Leonard J[ordan] Lehrman was born in Kansas, on August 20, 1949, the first of 3 children and elder son of |
Nathaniel S. Lehrman, M.D. (b. May 26. 1923) and Emily R. Lehrman (Mar. 1, 1923-Jan. 13, 2015)
[click here for the article on her in The Roslyn News; here (scroll down to p.4); for the one in The Pioneer at LIU-Post, and here for the tribute in Jewish Currents],
but grew up in Roslyn, NY, where he graduated salutatorian in the Roslyn High School Class of 1967
and performed the Chopin Concerto #1 with the school orchestra conducted by Harold Gilmore.
Father Time in the second grade, and as Mordecai opposite Roy Goodman as Haman in a Purim-Shpil at the Sholom Aleichem Folkshul in Queens.
It was also in Roslyn that his first musical, The Comic Tragedy of San Po Jo, a satire on atomic testing written with Mark Kingdon,
was produced by Peter Jaffe. Click here for a sample of it, sung by Alan Pasnik, Ann Shalleck, and Leonard,
at their June 9, 2007 high school class reunion.
In 1960 Leonard Lehrman became the youngest (and longest) private composition student of Elie Siegmeister (1909-1991). The photo below, taken Jan. 8, 1984, shows him with Siegmeister and Ronald Edwards, with whom he performed a Siegmeister/Lehrman recital at TOMI and Stern College, honoring Siegmeister's 75th birthday, one of over 100 performances Leonard has given of Siegmeister's music.
Lehrman's works number 229 to date, including 11 operas and 7 musicals, and have been heard throughout Europe, North & South America, Israel, Australia, and at the United Nations. His Flute Concerto, dedicated to Amy Strauss, was performed by several flutists, including Raymond Meylan in Basel (who wrote a cadenza for it). His Violin Concerto, dedicated to Janet Packer, was premiered and performed 5 times by her, with him at the piano, and later performed by Cyrus Stevens, also with the composer at the piano. (The orchestral version, still unperformed, was a finalist in the 1991 National Orchestra Association composition contest.) His setting of Abel Meeropol (Lewis Allan)'s poem "Conscience" for chorus and orchestra won the 2002 Sunrise/Sunset Competition of the Brookhaven Arts Council and was premiered at the Brookhaven Choral Festival with an orchestra of 55 and a chorus of 160 on July 13, 2002. Of his Adoration, Jordan Friedman of the Society for Classical Reform Judaism Music Subcommittee wrote: "I was particularly struck by the beauty and inventiveness of your setting of May the Time Not Be Distant. Your use of chromaticism, dissonance, and minor modality on key words such as 'evil,' 'corruption,' and phrases such as 'superstition shall no longer enslave the mind nor idolatry blind the eye' was particularly poignant when contrasted with the triumphant, major-mode progressions that exude an almost 'protestant' aesthetic of hopeful piety on phrases having to do with God's righting of wrongs or the establishment of God's reign. That is the true mark of a gifted composer of sacred music with a deep understanding of Jewish text.... You exemplify the best of contemporary creativity in Jewish liturgical music while still clearly drawing from the Lewandowski/Sulzer/Binder/Freed/Fromm/Adler/Steinberg tradition."
Editor 1999-2002 of Opera Today (the publication of The Center for Contemporary Opera), he has worked professionally for over four decades as conductor, coach, accompanist, translator, stage director, producer and critic for Opera Monthly (of which he was Associate Editor 1991-94); WBAI (as producer of "Music of All the Americas" in 1989-91); the Metropolitan Opera (1977-78); Bel Canto Opera (1977-79 & 1988); After Dinner Opera (1990-91 & 2014); Aviva Players; the Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus and the Jewish Music Theater of Berlin (both of which he founded); the Jewish People's Philharmonic Chorus; the Workmen's Circle Chorus and the Oceanside Chorale (2003-05); the Bronx Opera Company (which commissioned his translation of Chabrier's An Incomplete Education for their January 2006 production); the Hanseaten Deerns/Blaue Jungs German Chorus of East Meadow (2010-12); and various regional, community and professional companies throughout the U.S., Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
For the Bel Canto Opera Company in NYC he translated Glinka's A Life for the Tsar (1979); Chabrier's L'Etoile (1988); and with his mother, Emily R. Lehrman (1923-2015), Dargomyzhsky's Rusalka (1984-86), in memory of Leonard's father's brother, Edgar H. Lehrman (1926-1986), excerpted in France and the US, 1989-2012, and premiered, in her memory, at Queens College, Nov. 22, 2015. Click here for the complete performance. Click here for the Queens Chronicle review.
Other translations include Bertolt Brecht's plays with music by Hanns Eisler, which he directed in their U.S. premieres: Days of the Commune (March 1971, at Harvard and Yale) and The Roundheads & the Pointedheads (Nov. 1973 at Cornell); and numerous songs by Johannes Brahms, Claude Debussy and Gerhard Bronner.
Leonard Lehrman's first full-length opera, Sima based on a story by David Aizman, translated from the Russian by Leonard's uncle, Edgar H. Lehrman, was premiered by the Ithaca Opera Association in 1976 and was one of the first operas broadcast on cable television in 1977. The video, now posted on YouTube, was shown at various European opera houses and festivals in Moscow, Davos, Kiel, and Berlin, where the German premiere took place in 1984. Portions of the work have also been performed in French and in Russian.
Lehrman's 3-act Biblical, feminist, anti-war Chanukah opera, Hannah written with Orel Odinov Protopopescu, premiered in May 1980 at a US military theater in Mannheim-Seckenheim, Germany. Broadcast on WBAI in NY Dec. 25, 1989, it received its US premiere at Malverne Community Presbyterian Church and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Manhattan, Dec. 9 & 23, 2014, respectively, and received glowing reviews, posted Dec. 20, 2013 and Jan. 24, 2014 at soundwordsight.com. Joel Mandelbaum called Hannah "the quintessential Jewish opera," and after Lehrman had prepared and given two lectures on Jewish Opera at HUC-JIR in 2014, the Maldeb Foundation sponsored his series of five lectures on the subject at Community Church of NY, Jan. 20-May 13, 2015.
Lehrman's monodrama, The Family Man, after Mikhail Sholokhov's eponymous short story, was performed (with the composer at the piano) by Ronald Edwards in Manhattan (1984 & 1999) and Dresden (1996 - in a translation by Peter Zacher), as well as by George Shirley in Berlin in 1985. The complete video of that opera (posted on YouTube) was shown at the 1985 Moscow Youth Festival, and was highly praised by Andrei Eshpai and Sofia Gubaidulina, in attendance.
New World: An Opera About What Columbus Did to the "Indians," written with Joel Shatzky, commissioned by The Puffin Foundation, had 3 productions in 1991-3. Also written with Shatzky, Superspy!: The S-e-c-r-e-t Musical had several productions (1988-90) in NY, Boston, Paris, and a 1991 command performance for Tom Lehrer in Santa Cruz, as well as an Off-Off Broadway run at Medicine Show in Feb., 2014, written up in Jewish Week.
E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman written with Karen Ruoff Kramer, inspired by Howard Zinn, has had 51 productions in 5 countries (most of them starring Helene Williams with the composer at the piano). Both of these musicals, as well as all 11 of Lehrman's operas, are also posted on YouTube.
The first of Lehrman's two Chekhov operas, The Birthday of the Bank, was commissioned by Opera America for the Lake George Opera Festival in 1988. Performed at the Long Island Composers Alliance's EastEuroFest in June 1998, and at the Jewish Arts Festival of Long Island and Queens College in Sept. 1999, it was posted on YouTube in July 2012. His second Chekhov opera, The Wooing, on a libretto by Abel Meeropol (originally written for Elie Siegmeister) was performed in concert at Great Neck House and Queens College in 2003 (and recorded on Original Cast Records). Its staged premiere took place as part of the Russian Opera Mini-Festival (viewable on YouTube), co-sponsored by the Town of Oyster Bay Distinguished Artists Series with and at Syosset Library (Nov. 10, 2012 - canceled due to Hurricane Sandy), Freeport Memorial Library (Nov. 18, 2012), and Bethpage Public Library (Dec. 2, 2012).
Lehrman's most recent opera, The Triangle Fire, on a libretto by Ellen Frankel, was premiered by the Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus in New Jersey Sep. 4 & 11, 2016, and performed in New York four times in March, 2017.
As Assistant Chorus Master at the Met, he made his debut conducting the chorus Boris Godunov backstage, opening night in September 1977, along with Chorus Master David Stivender, with whom he is pictured in the photo below, taken in the dressing room, backstage. Soloists he prompted, coached and/or conducted in rehearsals and performances there included Luciano Pavarotti, John Alexander, Bernd Weikl, James McCracken, Mary Costa, Jean Kraft, and Robert Manno.
Basel and Vienna (where in 1981 he gave lectures on Jewish Music); Bremerhaven (where he founded and gave concerts with the Musical Association of Bremerhaven); and West Berlin, where he became the first Jew to conduct Fiddler on the Roof! at Theater des Westens and founded the Juedischer Musiktheaterverein Berlin, e.V., producing 36 events from 1984 to 1986.
Working together since 1987, on Aug. 5, 2016 he and soprano Helene Williams gave their 600th concert together;
their 500th, on June 27, 2010, was written up in the July 15, 2010 Valley Stream Herald.
They were married by Cantor Charles Osborne at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue July 14, 2002, written up in that day's New York Times.
To date, Leonard has composed 163 vocal pieces for Helene, most of which she has performed and recorded
On July 1, 2006 they performed at the Felicja Blumental Music Center in Tel Aviv, singing, among other things,
Leonard's translation of the "Shir L'Shalom," which Yitzhak Rabin sang the night he died, Nov. 4, 1995.
Their audience included Leonard's cousin, former Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo "Chich" Lahat,
In 1965 Lehrman sang in New York's All-State Choir, along with Charles Osborne. In 1966 he was the choir's accompanist under Abraham Kaplan. The photo and closeups below show him taking a bow, applauded by Kaplan, with Osborne in the top row at left.
Blake Eskin interviewed him on that subject, for nextbook.org. On May 23, 2012, Jewish Currents posted his article on "Music and Bernard Malamud" and on Feb. 18, 2014 his article on "Completing Marc Blitzstein's Incomplete Works". On July 9, 2013, he was interviewed and lectured on Marc Blitzstein at City Center, an event posted in 15 segments on YouTube.
The following two photographs, taken by N.S. Lehrman M.D. Dec. 5, 1970 at the Boston premiere of Blitzstein's The Harpies and I've Got the Tune, together with Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti (dedicated to Blitzstein), show Leonard Bernstein embracing Leonard Lehrman--producer/music director/star of the show--and were signed by Bernstein "From Leonard to Leonard, von Herz zu Herz" Jan. 17, 1974, the day Lehrman played him his completion of Blitzstein's opera after Bernard Malamud's short story, Idiots First, and at their last meeting, in Berlin "A Decade Later." That work had 4 productions, each together with Lehrman's own companion piece, Karla, based on Malamud's "Notes from a Lady at a Dinner Party" and dedicated to Lehrman's first wife (until 1986), Karen Campbell (1953-2005).
On Mondays from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. he can be found answering reference questions at the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Public Library. A union member there for 21 years, he was interviewed in a full-page article for the CSEA newsletter of Mar. 2015. His own articles have appeared frequently in the Forward, Jewish Week, Jewish Currents, and Aufbau. He currently writes reviews for The New Music Connoisseur, where he served as Copy Editor and Critic-at-Large 2006-2009, and the online arts magazine SoundWordSight.org. In the past he has served on the Advisory Board of Composers Concordance and as an adjudicator for the National Music Theatre Network, the Center for Contemporary Opera, and the National Opera Association.
He has a B.A. cum laude (1971) in Music from Harvard, a masters (1975) and a doctorate (1977) in music composition from Cornell - where in the spring of 1973 he directed a young undergraduate in his first role as a nerd: Christopher Reeve in Sean O'Caseys Bedtime Story:
He also studied privately with Lenore Anhalt; Olga Heifetz; Nadia Boulanger (on a Fulbright grant); Erik Werba (in Salzburg and Ghent); Kyriena Siloti (at the Longy School); David Del Tredici, Earl Kim, Leon Kirchner and Lukas Foss (at Harvard); Karel Husa, Robert Palmer, William Austin and Thomas Sokol (at Cornell); Tibor Kozma, Wolfgang Vacano, Donald Erb and John Eaton (at Indiana); and was the youngest student in the first Performance Seminar in Chamber Music with the Guarneri Quartet (Arnold Steinhardt, John Dalley, Michael Tree, and David Soyer, plus piano teacher Elizabeth Korte) in 1965. He also served as the youngest U.S. delegate to the International Music Congress in Moscow in 1971, and one of the oldest delegates to the International Youth Festival there in 1985.
Having been Organist at First Church of Christ (Scientist) in Great Neck 1987-92) and then Organist/Music Director of Community Presbyterian Church in Malverne, NY 1992-2003, on May 1, 2003 he became Minister of Music at Christ Church Babylon, NY. On April 30, 2006 his title was changed to Director of Music/Composer-in-Residence. On September 7, 2006, he became Organist/Director of Music/Composer-in-Residence at St. George's Episcopal Church, Hempstead. In November, 2007 he became Interim Organist/Music Director of United Methodist Church in Wayne, NJ. January 1, 2008 he became Organist/Director of Music/Composer-in-Residence at United Methodist Church of Huntington and Cold Spring Harbor, NY. On July 1, 2010 he became Interim Organist at the New Dorp Moravian Church on Staten Island. August 8, 2010 he became Interim Organist at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Castleton, also on Staten Island. On November 18, 2010 he accepted the position of Interim Organist/Music Director beginning in December, 2010 at The Church of the Savior in Denville, NJ. In March, 2011 he accepted the position of Organist at Community United Methodist Church in East Norwich, NY. On May 24, 2012 he accepted the position of Organist/Choir Director at All Saints Church in Leonia, NJ, beginning June 10, 2012, thru November 2012. That month, he began work as an Organist at the Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in North Merrick, NY. On January 1, 2013 he became Organist/Choir Director at Garden City NY's Baptist Church-in-the-Garden. In October 2013 he also began working as Organist at St. Joachim Roman Catholic Church in Cedarhurst, NY. In December 2013 he accepted the position of Organist/Choir Director/Composer-in-Residence at Christ Lutheran Church in Rosedale, NY as of February 15, 2014. On April 30, 2016 he conducted the choir at the Queens Federation of Churches Spring Choir Festival, its first performance outside the church in years, posted on YouTube here.
From 2008 to 2012 he was High Holidays Organist at Congregation Beth Mordecai in Perth Amboy, NJ and Associate Organist at Temple Avodah in Oceanside, NY. Prior to that he was Guest Conductor at The Metropolitan Synagogue in Manhattan (Spring 1979), Guest Organist at the Evangeische Kirche in Mannheim, W. Germany (Summer 1979), Organist for Catholic Services at the U.S. Hospital in W. Berlin (1984-86); and then Organist/Music Director at Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn, NY (1986-88), North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, NY (1995-2001), Community Synagogue of Port Washington (2002), Temple Isaiah in Great Neck, NY (2004-2006), and Jericho Jewish Center (2007), where he has performed many times since, and conducted services in 2011 and 2014. On September 4 & 13, 2013 he and his wife Helene conducted Erev Rosh Hashonah and Erev Yom Kippur services at The Amsterdam at Harborside in Port Washington, NY for the first time. The following month they were named Music Director and Choir Director, respectively, of Jericho Jewish Center. In June 2014 he became Music Director for the High Holidays at the Metropolitan Synagogue in Manhattan.
Founder/Director since 1988 of The Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus, since 1989 he has been Founder/Director of the Opera-Musical Theater Special Interest Group of The Naturist Society. He also conducted the Workmen's Circle Chorus and Oceanside Chorale in 2003-2005, and in 2010-2012 was Conductor of the Hanseaten Deerns/Blaue Jungs German Chorus in East Meadow, Long Island. The photo below was taken by Helene Williams of the Chorus with other members of the Hanseaten Club at their final concert, June 24, 2012.
In 2006 he became, with Richard Corey, Co-Director of the National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case (NCCRC). (In 2010 he became the group's Corresponding Secretary and conducted a celebration at Local 802 of Earl Robinson's centennial.) Following his departure from that organization, in 2011 he and others announced the formation of an International Committee on the Arts for Social Justice (ICASJ).
A member of ASCAP, GEMA, the American Guild of Organists, the Guild of Temple Musicians, the American Civil Liberties Union, and formerly of the American Music Center, the Society for American Music, the Music Critics Association of North America, the Conductors Guild, and the Music Library Association (Founder of the Composers/Performers Roundtable), he is Artistic Administrator of The Professor Edgar H. Lehrman Memorial Foundation, Inc., Co-Founder (with Helene Williams) of the Elie Siegmeister Society and Court Street Music in Valley Stream, and Archivist Emeritus of The Long Island Composers Alliance (of which he was president for 7 years, 1991-98).
On Oct. 13, 2016, at the invitation of The Lotus Club of NY, he gave a talk on his life and works, with 2 musical examples, viewable here.
On Jan. 13, 2017, Ravello Records released his and Joel Mandelbaum's new CD, "Harmonize Your Spirit With My Calm," recorded in the US and Russia, with Helene Williams, Alexander Mikhalėv, and the State Symphony Orchestra of St. Petersburg, Vladimir Lande, conductor.
On Apr. 5, 2017, an hour interview with him was broadcast on WCWP-FM's "My Art in Life," posted here.
The Valley Stream Herald published an interview and an article about him March 1, 2017 and June 22, 2017, respectively.