Once in a while, excelling in one musical tradition will catapult an exceptional talent into success in other musical genres. Shulem Lemmer, a young tenor from Brooklyn’s Hasidic community, may be that kind of a rising star.
With the recent release of his debut album “The Perfect Dream,” the 29-year-old, who goes by the stage name “Shulem,” has become the first singer from the Hasidic community to be signed to a major label, Decca Gold. Produced by Jon Cohen, the album announces the arrival of a musical voice that, while new to many, is already seasoned by years of performing for his congregation and the Hasidic community.
On Sept. 22, Shulem will perform songs from the album at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto.
In “The Perfect Dream,” Shulem embraces a broad range of material reflecting his varied musical tastes. His vocal talents are showcased not only in his style of singing prayers, psalms, and more traditional songs, but in two singles from the album: “Bring Him Home,” from the Broadway musical “Les Miserables,” and the Naomi Shemer song “Jerusalem of Gold.”
“I am looking forward to being able to sing for more people and develop as an artist. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity,” Shulem said in an announcement of this new step in his career.
Growing up in Brooklyn’s Boro Park neighborhood, Shulem was exposed primarily to Jewish cantorial music; his older brother is a synagogue cantor in Manhattan, and Shulem was a featured child soloist in his religious community.
“There are many different kinds and forms of cantorial music. I was hearing a wide variety of styles and approaches which broadened my awareness,” he recounts. Opera, particularly Luciano Pavarotti, also became an important influence, along with Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban.
“I listened to a lot of different things,” Shulem says. “I will look up certain people and study what they do — how they achieve certain things either with their voice or in their career. I listen to their voices and think, ‘Oh, I can do that or fit that in’ and try to make that happen somehow. Music, like any creative endeavor, is fluid and a river of influences that constantly evolves.”