive many such as presents. So I will announce that “Today I am a blogger!”

Actually I have begun blogging in the month of June aided by our very talented, kind, generous, and patient fellow congregant, Bill Ayton, the very same artist who painted the beams in beautiful Hebrew letters in the Cantor Park Memorial Chapel.

Now since you are sitting on the edge of your couch, and not wanting you to fall off, I will inform you that you can see (read?), encounter, consume my blog by going to www.CantorBob and hopefully by the time you read this I will have added a few more goodies.

So far you can see a picture of me (in case you have forgotten what I look like – the summer can do strange things!) and a picture of myself, Jennie Litt and her composer/pianist husband, David Alpher in our cabaret show “Another Serving of Irving (Berlin)” which we had the honor and pleasure of premiering for the Temple Sisterhood about a year or so ago and for which the Sisterhood won an award from the Women for Reform Judaism. Jennie, as I write this, has had a baby with the melodious name: Mirabelle Jasmine Alpher – and we can’t wait ‘til she joins the show!

I have also written a couple of paragraphs about recent (at the time) events. By the time you go to the Blog (short for Weblog) I will hopefully have my three CDs up (so you can listen to samples of each song) and efsha (maybe) some of my old “Godyssey” programs I used to do on Kingston Public Access TV. I thought those would deteriorate into dust, but maybe they will live on in cyberspace. A form of immortality unknown to Methusaleh. So by all means click in and blog out.

In August, Pat and I are planning to visit our grandson, Beecher Woods Robbi on his farm (he is now about one and a half years old) in Eureka in Northern California. Beecher comes from my former wife’s ancestor, Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote a much maligned and misunderstood book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” – suffice it to say that Uncle Tom was not an “Uncle Tom” as has become the caricature over the centuries. Woods comes from – well they are in the woods (boondocks as we city dwellers like to say). He is the son of my daughter, Corrina and her husband, Marc Robbi. I gave him a couple of piano lessons when he was just born, and am anxious to see how he has progressed! We will have pictures! And in September we are expecting another grandchild up in Syracuse. More pictures!

I seem to be talking about extra-curricular activities (or moonlighting) in terms of being a Cantor at Temple Emanuel, so let me continue on this path. I have had the pleasure of singing with mezzo-soprano, Sabrina Ferguson Bax in a number of venues, including art galleries around town, and most prominently at A.S.K. Gallery on Broadway (in what used to be the Jewish Community Center). We sang a concert for the closing of Tibor Spitz’s beautiful and moving art show, and will be singing a full concert there sometime in the end of August or beginning of September, so stayed tuned. Sabrina and I have a great time singing Yiddish, Ladino, Armenian, Russian, Slavic and you-name-it songs. We sang a program of Israeli songs for the Kingston Kiwanis Club in celebration of the 60th birthday and perhaps before or after you read this will sing an evening of Yiddish & Ladino songs called “Zing Along!” at Temple.

As August goes into September (remember the old math – the gazintas!) we will be getting ready for the High Holy Days. We hope to have some of the same wonderful young singers as well as our wonderful older ones of last year. And if by some error or senior moment I do not call upon you – please call upon me and join us in song. Carrying a tune is like carrying your soul, your spirit, it’s there, you just have to welcome it in! Which reminds me that we have also started working on a Temple Band which will be participating in Temple Services throughout the year. So bring your instruments – vocal, keys, horns, strings, drums – and let’s make a joyful noise to God!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Known & Unknown songs of America's greatest songwriter!
The Berlin songs include: "Dance & Grow Thin" (better than the South Beach Diet!),
"Sunshine", "Tell Me Little Gypsy" (called the perfect song by Alex Wilder), "Always", "Blue Skies", "Just a Little Longer", "They Were All OUt of Step But Jim!", "All Alone", "Reaching for the Moon", "Cohen Owes Me $97", "They Say That Falling in Love is Wonderful", "Snooky Ookums" and many more.
Jennie Litt is a cabaret singer, her husband David Alpher is a composer and pianist, and CantorBob - that's me! We have a lot of fun singing these great songs that resonant with wit and poignancy - giving us a glimpse of the past and some hope for the future.
We have performed ANOTHER SERVING OF IRVING (BERLIN) at Temple Emanuel in Kingston (where the Temple Sisterhood won a prize from the Women of Reform Judaism for presenting such an original and creative program, and at the Woodstock Congregation in Woodstock (simply amazing!)
We would love to do the show in your Temple, Church or any House of Worship, or Community Group. Welcome any questions and comments and offers! Thanks.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


TUESDAY, JUNE 17, 2008

Saturday, 6/14 - Sang for the Bar Mitzvah in the morning. Attended Studio Vivace performance at the Trinity Episcopal Church in the afternoon. I was a panelist on the LGBTQ panel after the showing of the film "The Bible Tells Me So". On Sunday went out to sing at the Massry (an assisted living facility connected to the nursing home, Daughters of Sarah). Monday morning went down with other members of the Save Them Now Board to visit the Exodus Program - Exodus Transitional Community, Inc. - on 104th between Lexington & 3rd Aves - in Spanish Harlem (where I am told by a song: there is a rose or Rose). On the way back in the car I held my over-the-telephone class for Dorot: University Without Walls - 7 students connected in a conference call - the course (this was the last day) was called: "Funny, It Doesn't Sound Jewish!" about how Jewish melodies both sacred and secular have entered the American Songbook over the past 10 decades. Today, Tuesday, got my wheels changed, aligned, also got oil changed and air filter changed - my car that is, not me - tho I wouldn't mind a couple of new wheels under my brain! I will try and write about some of these experiences in detail as they were quite wonderful - each in their own way.

Coming up:

Thursday, 6/19 - Kingston Area Christian Churches - monthly meeting at St. James Methodist in Kingston. I and other members of the Board of Save Them Now (STN) will present a power point doodad on the program, it's progress so far, and our hopes for its future. 8:30am
Then @ 12 Noon, Sabrina Ferguson Bax, a lovely mezzo-soprano, and I will sing and talk about Israel's 60th Birthday at the Kiwanis Club at the Skytop Restaurant - lunch is $10.

Friday, 6/20 - going on a Retreat with the Board members of the Ulster Prevention Project. That evening a "L'dor VaDor" Sabbath Service at Temple Emanuel. "L'Dor Va Dor" means "From generation to generation" and will feature a number of artists in our congregation who have contributed some beautiful works to the Temple itself.

Saturday, 6/21 - Summer begins - Sabbath morning service, and on Sunday, 6/22 we are going into NYC to visit with our son Sean before he leaves for the Northwest - Seattle - to spend the summer and maybe the next winter.

On Monday, 6/23 - I hope you will join the seniors of Kingston High School as they hold their Baccalaureate (a faith service) before they graduate at the end of the week. The Bac. will be held at Pointe of Praise Family Center - 243 Hurley Ave - a beautiful new church. It will start at 7:00pm and all are welcome. A time to show our support for our young folks who are affirming and re-affirming their faiths and celebrating their many years of religious education with their families.

And that about sums it up for now. Still working on the tech stuff. Always happy to hear from you. Stay well, Shalom, Cantor Bob

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wednesday activites and thoughts

JUNE 11, 2008
Pretty soon will be posting the programs of my 3 CDs and how you can obtain them - hopefully you will also be able to get a taste of each song on them. Also some pix. Interesting front page article in Atlantic Magazine this month: Is Google Making Us Stoopid? - as if we didn't have enough to worry about. Planning the Baccalaureate for Kingston High School for this month being held at Pointe of Praise on Hurley Avenue. We have a Sufi Minister, a Baptist Rev., a couple of Evangelist preachers, Bruderhoffers, CantorBob (that's me) - I hope you will join us - it is on Monday, June 23rd at 7:00pm - free, all are welcome. This is a time for senior young folks to stand up and feel good about their religious traditions, training, learning - a continuing journey as they go on into college and other strange places! I am listening to a cassette tape I made when I came out of prison and started living in Kingston. One of the songs I wrote in prison was: I'm reading the Answer Book to Life (the Bible). Some of those songs I havent sung for years. I kind of like them as I hear them again. They are now burned to a CD - and so will be available. I call them "faithsongs". Ah here is another one: "We Heal the Strongest in the Broken Places" a quote from Coretta King that made (makes) a lot of sense to me. Actually I had the great lead guitarist, Danny Kalb (formerly of the.... senior moment here) playing on it. All the songs were my creations except for the last, Rev. Gary Davis' great song: "Soon My Work Will All Be Done". I recently came across a CD of Davis' songs recorded in the early 1960s - what a great guitarist and singer he was. We used to sit with him in the basement of Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village - he would only sing religious songs when his wife was around, but when she wasn't he would sing blues. His guitar really spoke and sang along with him. One song that isn't on his CD is one we used to sing with him: "O Glory How Happy I Am" full of spirit.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday, 6/10/08

Had a great meeting with a new friend, Ivan Godfrey, Ph.D., LCSW-R (what does that stand for?) - who works at the Hudson River Psychiatric Center in Poughkeepsie, which is run by the NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH). Rev. Modele Clarke, and Patricia Courtney, fellow members of the Save Them Now Board, and I met with Dr. Godfrey. He is helping to organize a morning conference about Re-Entry challenges. The project is headed by State Senator Eric Adams from Brooklyn (my early home town!) who seeks to have these public hearings all over the state. This is scheduled for Wednesday, July 23rd and will give more details as they develop. Dr. Godfrey is very knowledgeable about the challenges facing parolees as they try to enter society and at the same time stay clean and sober.

Very interesting article by op-ed NY Times columnist David Brooks on the seduction of spending money in today's economy. If I could link, I would link you up - but you can always go to the and find his column - this one entitled: "The Great Seduction".

Oh, I forgot to mention in my first piece about my plans for this site. Another one of my interests (read obsessions) is thrillers, detective, spy stories and the like. I will try to keep this updated as to what I am reading and when I can do it, shift my list of books either read, and/or bought, or lent - which may reveal some authors you haven't met yet. Right now I am reading "Betrayal" by John Lescroart - he has written many books and is a good writer - this one about a soldier in Iraq who gets mixed up with a private contracting company. I'll also list my fave authors - and you are welcome to chime in with yours. A friend Vince and I keep abreast of the latest reviews in the NYTimes, NY Sun - where Otto Prenzler, the propriety of a mystery bookshop in NYC, writes a weekly column on Wednesdays, and other book reviews in the Wash. Post, L.A. Times, Boston Globe and...well that's it so far. I am listening to another detective story on my car CD player: "Through a Glass Darkley" by Italian writer, Donna Leon...about a glass factory on the Island of Morano near Venice, which may or may not be poisoning its glass workers - I am on Disc 7 of 7 so will know the answer shortly.

My religious reading right now is devoted to finishing Daniel Radosh's book "Rapture Ready" about the parallel Christian-pop universe - a really fascinating true-life tale, recently finished Bruce Chilton's "Abraham's Curse: The Roots of Violence in Judaism, Christianity and Islam" - I highly recommend both books.

My current favorite songs are Dion DiMucci's "The Thunderer" about St. Jerome - from a poem (I think) by Phyllis McGinley - I just got her book "Saint-Watching" but haven't tracked down the poem yet, and "Hal'leluyah" by Leonard Cohen, which is new to me but some younger folks I met last weekend knew all about it. If you go on You Tube you can hear a bunch of great versions including one by Cohen (not a relative, tho I wish!), the country singer who uses small letters instead of capitals on both her names and is proud to be a lesbian - I always blank out on her name - but she does a superb renditon, plus Rufus Wainright, some trio, and another woman singer. Also a beautiful song on one of Allison Krause's ("Lonely Runs Both Ways") CDs - A Living Prayer by Paul Kennerly - the chorus goes:
"In Your Love I find release/A haven from my unbelief/Take my life & let me be/A living prayer, my God, to thee"

Emmy Lou Harris (my utter favorite singer) also has a lovely religious song on her album - 4 discs long - "Songbird" - "When He Calls" (traditional)
"When He calls I'm gonna live with Jesus/In His Kingdom He welcomes everyone/I shall not fear no more earthly perils/For He will carry me home"

The Leonard Cohen - Hallelujah (just to continue wetting your musical appetites) has a verse: "Your faith was strong/but you needed proof/You saw her bathing on the roof/Her beauty & the moonlight overthrew ya/Well she tied you to a kitchen chair/She broker your throne & she cut your hair/And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah" - I take this to be a reference to good old King David.

Hallelujah - means Praise (Hallel) God (Yah-weh) - see you've been speaking Hebrew (including Amen) all of your lives without knowing it!

I'll end with Dion's "The Thunderer" - "God's angry man/His crotchety scholar/was St. Jerome, the great name-caller/Who cared not a dime for laws of libel/& in his spare time translated the Bible/St. Jerome...The Thunderer" - the great chorus goes: "But he swelled men's minds with Godly leaven/It takes all kinds to make it to heaven..."

Prof. Rev. Bruce Chilton tells me that the lyrics taken as a whole are pretty accurate in describing St. Jerome and his life. Thru the Wicked-pedia (bad-foot?) I learned that St. J. (oh oh I hear thunder!) was the only one in his time (4th century) to believe that the inspired writings of the Israelites was not the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) but the actual Hebrew Bible. Go go St. Jerome!

Well, better stop before lightening strikes and all you will have is burnt blog for a late night snack. Shalom, God's Peace be With You, Cantor Bob p.s. thanks for all the nice comments of encouragment!

Monday, June 9, 2008


HI BLOGWORLD - I am starting a Blog! I am the Cantor @ Temple Emanuel in Kingston, New York. Chair of the Ulster County Religious Council (an interfaith group). Singer, Songwriter, pianist, accordionist, autoharpist, and 12-string guitarist.

This blog will eventually hold my 3 CDs

1) Singing Prayers for a Shabbat Eve,
2) They Ain't Writin' Them Like They Used To,
3) Faithsongs, and if I can get permission
4) New World Singers (of which I was a member) recorded back in 1962 with Bob Dylan's notes on the back;
5) The first recording of Blowin' In The Wind - New World Singers on the "Best of Broadside",
6) my own singing of "No More Auction Block" on "The Long Walk To Freedom Reunion Concert in 1997 CD, and whatever else I can scrounge up from the dim distant past.
7) As well as new musical settings of prayers I have written for both Jews and Christians, 8) my Kingston Public Access TV Show "Godyssey" which ran for about four years about 5 years ago,
9) my memoirs from the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, to a New York State Prison in the 90's to my present life as a Cantor and singer of good old timey songs form the 1910s-1940s,
10) my current work on the Board of Save Them Now - a re-entry program for parolees, on the Board of Ulster Prevention Project for at-risk youth, on the Board of Family of Woodstock helping the homeless and the under-served.

And Finally: 11) linking you to articles about faith issues in this country and books about early Christianity and Ancient Judaism - of which I am (not an expert) an afficianado!

Hopefully this will all finally be gathered here and added to as the days, weeks, months, and years go by. You will also be able to purchase my CD as well as listen to excerpts. This is being explored and developed by a new dear friend, Bill Ayton - an artist as well as wonderful papa of wonderful kids, and husband of a lovely lady, Diana Ayton-Shenker.

So please be patient with me - as I told Bill, I am somewhere between an Idiot & a Dummy when it comes to cyberspace (v. fiberspace) - I guess you might call me a Didiotummy, if you wish. I cannot quit my day and night gigs (God is Good) to do this but will focus on getting it all together for your blogging pleasure.

Shalom, Cantor Bob - always glad to hear your ideas, questions, suggestions, & (dare I say it!) criticisms!