Harold Arlen Exhibition / Musical Influences
Both Celia and Samuel Arluck lived within Orthodox Judaism and infused their family home with these traditions. As Cantor of the Clinton Street synagogue (Beth Jacob), Samuel also had a Jewish communal role.
It was his voice that led the prayers in the synagogue at daily and shabbat services. When not working in the synagogue, Samuel sang first tenor in the Buffalo Operatic Company. Some of their performances were broadcast on WEBR. On the familyVictrola, Hyman heard the voice of Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, Enrico Caruso, and John McCormack. Much later, Hyman would recall this mix of different styles of musical heritages alongside his own father’s interpretations of music. In his estimation, Samuel Arluck was the “greatest theme and variations man I’ve ever known.”
After serving at Beth Jacob, Cantor Arluck accepted a short-term position at Temple Beth El, located on Elm Street, and then began service at the Pine Street Shul, also known as B’rith Sholem. At the age of seven, Hyman overcame his shyness to join his father, singing in the Pine Street Shul choir.
In a new home at 65 Pratt Street, the Arluck’s rented one level of their duplex to Anderson and Minnie Arthur, and their children often played together. In this way, African-American hymnal music became a part of Hyman’s growing musical references. Hyman took piano lessons with Carrie Faller, his next-door neighbor, whose family hailed from Germany and Ireland. When Hyman turned 11 years of age, Arnold Cornelissen, a composer, and conductor, became Hyman’s piano instructor.
The East Side was filled with different ethnic musical traditions and amateur and professional players performed in the concert halls, bars, clubs and theaters. Sacred and secular music proved central to Hyman’s childhood experience through friends, neighbors and teachers. It was through them, radio, vinyl records, the clubs and other venues on the East Side that Hyman discovered new styles of music. Ragtime, Blues and Jazz became the music that he wove into his musical performances and his compositions.