Toronto’s Beth Tzedec Congregation is hosting the world premiere of Searching for My Voice, the one-person musical written and performed by 70-year-old singer Allan Soberman. The autobiographical show tells the heartfelt story of growing up the son of beloved Cantor Morris Soberman and traces Allan Soberman’s personal quest as a performer and music producer to find his own voice.
The one-hour, 45-minute musical was several years in the making. Searching for My Voice was set to open last May, but pandemic measures caused a swift pivot to video, complete with archived family photographs and stories. The show premieres online on March 18.
Cantor Morris Soberman’s illustrious career as the ba’al koreh and hazzan sheini spanned more than 35 years. He influenced generations of Beth Tzedec members and taught over 2,800 bar and bat mitzvah students.
“My dad started from day one at Beth Tzedec,” said Soberman. “He was a Torah reader as soon as they opened the doors.”
In the early 1950s, Morris Soberman was working two jobs. During the week he was in the ‘shmatte’ business and on Saturday mornings, he read Torah at a downtown synagogue.
“When I was 5 years old, that shul merged with a much bigger one, a huge new structure uptown called Beth Tzedec,” said Soberman. “My mother convinced him to leave the factory ‘shmatte’ work behind and focus on the synagogue. It was life changing for my father. It took him out of the factory and into a suit and tie. Working as the assistant cantor brought him a new respect. His posture was different. He got to perform every week in front of the biggest ‘machers’, the heavy hitters in the community.”
Growing up as the cantor’s son came with expectations.
“I actually thought ‘the cantor’s son’ was my name,” said Soberman. “I didn’t have the strength for it a lot of the time. I spent my early years trying to be invisible.”
Soberman is a born storyteller. In Searching for My Voice, he captures the passage of time through a range of songs, performing 10 original song compositions.
“The Hebrew tunes have original arrangements,” Soberman said. “I find relief in music. I try to create something that touches me spiritually and emotionally.”
Cantor Soberman died in 1999. Allan found recordings of his father performing at wedding receptions and singing bar mitzvah portions. Shortly after, he made a tribute record, A Dedication (2000).
“I Beach Boyed and Queened them up—Beach Boy and Queen have a bar mitzvah,” he said. “It evolved into a concert of liturgical songs and the story of where everything fit.”
As a Toronto-based singer-songwriter and musician, Soberman started his career as a bassist with many of the folk acts around Toronto in the early to mid- 1970s. He accompanied people such as Grammy award-winners Dan Hill and Ben Mink, Bill Hughes, Canadian stalwarts Stringband, and others while touring Canada, the United States and Mexico. Soberman appeared as the opening act for Billy Crystal and Billy Joel. He released two singles in the early ’80s under Boot Records which garnered widespread Canadian airplay. In Nashville, he co-wrote with veteran songwriters such as Dickey Lee (George Jones, Brenda Lee), Tommy Rocco (Anne Murray) and Casey Kelly (Tanya Tucker, Kenny Rogers). Soberman also worked with Juno award-winning children’s entertainer Bob Schneider, performing on his records and appearing on TV specials.
Soberman recorded two contemporary Hebrew prayer CD’s, Searching for My Voice (2002) and the Quest Continues (2012) incorporating the melodies that he learned as a child, and making use of pop choral sensibilities that he was well-versed in. He maintained the intimate, soulful connection by singing all the vocal arrangements and playing all the instruments. A pop CD of his original material has also been released, Hold Tight (2007).
Searching for My Voice will go live on March 18, visit: https://www.bethtzedecallaccess.org/searching-for-my-voice