Sunday, April 07, 2019

BDE - Chazzan Sherwood Goffin Z"L

A reader emailed on Thursday that "No tribute in your blog today. Surprised me." Truthfully, I had started to write a quick post when I realized that I didn't have the time do write a proper appreciation and given multiple gigs between then and now, including two last Tursday, it's taken till now to complete this post. As you've probably heard by now, Chazzan Sherwood Goffin was niftar this past week. I first came to know Chazzan Goffin Z"L through the wedding circuit, where I had the opportunity to accompany him at wedding ceremonies a number of times. He was a wonderful singer, but what stood out most to me was his "mentchlichkeit". The Chaz (as he was affecionately known) was a man of impeccable midos and grace. Our interactions -- whether via phone or email before the event, during, or afterwards when he always came over to thank me -- were always positive. The last wedding I accompanied him at fairly recently was one that my band had been hired to play. My clients told me that Sherwood Z"L had said wonderful things about me and my music when they talked to him before hiring me. I believe that every time a client reached out to tell me that Chazzan Goffin would be singing at an upcoming affair, they'd mention that he'd said nice things about me. It certainly happened often. He was a real mentch. I work with a lot of professional singers. Most are nice. But there are (now were) only two who I can say have always been unfailingly polite to every member of the band every single time. I get it. It's easy to get up, sing your feature, perhaps thank the bandleader, and move on. And there's often a lot going on at these events. The musicians, especially the sidemen often get overlooked. Chazan Goffin always made a point of coming over to greet me beforehand and again afterwards to thank me and each of the musicians in the band after the ceremony. Similarly, every request was made in a respectful manner. He asked. Politely. Never demanded. At one of the last affairs I accompanied him at, he was asked to sing Carlebach's Im Eshkacheich. In his email before the dinner to discuss the details, he asked expressed his preference for the entire band to accompany him, but went out of his way to say that he'd be ok if they couldn't for some reason and it was just keyboard alone for that song. In addition to working with Chazzan Goffin at weddings and dinners over the years, I also attended some classes he gave on Nusach and read his articles on the importance of mesorah in Nusach, the responsibilities of the Shaliach Tzibur and more. The Chazzan had a very strong sense of tradition and reverence for mesorah that underlay his teaching about how to daven. This is something that's often overlooked by musicians and singers who want to be fresh and innovative, but it's super important. Chazzan Goffin was a true gentleman. Unfailingly polite, warm and friendly. A true ahuv el habriyos. It was beautiful to see the love and respect that people had for him at events we were both at. His passing is a real loss for Am Yisrael. Yehei zichro baruch. P.S. There is much to be said about Chazzan Goffin's activism on behalf of Russian Jews, his performing career, and his work at the Belz School of Jewish Music, as well as his work with decades of bnei mitzvah students at LSS. Also, his prioritazation of family over career. I leave it to those with firsthand knowledge to talk about all of those aspects of his life.