By Stacey Dresner
SPRINGFIELD – When Wayne Krieger was a child he was already considering becoming a cantor. And he knew what kind of congregation he wanted to serve.
“I noticed that although my temple had choirs everyone else was very passive. Nobody was singing along,” he recalled. “So I realized that if I became a cantor I would have congregational singing and get as much movement and dancing as part of the services as I could.”
So when Cantor Krieger stood on the bimah at his first Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service at Sinai Temple earlier this month, he was pleasantly surprised.
“They are the most singing community I have ever been in, can you imagine that? It’s like they sing along to everything,” he laughed.
Cantor Krieger, who recently moved to Bloomfield, Conn. to be closer to one of his three daughters and her family, is now the new part-time cantorial soloist at Sinai Temple, succeeding Cantor Martin Levson. Cantor Levson recently departed after the board of Sinai Temple’s vote to switch to a more cost-effective single-clergy model over a year ago.
Cantor Kreiger will serve at Sinai, he says, for around 44 Friday night services and during the High Holidays, as well as several other holidays.
“[Cantor Krieger’s] title is Cantorial Soloist because it is a part-time position even though he is a certified cantor,” explained Beth Chafetz, who headed Sinai’s cantorial soloist search committee.
“He’s an accomplished musician,” Chafetz said. “He plays guitar and piano. He composes his own music. He has been doing this for a very long time and he had very positive feedback from the congregation from which he was coming.”
Standing alongside him at his first Sinai service was his wife, Nancy Beller-Krieger.
“We are a singing duo,” Cantor Krieger says. “She plays guitar and I play guitar and last week we also played and sang together and did harmonies…We are kind of a two-for-one right now.”
Over many years, Cantor Krieger has served communities in Connecticut, New York, Arizona and Florida as a cantor, Jewish educator and professional storyteller. For 13 years he served as cantor at Temple Beth Sholom in Manchester, Conn. (now Beth Sholom Beth Israel). For the past 11 years he was cantor at Marlboro Jewish Center in Marlboro, N.J.
But he says he has really been a cantor since he was five years old and growing up in Providence, R.I. His father, the late Seymour Krieger, was education director at Temple Beth El in Providence. The family belonged to both Beth Israel Synagogue and Sharah Zedek, the town’s orthodox shul. Under his father’s tutelage, Wayne began reading Torah at the age of five.
“From the age of three my dad knew I was going to be a cantor,” he laughed.
Part of a “very traditional family” he went to yeshiva in Providence for eight years, and later to the Hebrew high school program of the local Jewish bureau of education. Music was a constant.
“I was always musical. I always sang in my high school choir,” he says.
He went on to attend the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music where he studied Hazzanut under the legendary Cantor Arthur Koret, the longtime cantor at The Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford, Conn.
“He was fantastic,” Krieger recalls. “He worked with the opera students. So I was accompanying the opera singers and at the same time I also worked with his junior choir at Emanuel Synagogue. And I also taught at Beth El in West Hartford. So this is like coming home.”
After graduating from Hartt with a degree in music, he worked at an alternative school in New York State where he became interested in working with children with special needs and got his certification as a music therapist from Montclair State College.
Coming from the Conservative movement, Cantor Krieger says he is working on learning the Reform melodies for the Sinai prayer service.
“He comes from a Conservative setting, but at last week’s service everything he did, we all knew,” Chafetz said. “In large part because he has such a vast repertoire and has been doing this for such a long time, there wasn’t a single thing he did Friday night that people didn’t know. He was right on top of it.
“We are a very musical congregation,” she added, “and I think that he will serve us well because of his strong musical background.”
CAP: Cantor Wayne Krieger and his wife, Nancy Beller-Krieger.