1909 - 1984
By Rabbi Geoffrey Shisler
There must be very many people who can still recall with tremendous pleasure, the exquisite singing of Chazan Pinchas Faigenblum, who graced the London Cantorial scene for more than thirty years.
Faigenblum was born in Warsaw, where his father, Avraham, was well-known as a fine Ba'al-Tefillah. However, the main encouragement to become a Chazan came from his mother Esther, who believed that in the Synagogue, there would be little opportunity for him to 'become a Goy.' (!)
In order to avoid conscription, Avraham took his family to Antwerp, and Pinchas soon joined the choirs of first, Chazan Sobolsky and then Chazan Raphael Melamedoff. Owing to the outbreak of the First World War, the Faigenblum family came to London in 1914, and they settled at Highbury.
Returning to Antwerp after he war, Pinchas worked in the fur and diamond trades. He also returned to singing in Shul choirs and concentrated seriously on his vocal and musical studies at the Conservatoire de Music d'Anvers. With three friends, he formed a quartet which performed extensively, including a series of concerts on Brussels Radio. In these concerts they sang in Hebrew, Yiddish, Spanish, German and Italian.
It was in Brussels in 1936 that he obtained his first position as Chazan, at the Rue de Langlangtiere Synagogue and, in 1937 he married Fanny Zakon.
Since war was once again in the air, Pinchas made efforts to obtain a position in London and was appointed at the Nelson Street Sephardishe Shul, where he remained for five very happy years. From there he went to Wintown Street, Leeds for two years and Leases Park, Newcastle, for the following two years.
In 1948 he came to Willesden, where he remained until 1959, after which he moved to the Cricklewood Synagogue, in Walm Lane.
Pinchas was very fortunate to have as his choirmaster in Willesden, Martin White, who was also the Director of the London Jewish Male Voice Choir. The services at Willesden, especially during the Yamim Noraim, were reputed to have been outstanding, and undoubtedly there are some people reading this who will recall those occasions.
Chazan Faigenblum was very active in the Male Voice choir, writing out the various parts (this was in the days before photo-copiers!), and frequently appearing as Chazan-soloist. In 1975 he put out a record containing nine items that he had performed with the choir, both with Martin White and his successor, Emmanuel Fisher.
Faigenblum was very modest about his exceptional abilities, and it was only after a great deal of pestering from his closest friends and admirers that he was persuaded to issue this record.
Although the quality of most of the pieces is not up to modern standards, it still captures the excellence of the choir and the qualities that made Pinchas Faigenblum one of the finest Chazanim ever to hold a regular pulpit in London.
(Most of the information in this article is based on an interview given to Mr Elie Delieb, published in the Cantors' Review in 1974)
© Copyright Rabbi G. ShislerLast update: 30 April 2006
Keywords: Pinchas Faigenblum, biography.