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Who is Roman Cycowski?

A Tribute to the Last Surviving Member of the Comedian Harmonists.

Roman Cycowski (1901-1998) was a Polish-German operatic baritone and cantor, and the last surviving member of the Comedian Harmonists, a renowned vocal sextet that achieved international stardom in the 1920s and 1930s. Cycowski’s life was a remarkable journey spanning continents and eras, marked by both artistic triumph and personal tragedy.

Early Life and Musical Education

Born in Łódź, Poland, in 1901, Cycowski grew up in a musical household. His father, a cantor, instilled in him a love for music and encouraged his vocal development. At the age of 16, Cycowski moved to Germany to pursue a career in opera. He studied at the prestigious Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, where he honed his vocal technique and gained valuable performance experience.

Joining the Comedian Harmonists

In 1927, Cycowski joined the Comedian Harmonists, a group that quickly rose to fame for their close harmonies, witty humor, and sophisticated arrangements. Cycowski’s rich baritone voice and impeccable musicianship were integral to the group’s success. The Comedian Harmonists toured extensively throughout Europe and America, captivating audiences with their unique blend of music and entertainment.

Dispersal and Exile

However, the group’s meteoric rise was tragically cut short by the rise of the Nazi regime. Three of the Comedian Harmonists were Jewish, and the group was forced to disband in 1934 due to Nazi anti-Semitism. Cycowski, along with the other Jewish members of the group, fled Germany and sought refuge in different parts of the world.

Life in America and Continued Musical Contributions

Cycowski settled in the United States, where he continued to pursue his musical career. He performed as a cantor in synagogues across the country and also made occasional concert appearances. Cycowski’s passion for music never waned, and he continued to inspire and entertain audiences until his death in 1998.

A Legacy of Harmony

Roman Cycowski’s life was a testament to the power of music to transcend borders and unite people. Despite the challenges he faced, Cycowski remained dedicated to his craft and continued to share his unique talent with the world. His legacy lives on in the music of the Comedian Harmonists, which continues to captivate and inspire audiences of all ages.

Pictured here is Roman Cycowski with a friend of Harmony’s, Andrew Hersch’s father as a child.

The Musical about The Comedian Harmonists

Starting performances on Broadway on October 18th is the first and only musical about this singing group – Harmony: A New Musical

The complete Broadway cast includes Chip Zien as Rabbi, Sierra Boggess as Mary, Julie Benko as Ruth, Sean Bell, Danny Kornfeld, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, and Steven Telsey as the Comedian Harmonists, Allison Semmes as Josephine Baker, Andrew O’Shanick as Standartenfϋhrer, Zak Edwards, Dan Hoy, Bruce Landry, Rhonni Rose Mantilla, Daniel Z. Miller, Benjamin H. Moore, Matthew Mucha, Constantine Pappas, Kayleen Seidl, Kyla Stone, Bronwyn Tarboton, Kate Wesler, Stuart Zagnit, and Lee Zarrett. 

To learn more about Harmony: A New Musical, click here.

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