Marking perhaps the first time that a singer from the orthodox Hasidic community has been signed to major label, Shulem Lemmer’s debut singles, “Bring Him Home,” and “Jerusalem Of Gold” have been released on Decca Gold, an imprint of Universal Music Group’s Verve Label Group.
The songs are an arresting arrival of a fresh voice — new to many — and yet already seasoned by years of performing for his congregation and the Hasidic community. These songs find Shulem masterfully embracing a broad range of material reflecting his varied musical tastes. His considerable vocal talents are supremely showcased on Les Miserables’ “Bring Him Home” and “Jerusalem Of Gold” pays tribute to his spiritual home.
“When I sing and perform, everything that I believe in my heart and soul is part of each note and every phrase which is what I strive to share with others,” Shulem said. “It’s very exciting and I am looking forward to be able to sing for more people and develop as an artist. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity.”
“Shulem really does see himself as someone who can impact people in a meaningful, heart to heart way,” said Decca Gold President Graham Parker. “People are touched by his voice and his ability to communicate a hopeful message. These songs come from a place of hope and inspiration — of thinking of things bigger than yourself. That’s what makes him so special.”
Growing up in Brooklyn’s Boro Park neighborhood, Shulem was exposed primarily to the cantorial music preferred by his father and his older brother, who is a synagogue cantor in Manhattan.
Shulem, who was a featured child soloist in his community, explained, “There are many different kinds and forms of cantorial music. I was hearing a wide variety of styles and approaches which broadened my awareness.”
Opera, particularly Luciano Pavarotti, also became an important influence, along with Michael Jackson that led him to artists such as Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban. “I listened to a lot of different things,” Shulem said. ”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 is a river of influences that constantly evolves.”
Amazingly, for as fine a voice as he has developed, Shulem never had formal training. “I actually learned everything on the job, while performing. I’m basically self-taught; researching vocal training via YouTube and Google online courses. It’s amazing what you can get done if you’re passionate and committed.”
As a lead soloist with the famed Shira choir, Shulem cut his teeth performing stylized arrangements of “Avinu Malkeinu” and the Passover song “Chad Gadya.”
It was the latter, in fact, that Decca Gold’s Graham Parker became “obsessed” with, leading him to find Shulem online and ultimately arrange for a meeting. “I kept looking at that video, staring at Shulem, watching him sing,” said Parker, a cantor himself. “Shulem’s voice was just so beautiful and you could tell by the way he was using his instrument that he was in total command. I looked at the other videos he’s done and knew this was someone who was very special.”
At first, Shulem thought Parker’s call was a prank. “I just could not believe that Graham was for real. What can a major record company want with a Hasidic singer like me?” he says now with a laugh. “But we had a great conversation about my career and what I was doing and what I wanted to accomplish.”
A new world awaits; Shulem is ready to meet it, and is equally excited about taking his music and message to even greater heights. “This has always been a dream, and I’m really happy,” he says. “I’ve got my fingers crossed on how this will play out. I’m doing what I’ve done for years, and what’s going on now is truly humbling for me. I’m really leaving it up to God’s hands, and we’ll see how it goes.”