Leoni, Myer

views updated


LEONI, MYER (d. 1796), English cantor. Born Meir ben Judah Loeb, probably in Poland, he was first known in England as an opera singer named "Meir Leoni." In 1767 he was engaged as cantor at the Great Synagogue, London, on condition that he would conduct himself henceforth as an observant Jew. His tune for the *Yigdal, known as the "Leoni Yigdal," was heard at the synagogue in 1770 by the Methodist minister Thomas Olivers and adapted for the Christian hymn, "The God of Abraham Praise." Leoni later returned to the stage, stipulating that he should not appear on Friday nights, when he officiated in the synagogue. His relations with his congregation became difficult, however, and when he sang in a performance of Handel's Messiah he had to resign. In 1787 he went to Jamaica as reader to the Ashkenazi synagogue in Kingston, where he remained until his death. Some of the synagogal music composed by Leoni and his colleague, Abraham of Prossnitz (d. 1779), the father of John *Braham, figured in the collection of cantorial music made by Aaron Beer of Berlin, while specimens adapted for harpsichord and other instruments were published in London in 1780.


C. Roth, Great Synagogue, London 16901940 (1950), 143–45; Grove, Dict; Idelsohn, Music, 218–26; idem, in: Hebrew Union College Jubilee Volume (1925), 415–6; J. Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History (1956), 139–49; Sendrey, Music, no. 6216.

[Cecil Roth]