Cantor Benjamin Brownstone

March 19, 2021

 He was a composer and a poet, a genuine intellect. He instilled in me a love of music and an appreciation of all creativity, and he inspired dozens of young people to pursue careers in music, as cantors, singers, conductors…he remains for me a part of the Jewishness at the heart of my life.

–       Allan Blye, producer and writer and Cantor Emeritus at the Synagogue for Performing Arts in Hollywood

Music is ultimately the product of the individual’s intellectual and emotional relationship with his/her environment. The values, customs and traditions of a society and how they are interpreted are the ingredients which influence form and content in music.

Cantor Benjamin Brownstone understood the inner workings of the creative process. He was aware of how the dynamic interaction of religious and secular forces contributed to the creation of a Jewish musical tradition and how that tradition was handed down through the collective memory of the Jewish people. And within this context, he captured the vitality, texture and contradictions of the Jewish soul by employing the use of Hebrew and Yiddish.

Brownstone was born in Bessarabia, Russia in 1888 and came to Winnipeg in 1921. He became a seminal figure in the cultural life of the Jewish community as he crisscrossed and connected the religious and secular world through the medium of music. Whether it was with the Talmud Torah or Jewish Community choirs or leftist schools such as Liberty Temple and I.L.Peretz, Brownstone became a respected teacher who had the ability to harness the energies and passions of eclectic musical sensibilities. His numerous compositions are a testimony to his ability to find other outlets for his creativity.

Benjamin Brownstone passed away in Winnipeg in 1968.