The product of a traditional Jewish home, Loomer sang as a teenager in Beth
Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue's choir and in the Toronto Jewish Folk Choir,
but was a relative latecomer to the cantorate. It wasn't until he was 32 and working in retail furniture sales that he began studying nusach and liturgical interpretation with Cantor Benjamin Maissner of Holy Blossom Temple.
"I worked very hard," said Loomer, whose initial intent was to work part-time
as a lay cantor. With Maissner's encouragement, he did "a lot of catching
up" in areas like Hebrew, music and modes of nusach, and has been making
time for study ever since.
After two years as assistant cantor to Beth Emeth's Cantor Louis Danto,
Loomer took a full-time position three years ago at the 350-family unaffiliated
Adath Sholom Synagogue, where he served as cantor, spiritual leader and ritual director.
Rabbi Joseph Kelman, rabbi emeritus at Beth Emeth, served as Loomer's mentor
as he dealt with life cycle events at Adath Sholom. Visiting hospital patients, nursing home residents and mourners brought particular satisfaction.
Last year, Loomer co-founded the Ontario Ritual Directors Association, an
idea he and Beth David Ritual Director Asher Tannenbaum had both thought of
independently. The organization, with which Loomer will continue to be
affiliated, is developing standards for bar/bat mitzvah teaching.
Three weeks before his official move, Loomer's study at the 1,150-family
Conservative synagogue already had personal touches - on his desk a CD of
show tunes, and nearby, photos of his wife Karen, a graphic illustrator and
designer, 14-year-old daughter Madeline, and family dog Barny.
In a way, Loomer's synagogue has always been his second home. As a
kindergartner, he used to nap on the floor of the office at Beth Emeth while
his mother Lorraine worked nearby. His father Cy, a retired pharmacist, has been the volunteer librarian at Beth Emeth for 45 years. "Because of that, my access to books was tremendous," said the Cantor.
Loomer's father introduced him to cantorial music. "I played the recordings until the grooves were worn down," said Loomer, who also grew up listening to rock - most notably Frank Zappa, Carlos Santana and The Doors - and jazz. His brother, Martin, is a jazz musician, and their great-grandfather was a cantor in Poland.
Although he still enjoys a variety of music and likes to sing show tunes on
occasion, Loomer is a traditionalist when it comes to services. He wouldn't
be averse, however, to his daughter becoming a cantor if she chose to.
A member of the Cantorial Council of America (affiliated with Yeshiva
University), Loomer, who sings in the tenor and baritone range, described
his style as "interpreting the words rather than developing catchy tunes."
Yet he wants to involve the congregation in singing and intends to introduce
a number of chassidic melodies. He also plans to start a children's choir
and institute davening classes. As a teenager, Loomer attended Emery Collegiate Institute, where he studied violin, because of the school's reputation for its music program. An alumnus of Associated Hebrew Schools, he also studied voice at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and placed second in a Kiwanis festival after only six voice lessons.
Although he always enjoyed going to shul, Loomer didn't want to become a
cantor in his younger years. His father thought it would be a good choice
for him at the time, he recalls. A number of people thought that he was too old to take that route at 32, but "it goes to show you," Loomer said, "that if you put your mind to something and work very hard, you can do it.
By Frances Kraft
Canadian Jewish News
reprinted with permission from The Canadian Jewish News