Norman Cohen Falah is a versatile and sensitive interpreter of Jewish music and an accomplished songwriter. The sweet quality of his voice, coupled with his enthusiastic performance, brings to life the joy and spirit of the Jewish heritage, appealing to young and old alike. Cantor Norman, as he is known, currently serves since 2012 Temple Sinai of North Dade in Miami, Florida as its full-time Cantor.
Cantor Norman was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1973, the son of an Ashkenazi mother and a Sephardic father. Both these traditions bore a strong influence on his upbringing, inspiring him to pursue a lifelong celebration of the two cultures.
Norman’s talent as a musician became apparent during early childhood. At the age of eight he was chosen to join the school choir and, by the time he turned 10, he was selected to conduct and sing at the communal Passover Seder at his elementary school Natan Gesang. One year later, he performed a solo piece in Yiddish at the prestigious Coliseo Theatre and, in same year, he was enrolled at the National Conservatory of Music in Buenos Aires to study music, guitar and piano. This was also the same year in which Norman’s parents bought him his first guitar, and he has remained eternally grateful for their tireless encouragement and support throughout his musical development.
In his early twenties, Norman ‘heard the call’ and decided to study Chazanut at the Latin-American Rabbinical Seminary, from where he obtained his ordination as Cantor. Norman has also taken part in many seminars in Israel, where he studied Torah, Chazanut and musical and pedagogical techniques.
Norman’s first experience as a Cantor was in 1995, when he conducted the High Holidays services for the oldest Jewish Community in Argentina, in the town of Basavilbaso.
That same year, he won the Pre-Halleluyah Festival competition in Argentina, a contest for young composers and interpreters. His winning tune was a song in Hebrew with a salsa rhythm, called “B’ikvot habri’ah” (“Tracing the footsteps of the creation”), which he jointly composed with his dear friend, Martin Maslo. After jointly composing another well-received unpublished song about the bombing of the AMIA (Argentine Jewish Community Centre) building, he was invited in 1999 to sing at an event staged by the Memoria Activa organization to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the tragedy.
In January 1996, he started as a full-time Cantor, Torah Reader and B´nei-Mitzvah Teacher for the Yoel congregation in Buenos Aires, where he remained for five years. Then, in February 2001, he joined the Bet-Hillel synagogue, one of the largest in Argentina, to work as an Assistant Cantor, Torah Reader and B´nei-Mitzvah Tutor.
During this period, Norman was also hired as guest Cantor for the High HolyDays at Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas, Nevada (2000) and the Temple Beth Am in Margate, Florida (2002).
In 2003, Norman decided to move to the Netherlands as full-time Chazan at the Liberaal Joodse Gemeente (Liberal Jewish Community) in Amsterdam. During his two-year stay, he organised the first children’s song festival to have taken place in the 60 years since the establishment of the community. Before his farewell, in July 2005, he recorded three CDs: one with children songs, one with melodies for the Shabbat evening service and the third with a course to learn the chanting of the Megillah.
In 2005, Norman was appointed full-time Cantor at Belsize Square Synagogue, London, a congregation he serves for over 6 years, with special responsibilities for B’nei Mitzvah. With the children of the Cheder (Sunday school) he has produced and recorded 2 CDs of contemporary Israeli songs under the name of “BelsiZemer”.
He has also played a major part in completing a project transcribing, in manuscript form, the Synagogue’s entire musical repertoire onto computer in order to archive its heritage for future generations.
As part of the 70th anniversary of the congregation, Cantor Norman helped produce the CD “Todah v’zimrah”, celebrating the Jewish German musical tradition of the Jewish Festivals.
Since his arrival to Miami, in 2012 he has produced two CDs: “Tefilatina! A celebration of Jewish music with a Latin twist”, and his most recent album “In the blink of an eye”, which is his first studio CD of newly written pop songs and Jewish prayers.
A versatile, soulful and energetic performer, Cantor Norman sings in seven languages, in a variety of styles and for all ages. His Ashkenazi and Sephardic background and training allow him to create a unique spiritual experience at shul, as well as at weddings. He also gives workshops and lectures.
As a composer, Norman has written more than 100 songs, many in his native Spanish and more recently in English. He has also written several compositions for the Shabbat liturgy, many of which have been adopted by congregations around the world for use in their services.
He currently helps the European Academy for Jewish Liturgy (EAJL), where he mentors Sh’lichei Tzibur (Lay leaders) teaching them how to conduct services in congregations where there is no professional staff.
Besides his interest in liturgical music, Norman specializes in Ladino and Tango music, honoring both his Sephardic and Argentinian roots. Norman currently lives with his family in North Miami Beach, Florida.