ABRAHAM WOLF (A.W.) BINDER (1895 – 1966) was born in New York to a family of cantors and a world enriched by synagogue music and Jewish folklore. He was a member of his father’s synagogue choir from a young age, an experience that further developed his knowledge of and love for nusach ha’tfillah (prayer melodies). He continued his involvement in Jewish choral music, forming the Hadassah Choral Union in 1916 and the music department at the 92nd Street YMHA in 1917.
From 1922 until 1966, Mr. Binder served as music director of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in NYC, where he introduced a number of important changes, including a return to traditional biblical cantillation. That same year, Mr. Binder took a post as an instructor of Jewish music at the Jewish Institute of Religion (JIR), which was founded by Mr. Wise. Mr. Binder remained dedicated to the school throughout his career, serving as one of the founders of the School of Sacred Music.
Mr. Binder’s first complete service, Hibbat Shabbat, was published in 1928, followed by Rinnat Shabbat in 1935. The publication of Rinnat Shabbat crystallized Mr. Binder’s signature compositional style, using the cantillation of Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) as its musical base. He continued composing services for use at the Stephen Wise Synagogue, eventually moving from a focus on Shabbat liturgy to that of the High Holidays and Shlosh Regalim. He wrote Evening Service for the New Year (1940), Morning Service for the New Year (1951), Arvit l’Rosh Hashanah v’Yom Kippur (1966) and Three Festival Music Liturgy (1962).
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