(L-R) Daniel Hyman, Peter Howard, Amanda Bernocco, Michele Lipson, Leonard J. Lehrman, Helene Williams, Perri Sussman, Craig Lindsay, Link Rossano, Daniel Barna, and Beth Jucovy. (Photo by Arlene Papier-Brickman)

Live Music Highlights Composer’s Return To Roslyn Library

By: Joe Scotchie

Leonard Lehrman’s long and productive career was on full display last Sunday as the Bryant Library hosted a concert celebrating his 75th birthday. Lehrman, a longtime Roslyn resident, was joined by an impressive array of musical talents as they presented a concert of Lehrman-composed tunes.

The man, who has performed and recorded in stages and studios worldwide, was master of ceremonies. Wearing his trademark black cap, Lehrman manned the piano, playing his original compositions, arrangements, and translations.

The concert featured sopranos Helene Williams (Mrs. Lehrman) and Perri Sussman. Instrumentalists included Link Rossano on flute, Craig Lindsey on clarinet, Daniel Hyman on violin, Peter Howard on cello, Daniel Barna as both tenor and conductor and Beth Jucovy, who performed several dance numbers.

All these artists perfectly complemented Lehrman’s compositions. Special rounds of applause, including many “bravos” went to Perri Sussman, especially for a knockout solo on the “Princess’s Aria” from Rusalka, an opera Lehrman translated with his mother from its original Russian. The opera premiered in English in 2015 at Queen’s College to honor her memory.

Most of the compositions were autobiographical in their inspiration. A few tunes, such as “Reflectively, But Not Slowly” and “If I Can’t Dance,” a song about labor activist Emma Goldman, contained music and lyrics by Lehrman. Most tunes were those where the prolific Lehrman added music to existing lyrics.

And those lyrics came from an eclectic array of artists, many of them famous. For instance, “Why Do They Shut Me Out Of Heaven,” featured lyrics by the great American poet Emily Dickinson, the reclusive New Englander back in the news following revelations that Taylor Swift, currently the most famous person on the planet, is related to her.

“Gather Ye Rosebuds” was music set to poetry by Robert Herrick. “I Wait For A Ship” came from a Jacques Deval/Kurt Weill production. On it went. The lyrics for “Dawn In New York” was poetry originally composed by Federico Garcia Lorca, the famed Spanish poet who found refuge in Gotham during the 1920s and ‘30s. Lorca was a tragic figure. When World War I broke out, the man was so distraught that he could not write a line of poetry for the war’s duration. In 1936, the poet was assassinated during Spain’s Civil War.

“The Rabbi & The Rich Man” had two great sources: Lyrics came from both “The Dybbuk” by the Russian artist S. Ansky and short play “Suppose A Wedding” by Bernard Malamud, the Brooklyn native and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer.

Most famous was the duet of “Empty Chairs/Killing Me Softly.” The former tune was composed by upstate New York native Don McLean of “American Pie” fame. “Killing Me Softly,” composed by Lori Lieberman, Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, was a monster hit in the early 1970s for Roberta Flack. For that, Lehrman provided the arrangement.

Lehrman described the inspiration behind many of the live performances.

“Why Do They Shut Me Out Of Heaven?” was the composer’s response to an unhappy ending as president of the Long Island Composers Alliance (LICA). The composer joined LICA in 1979. From 1991 to 1998, Lehrman was named president. He said that under his tenure, membership doubled, while the number of concerts tripled.

In time, however, he was forced out of a position he cherished.

Before performing the “Princess’s Aria,” Lehrman told of his first encounter with Perri Sussman. “People told me that I would be crazy not to hire her,” the composer recalled. The enthusiastic response to Sussman’s soaring vocals proved, once again, that Lehrman made the right call.

The composer jokingly referred to “The Hereafter” as a journey from “Judaism to Buddhism to nudism.” “If I Can’t Dance,” was, as noted, a tribute to Emma Goldman. The tune was inspired by a comment attributed to Goldman: “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution.” The song also featured Peter Howard on cello, a boffo performance that earned another loud round of applause. Visits to Switzerland, Russia, and Romania inspired such tunes as “Nightingale In A Dream,” “Mi Shebeirach,” and “Two Romanian Songs.”

The program was co-sponsored by The Professor Edgar H. Lehrman Memorial Foundation, founded in 1986 by Leonard’s father, Nathaniel S. Lehrman (1923-2020). It marked Lehrman’s first return to his hometown library in nearly a decade.

Lehrman earned his Bachelor’s degree at Harvard in 1971 and his Master’s and Doctorate degrees at Cornell in 1975 and 1977. In 1977-78, he served as Assistant Chorus Master at the Metropolitan Opera; and then seven years at theaters in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Berlin, where he became the first Jew to conduct Fiddler on the Roof in that city and founded the Jewish Music Theater Association there.

Throughout all these travels, Roslyn remained close to the composer’s heart. Hopefully, this return concert will be the start of more such appearances at the Bryant Library.

For those who were unable to attend Lehrman’s concert, it is now available by visiting

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