Liturgical music has been part of Jewish religious services and day-to-day life since the First Temple period. Composers, principally from England and Germany in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, composed cantorial and choral music, much of which is still treasured and heard in Synagogue services to this day.
Most early choral music was written for both male and female voices, thus allowing the full musical range to be expressed. However, more recently, music specifically catering for male-only voices has been arranged in keeping with Orthodox tradition.
In 1874 a choir of “young ladies” was formed to enhance the Services. This was replaced in 1886 with a more formal boys choir established by the then Chief Minister, Rev. Blaubaum. By 1905 the choir numbered 22 regular choristers with the addition of adult ladies.St Kilda Synagogue mixed choir - Synagogue MusicChoir 1897 300x198 - Synagogue Music
The choir follows the “Blue Book” of Rev. F.L.C. Cohen which became the traditional repertoire of the United Synagogue of England. In the 1930’s, Zelman Cowen (former Governor-General and now Sir Zelman) was an active member of the Synagogue Choir.
In 1984 it was determined by the then Chief Minister, Rabbi Lubofsky, and the Board that an all-male choir was more appropriate to the Orthodox nature of the Congregation. Then in 1994, the Board resolved to have the choir perform downstairs in the area between the Bimah (dais) and the wardens to improve the effect of the choral contribution to the Service. On occasions, the choir returns to the gallery loft above the Aron Hakodesh (Holy Ark).
Adrian Bartak - Synagogue Music
Since 1888, only three main choirmasters have officiated, each serving in excess of 25 years in that role. Firstly, Mr Joel Feldman who was followed by Mr. Leo Slutzkin and, on his retirement, after a very long and distinguished term, by the incumbent, Mr. Adrian Bartak OAM. In addition to the established music, Mr. Adrian Bartak OAM and Rabbi Heilbrunn OAM added significantly to the Synagogue’s musical repertoire with the inclusion of extensive compositions and more modern pieces reflecting the influence of the State of Israel and world developments in Jewish music.
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Chazanut concerts (religious singing) have been presented by the Congregation on many occasions over the years featuring world-renowned Cantors (religious singers). These were initiated by Rabbi Lubofsky and have been continued by Rabbi Heilbrunn who is also a regular participant.
Chazan Brett Kaye joined the Shule on Rosh Hashanah 2012 as the Shule’s chazan. He leads Festival services and three Shabbat services a month.
Brett was previously chazan at Melbourne’s Central Shule. Well-known as a singer/performer, he has served as Musical Director of both the North Eastern Synagogue Choir and the Keren Or Choir. As a teenager, he conducted the Great Synagogue choir in Durban. Brett, who holds a Masters degree in Jewish education, has held senior positions at Melbourne and Sydney Jewish day schools and remains involved in Jewish education. Trained in operatic studies, he won the coveted ‘Lygon Street Festa Best New Voice of The Year’ award sponsored by the then-Victorian State Opera to study opera overseas. In 2003 Brett was invited to sing the tenor solo in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Sydney Opera House. He has also undertaken cantorial (chazzanut) studies in Israel with legendary Cantor Naftali Herstik.

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