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Music has orchestrated his life

By CAROLYN HOPKINS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 28, 2002

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Raphael Grossman, 84, says his life has been filled with blessings, and he is happy with his life as it is today.

Among those blessings he counts a wonderful 54 years with his late wife, Helen. In tribute to her, he said, "She did a lot of beautiful things."

In the '60s, Grossman said, they were billed as Helen and Ray Gordon, he as a classical guitarist and baritone and she a mezzo soprano. They offered a program of varied art and folk songs. They also presented songs of various nationalities and some original ones he wrote. Several were in dialects or other languages, and, using humor, he explained them to the audience.

In addition, they also gave recitals in Town Hall and Carnegie Recital Hall in New York City. A review in the New York Times said, " A musical couple . . . warmly received . . . performing a variety of musical idioms in a modest, facile manner with warmth and understanding . . . One leaves the performance feeling enriched."

Under the auspices of the State Department, the couple traveled in Italy for a year, performing a series of concerts. They were cited as artist teachers in the field of music. Both held doctoral degrees in music from Columbia University. Both were professors at Columbia and Bridgeport universities. He is a graduate of Juilliard.

Grossman recalled those days. "We gave six concerts in Sicily touring with our two young sons, Jeffery and George, and our dog." It was a learning experience for the family.

Helen Grossman was fighting a losing battle with Alzheimer's disease when they moved to New Port Richey from Westport, Conn., more than seven years ago. Now, Grossman is learning to cope alone.

He is an ordained minister and officiates at interfaith funerals. He says he likes doing things on a volunteer basis. He has performed recently for the Thursday Musicale and the Performing Arts Guild and sometimes fills in for the Singing Strings.

On Jan. 28, 2002, Grossman was honored by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City for his contributions to the cantorial field for more than 40 years, serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, being a violinist in a number of symphony orchestras, earning a doctorate from Columbia University and for 28 years working as a music supervisor for the North Hempstead public schools in New York, and, in conclusion for his "artistry and love of music that has touched people all over the world."

Grossman explains his feeling about music: "Music is akin to religion; it is really sacred to me. Life is a constant new experience and so is music; you always see something new."

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