Max Helfman (1901-1963) Havieinu
Cantor Nathan Lam, Bass-Baritone
National Opera Chorus & Orchestra
Nick Strimple, Conductor


Bring us to Your holy mountain,
and make us joyful in Your house of prayer...
[May] our offerings be acceptable unto You,
[may] Your Temple be a house of prayer for all people.
Liturgy for the Eve of Yom Kippur

Born in Radzyń, Poland, Max Helfman was equally talented as a composer, conductor and teacher. In all three fields he strove for the “big” effect, and usually succeeded in bringing it off; his two Sabbath services and numerous solo settings of liturgical texts attest to this. The large choruses he trained in New York, Los Angeles, Newark and Patterson still bear the stamp of his inspired leadership. The schools of fine arts he headed at Brandeis Institute, the University of Judaism and the Jewish Theological Seminary are perhaps his most enduring legacy. The unpublished manuscript of Havieinu, presented by Helfman’s widow, Florence, to Cantor Lam on the composer’s 10th yahrzeit, mirrors the approach set forth in the Preface to his 1942 service, The Holy Sabbath: A music service... is part of public religious worship and, as such, its primary function is to be communicative and meaningful to the congregation, stir its collective imagination and be memorable. Mere technical display [or] theoretical experimentation must therefore... be eschewed for more simple, direct and expressive statement.