Morris Katzin, ‘Kaddisch’ (Kaddish)

Morris Katzin (1902–74) arrived in South Africa from Riga (modern-day Latvia) in 1932, settling first in Johannesburg, and later becoming Cantor of the Sea Point Synagogue (‘Marais Road Shul’), Cape Town. Katzin’s journey to Africa included a concert tour that took in several European countries, ending up at the Paris Opéra, where he was engaged to sing alongside the great Russian bass Fyodor Chaliapin in a number of operas, including some by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Katzin’s own setting of the High Holydays Kaddish prayer is a cantorial tour de force typical of its kind, almost certainly composed for his own use. Long florid passages for unaccompanied cantor alternate with chordal interjections from the choir to create a gently celebratory setting.

Whilst Katzin’s close friend Froim Spektor (1888–1948) preserved works of others in his archive, Morris Katzin ironically helped to preserve a great deal of Spektor’s music (and, indeed, Gottbeter’s) in his own collection, which resides in a packing trunk in a Cape Town garage under the guardianship of his daughter, Shirley Greek.

Katzin, Kaddish