Sirota, Gershon

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SIROTA, GERSHON (1874–1943), ḥazzan. Born in Podolia, Sirota took his first position as ḥazzan in Odessa when he was 21. He officiated in Vilna for eight years, and in about 1908 became ḥazzan of the Tłómacka Street Synagogue in Warsaw. Sirota was regarded as one of the most accomplished tenors of his generation and was one of the most gifted ḥazzan virtuosos of all time. He possessed a dramatic tenor voice of great beauty and power, with a brilliant coloratura and climactic top notes, and a perfect voice control in all registers which enabled him to produce trills of exceptional length. His listeners were often deeply moved by the emotional intensity of his rendering of the liturgy, and he could also sing with a delicate sweetness. Sirota was a master of improvisation and recitative in the East European tradition, always remaining faithful to the appropriate *shtayger, but he himself never composed. In partnership with his choral directors, notably Leo Low and David Eisenstadt, he made famous many outstanding ḥazzanic compositions including Isaac Schlossberg's Reẓeh and A.M.*Bernstein's Adonai, Adonai.

Sirota undertook numerous concert tours throughout Europe and the U.S. and was often compared to the leading operatic tenors of his generation. During his years at Vilna he sang annually for Czar Nicholas ii and in 1903 became the first ḥazzan to make recordings. After leaving the Tłomacka Street Synagogue in 1927, Sirota devoted his time entirely to concert tours, but in 1935 took up the post of ḥazzan at Warsaw's Norzyk Synagogue. He was the only one of the great ḥazzanim of the time not to accept a position in the U.S. He and his family perished in the Warsaw ghetto. A monument was erected on his grave in the Gesia cemetery in 1961.


H.H. Harris, Toledot ha-Neginah ve-ha-Musikah be-Yisrael (1950), 461–6; I. Fater, Yidishe Muzik in Poyln (1970), 164–71, incl. bibl.; idem, in: Journal of Synagogue Music (Nov. 1969), 16–21; P. Szerman, in: Di Khazonim Velt (June 1934), 21–22; M.S. Geshuri, in: eg, 1 (1953), 311ff.; A.E. Knight, in: Record Collector (Jan. 1955), 192.

[David M.L. Olivestone]